Motorcycle Types Cruiser AMA Pro Flat Track: I-96 Preview

AMA Pro Flat Track: I-96 Preview

2011 AMA Flat Track

When Round 11 of the AMA Pro Harley-Davidson Insurance Flat Track Championship visits Lake Odessa, Michigan’s I-96 Speedway July 23, it’ll do more than thrill crowds with some of the fastest, tightest racing in the world; it’ll serve as the grand finale of the Michigan Festival of Speed.

The festival – featuring three days of car racing, amateur motorcycle racing, concerts, and more – will reach its pinnacle on the popular half-mile circuit that’s been part of Grand National history for close to two decades. The large crowds that regularly fill I-96’s flat track grandstands, however, are in for something extra-special this season.

AMA Pro Round 10 at Maryland’s Hagerstown Speedway showed how quickly things can change in the world of AMA Pro Flat Track, as Sammy Halbert (Kings Kustoms/Larry Zumbrun Racing) – who’s dominated the overall points standings since the start of the season – fought tire problems in the 25-lap national and turned in his poorest finish of the year, a fourteenth. Halbert’s struggles brought him within range of defending AMA Pro Grand National Champion Jake Johnson (Zanotti Racing), who now lurks a scant 15 points back and is more fired up than ever.

As if that weren’t enough competition, hard-charging Michigan resident Jared Mees (Rogers Lake Racing/Blue Springs Harley-Davidson) trails Johnson by a single point. Add in Harley-Davidson Motor Company’s Kenny Coolbeth, who turned in a dominant performance at Hagerstown to place himself fourth overall, and you’ve got a lead pack of riders whose ferocity makes each a viable winner.

For Coolbeth, the return to I-96 can be nothing but good news: he is the only rider in Grand National history who’s managed to earn more than one win at the facility, and Coolbeth, in fact, has claimed three. Chris Carr, however, is still hunting his first victory at I-96, and when the Chris Carr Farewell Tour swings into Michigan, the American Motorcyclist Association/DFW Honda-backed rider will be looking to rectify that oversight, as I-96 comprises one of the few AMA Pro tracks at which Carr hasn’t scored a win.

In Motorcycle-Superstore.com Pro Singles competition, meanwhile, the points race is just as tight as in the premier Expert class. Mikey Avilia (SDI Insulation/M.E.H. Corp.) held the championship lead when the field lined up at Hagerstown, but while the four-time winner struggled on the slick, fast half-mile and finished eleventh in the main, Gerit Callies (Full Throttle/Sioux Falls Truck & Trailer) churned out a last-lap pass for second that put him two points ahead of Avilia.

The night belonged to Weirbach Racing’s Mikey Martin, however, who won his first Pro Singles main in Hagerstown and closed to within nine points of leader, for third overall. The first ten races in the super-competitive Motorcycle-Superstore.com Pro Singles have featured five different winners thus far, evidence of the incredibly close race-action sure to continue in Michigan.

For tickets to tomorrow’s event, call (616) 642-0555 or visit i96speedway.com. To be a part of the AMA Pro Harley-Davidson Insurance Flat Track Championship, visit amaproracing.com and join us on facebook.com/AMAProFlatTrackSeries and twitter.com/AMAProFlatTrack.

Ron Lieback
Ron Lieback
One of the few moto journalists based on the East Coast, Ron Lieback joined the motorcycle industry as a freelancer in 2007, and is currently Online Editor at Ultimate Motorcycling. He is also the author of "365 to Vision: Modern Writer's Guide (How to Produce More Quality Writing in Less Time).

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