Round one and two of the 2016 AMA Pro Flat Track season are now in the history books as the 25-lap Harley-Davidson GNC1 Daytona Flat Track evens came to a close.Claiming the checkered flag in round two was Jake Johnson. This was a special win for Johnson; for the first time since his 2011 Grand National Championship season at the Pomona Half-Mile in Calif., Johnson (#5), riding his Honda CRF450R, squeaked out a win Friday against round-one victor Sammy Halbert (#69) aboard the Yamaha YZ450F.
Not to be left out of the fun, the rest of the pack fought their own battles for the top 10. Johnson pulled ahead of his teammate, Kenny Coolbeth Jr. (#2) who also straddles a CRF450R, crossing the finishing line a modest 1.851 seconds ahead of Coolbeth.But all of that spelled success for Zanotti Racing when they saw their two riders up on the score board for the second and final main event of the season-opener AMA Pro Flat Track doubleheader on the legendary quarter-mile DAYTONA track.“It’s been a while since I’ve won a race,” Johnson said. “It’s been since 2011 and oddly enough it was one of the last times that I rode for Zanotti. I kind of had a dry spell but we got back together and we did it again. It’s awesome to go one-two with my teammate. It was nice enough of Kenny to let me have this one. He has had a couple of wins the last couple of years. But it hasn’t sunk in yet for me, it almost feels like my first win. I want to thank everybody that’s stuck behind me the last couple of years. It’s good to win again.”Coolbeth showed no animosity towards his teammate and as a matter of fact, he found himself on the podium last year during round two of Daytona last year.“I’m super proud,” Coolbeth said. “Dave Zanotti puts his heart and soul into our program and it shows. He’s a hell of a guy and he would do anything for us. It was a good race. I had to work for it. I got a terrible start and we should’ve been right there with Jake. He was probably on cruise control and determined.”Halbert, who won Thursday night’s opening round of the DAYTONA doubleheader, finished third and took an early season GNC1 championship lead with 40 points, three ahead of Johnson’s 37 points.DSammy Halbert claimed a victory during Thursday’s season kick off doubleheader race. Overall, Halbert finished third and managed to put himself in a comfortable position right out of the gate – taking an early season points lead with 40 points, a mere three points ahead of Johnson’s 37 point total over the events. He spoke with a bit of pride about his results,“I’m the only guy up here on the podium two days in a row, so stoked with that, and I’ve got to give it up to my whole team,” Halbert said. “Jake and I had a good battle there for a minute. He passed me and I kind of gave it back to him a little bit and he really gave it back to me, so that was cool. I’m sure it made it exciting, I was just doing the best that I could in second there but Kenny was coming and I tried to hold him off but he got me.”And that is quite an accomplishment for Halbert, who now sports #69, in remembrance of his brother Jethro Halbert. Jethro Halbert passed away last August due to severe injuries he acquired during a 2014 wreck at the Calistoga Half-Mile in California. Race fans and riders alike attended a somber and sobering beach-side memorial service in Daytona Beach early last week.Halbert’s follow up statements were centered on his late brother, who served as an inspiration to the podium, “I really didn’t know what to expect with the track today,” Halbert said. “It was so different than yesterday. I didn’t really have a game plan going in like I did last night, but I just did my best to channel my inner Jethro and get calm, and I was stoked to get the 69 up on the box again, so I’m really happy overall.”The GNC1 main event partner bonus awards were gobbled up by Johnson. Not content with his victory, he went on to earn the Öhlins Fastest Lap Award when he made the winning pass against Halbert during lap four with a time of 19.285 seconds. He sustained his lead and as the bell tolled lucky 13, he claimed another title that night: The McElroy Packaging Lucky 13 Award as the race leader during the halfway point of the event.Finishing fourth overall on Friday was Brad Baker (#6) who rode a Honda CRF450R during the festivities. Baker advanced to the main from the third and final transfer slots in his semi. But he made quite a showing, one that had fans cheering as he claimed the MotoBatt Hard Charger Award. Baker, beginning in the last row at 17th place, moved up 13 positions which was quite a spectacle. Rounding out the top five during round one and two, JD Beach (#95) aboard his YZF450F, who also can claim some bragging rights in that he posted the fastest GNC1 qualifying time on Friday.During the GNC2 main event, Dylan Morin (#26E) made some impressive moves while riding his KX450F. Morin nabbed a victory in his semi, pushing all the way up from 14th on the grid. This marks his first AMA Pro Flat Track victory and we congratulate him on that front. Morin took a high-line on the abused dirt track, passing veteran Justin Jones (#19) way outside during the 11th lap. Morin held his lead and took the checkered flag with a minuscule margin, just a 0.612 between him and Jones. Aside from claiming his first victory, Morin also took home the NERGIA Fast Moving Award.”It’s a dream come true to be standing here on the top of the box,” Morin said. “This is my first win and I am freakin’ pumped. I can’t believe it right now, that semi was pretty rough, and getting up here from the last to win in the main, I just can’t believe I did that.”Jones doesn’t have a lot to be mopey about, he took home runner-up honors for the second consecutive night. Meanwhile, Dalton Gauthier (#14) stood on two GNC2 main podiums at Daytona, walking away with a third place overall finish at DAYTONA.The prelims were on fire as well, Briar Bauman, Coolbeth and Johnson won GNC1 heats while Cory Texter and Jake Constantine split the spoils of war among the GNC1 semis.Want more AMA Pro Flat Track? The next event is at Circuit of The Americas, April 9. The series will make its debut at the circuit during the Red Bull Grand Prix of the Americas race weekend, which includes MotoGP, Moto2 and Moto3, and also support races from MotoAmerica.
This week we ride two genre-departing motorcycles from the established American manufacturers. Jess McKinley gives us his thoughts on the all new Harley-Davidson Pan America Special, and Ron Lieback gives his on Indian’s latest version of the FTR 1200 S.