AMA Flat Track
Near-perfect weather greeted the large crowd gathered at the Allen County Fairgrounds in Lima, Ohio, on Saturday for Round 9 of the AMA Pro Harley-Davidson Insurance Flat Track Championship. The return of the limestone to the fairgrounds oval translated to intense racing all night long, as one already dominant rider became more so.
Despite being forced to come from behind in every race he lined up for at Lima, the night belonged to Sammy Halbert. The King’s Kustoms/LZ Racing rider kicked off the event by setting the fast time in qualifying, and after overcoming a terrible start to win the first heat, he posted the quickest time yet again.
The 25-lap National was red-flagged on Lap 3 after Digger 57/Dick Ford-backed Luke Gough fell in Turn 2 (Gough was able to join the staggered restart on his backup bike), and while defending Grand National Champion Jake Johnson (Zanotti Racing) repeated his holeshot on the restart, fasthog.com/American Harley-Davidson’s Bryan Smith blasted around on the outside to retake the point on Lap 5. Smith extended his lead and looked to be on his way to repeating his 2009 victory at the track, but Halbert was on the move
Sammy Halbert says: “I was finally able to catch Bryan, and he really gave me a good battle. I really needed to get out front because I pulled all my tear-offs off at once, and it was hard to ride behind anyone. I saw someone coming, but I was able to hold on.”
Halbert saw was another come-from-behinder, White’s Harley-Davidson’s Matt Weidman, who was in catch-up mode all night after problems in his heat. “We had problems all night,” said Weidman. “When we came out for the heat [for which Weidman held pole], we found out I had a broken swingarm and I had to go to my backup bike. I missed a shift on the start and came off dead last.”
Weidman was able to claw his way up through the field and claim the last direct transfer spot, which still left him with a second-row starting position. Once again, Weidman worked his way to the front, taking second from Smith on Lap 17 and closing on Halbert for the lead. Despite the valiant effort, Weidman’s charge stalled out with about five laps to go and the podium was set, Weidman and Smith following Halbert across the line.
Smith was perhaps lucky to claim the final step on the roster, as his drift back to more than six seconds behind Halbert nearly delivered him into the clutches of Rookie of the Year candidate Brad Baker (Lloyd Brothers Motorsports/Team HurtbyAccident.com). The only blemish on Halbert’s night, meanwhile, came in the Dash for Cash. It was Smith who topped the four-lap race, though Halbert earned second over Baker and Gough.
Earlier in the evening, Western Hills Honda’s Zakk Palmer captured his second win of 2011 in the Motorcycle-Superstore.com Pro Singles Championship. Palmer and Parkinson Brothers/Arai-backed Chas Springsteen traded the front spot several times before Palmer was able to pull out a nearly one-second lead by the finish of the 16-lap race. Bob Weirbach Racing’s Booby DeScenna, who was making his first start of the year, came home third.
Halbert, who’d maintained the overall AMA Pro Harley-Davidson Insurance Grand National Championship points lead throughout 2011, did further damage to the hopes of other championship contenders via his third victory of the year. The win at Lima pushed Halbert’s lead to 25 points over Jake Johnson, and a whopping 31 over Rogers Lake Racing’s Jared Mees. Mees was able to finish fifth, while Johnson faded to an eighth-place finish.
Despite an eighth-place finish in Lima’s Motorcycle-Superstore.com Pro Singles race, SDI Insulation’s Mikey Avila maintained his overall Pro Singles points lead. Avila’s main challengers, Vortex Sprockets’ Gerit Callies and Weirbach Racing’s Mikey Martin, finished sixth and tenth, respectively.
The AMA Pro Harley-Davidson Insurance Flat Track Championship next heads for Round 10 at Maryland’s Hagerstown Half-Mile. For tickets to the July 9 event, visit hagerstownspeedway.com or call (301) 582-0640.