2011 AMA Pro Flat TrackWhen the AMA Pro Harley-Davidson Insurance Flat Track Championship visits Washington State’s Castle Rock Race Park this Saturday, August 6, it’ll mark yet another chapter in a history that dates back to 1965, when the facility hosted its first Grand National event.
With help from the Mount Saint Helens Motorcycle Club – which rebuilt the fairgrounds track after the 1980 volcanic eruption and has hosted nationals since – the Castle Rock TT will also give several local riders a hometown, Pacific Northwest-style welcome.Current overall series points-leader Sammy Halbert is from nearby Graham, and the Kings Kustoms/Larry Zumbrun Racing rider scored his first Grand National win at the 2007 Castle Rock TT. "Sammy Halbert says: "I’m looking forward to going home. I haven’t been home since before Salinas. It’ll be nice to go there and hang out with family, and get a little work done on the truck. I’ll get regrouped and ready for the rest of the season."Halbert’s tenuous points lead stands at just four over defending Grand National Champion Jake Johnson (Zanotti Racing) and the fast-closing Jared Mees (Roger Lake Racing/Blue Springs Harley-Davidson). Both Johnson and Mees have likewise seen success at Castle Rock, Johnson scoring a win on the tight TT track in 2006 and Mees joining him on the dais in third.Washington native Joe Kopp will be returning to the Grand National wars for the first time since Daytona, and he brings a significant amount of experience with him. Kopp began his career by honing his skills on western Washington dirt, but with his best finish at Castle Rock thus far a second — earned in 1994 — he’ll be looking for more on Saturday.The rider who beat Kopp in 1994 was none other than American Motorcyclist Association/Classic Harley-Davidson’s Chris Carr, currently just over halfway through his "Farewell Tour."Chris Carr says: "The TT coming up is technical. It should be different, and it’ll be fun. I’m looking forward to going to Castle Rock. I raced there in the ’80s as well, and I heard [this year’s track is] just like the old configuration and that they’ve added a jump between the right-hander and the sweeper, [so it’s] kind of like it used to be."Coming off his first victory of the year, Sacramento Mile-winner Bryan Smith (Fasthog.com/American Harley-Davidson) is looking for a repeat result at this weekend’s TT. Bryan Smith says: "I won Castle Rock Short Track [in 2007] and I have a really good Honda to ride at the TT this year from Boughner Racing. All I’m lacking is a TT win, and it would be awesome to get the Grand Slam [wins at a Half Mile, Short Track, Mile, and TT venue]. It would be a good two weeks if that happens."This weekend will mark the Motorcycle-Superstore.com Pro Singles class’ first trip to "The Rock," with Mikey Martin (Weirbach Racing/General Engineering) leading the championship points-race over Weirbach Racing’sGerit Callies and SDI Insulation/M.E.H. Corp’s Mikey Avila.Another rider returning home, however, is the leading candidate for the Saddlemen Rookie of the Year Award, Brad Baker.Baker (Lloyd Brothers Motorsports/TeamHurtByAccident.com) has proved to be a force on all kinds of tracks this year, posting fast-qualifying times on both Half Mile and Mile tracks. A last-lap tip over at the Salinas TT robbed Baker of his first Grand National win, so expect the hometown hero to put his skills to the ultimate test at Castle Rock. With all of the championship battles so close, the ultra-tight racing of Castle Rock’s TT has even more potential than usual to change the fates and fortunes of its riders, as even a small mistake can have big repercussions. The 2011 version of the Castle Rock TT will no doubt produce more of the surprises it’s long been famous for.For Castle Rock TT tickets and information, visit mshmc.org or call (888) 71-TICKETS. 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.