Monday, October 3, 2011

AMA Flat Track: Jake Johnson Takes The Lead in the Championship With Calistoga Half-Mile Win

As the front row gets lined up for the National main event at round 11 of the 2011 AMA Pro Flat Track Harley-Davidson Insurance Grand National Championship Series at Lake Odessa in late July, defending AMA Grand National Champion appears to be sizing up the competition before taking the reigns of his #1 Zanotti Racing/Schaeffer's H-D/Boughner Racing/Motion Pro-sponsored XR750 from team members Ted McDermott and Mike Hacker.  Johnson sized things up pretty good come National time as he went on to finish 3rd on the night behind event-winner Jared Mees and runner-up Bryan Smith.

To say that champions do what champions do would be not only an over-used phrase, but one of the most obvious statements on the season after Jersey Jake took the win and the overall point series lead the other night at the Calistoga Speedway Half-Mile event.  Taking the lead for good on the 4th lap, the 2010 AMA Grand National Champion held off runs from championship contender Sammy Halbert and Matt Weidman before holding on to win by 1.855 seconds over runner-up Halbert.  After taking third in the Dash event earlier in the evening behind then-series leader Jared Mees and winning his heat, Johnson was able to capitalize on Mees' crash on the night to take over the series point lead for the first time this year, and only the third person to have done so all season.  With just four points seperating Johnson from Mees (357-353) going into the season finale at Pomona on October 15, the barn burner to be is upon us, and the fight to the end is going to be as exciting as the 2011 season has been since it's start some seven months ago.

Jared Mees came into the penultimate round of the season at Calistoga with a 'firm' grip on the series point lead with 18 markers between him and then-runner up Johnson, and after also winning his heat and finishing the Dash a spot up on JJ to make it 19 points going into the night's main event, things were looking up for the 2009 AMA Grand National Twins Series Champion.  Until they were looking down, when The Jammer went down in turn 3 on the fifth lap of the race.  And that is where things got real foggy for awhile as the #9 Rogers Lake Racing/Blue Springs Screamin' Eagle/Lucas Oil/National Cycle-sponsored team and AMA Pro Flat Track Racing sorted things out.

Mees was unhurt, but his bike was not able to re-start the main event with 20 laps to go, and that is where things got even foggier in California.  Due to the interpretation of the rules, a competitor is allowed to re-start a main if 5 laps haven't been completed, and apparently due to the timing of the red flag being thrown, is where the lines got blurred, as it was apparently 'his' 5th lap he would have completed as leader Johnson was crossing the stripe to begin 'his' 6th lap.  AMA Pro Flat Track allowed Mees to re-start on a back-up while they tried to work out the lap scenario, Mees started dead-last and then worked his way to a 6th place finish--on the track. 

But after all was done and said, it was determined that since the leader (Johnson) had started his 6th lap, then the point of 'no return'-so to speak-was passed in terms of rolling out a back-up machine for any competitor.  Result--Mees was credited with 19th place officially, and 5 championship points on the night to show for what looked like his come-from-behind efforts.  Johnson took 27 points on the night after all the sorting out, and Mees was suddenly in the second spot of the championship for the second time in three events after taking over the point lead at Knoxville.

Runner-up at the Calistoga event, Sammy Halbert, led a couple of laps but was just able to hang with Johnson even after the re-start, and now sits 3rd in the championship standings with 349 points on his #7 Kings Kustoms/White's H-D/LZ Racing/KK Supply-sponsored XR  Slammin' Sammy is still the last man with a good mathematical chance to take the championship after having led the standings for the first 16 events of the year, and you can bet he isn't done fighting yet heading to the season finale in Pomona in 12 days.

Jeffrey Carver, Jr. failed to qualify for the National main at Calistoga on his #23 Eddie Adkins Racing/Van's Yamaha/Stevens Racing/Leo Welch-sponsored XR after coming up just shy of 1.3 seconds in his semi to make the transfer.  The 2010 AMA Pro Flat Track Pro Singles Champion now sits in the 12th spot in the overall championship and has had a great year all around including his Dash win at the Springfield Short Track added to his 3rd place finish in the main, and his 7th place in the Twins Series event at Lake Odessa.

Brad Baker took the top qualifying spot at Calistoga on his #12 Lloyd Brothers Motorsports/TeamHurtby Hayden/Foremost Insurance-backed Ducati 1098, and went on to take 3rd in his heat to punch his ticket to the main in California.  He fought his way to a fine 5th place finish on the night, 7.747 seconds behind winner Johnson, and just .166 seconds behind 4th place finisher Luke Gough, to solidify his 6th spot in the championship standings with 215 points.  The Bullet has had a super year in his rookie season of Expert Class racing and the '09 Pro Singles Champion should in all likelihood collect the AMA Pro Flat Track Rookie of the Year Award after the season finale in Pomona.

Flyin' Bryan Smith took his #42 Moroney's H-D/ Racing-sponsored XR to a 3rd place finish at Calistoga, finishing 5.406 seconds down on winner Johnson, and over 2.3 seconds up on 4th place finisher Gough.  Smith sits in the 9th spot of the overall standings with 166 points, six markers behind 8th place man Matt Weidman (who finished 7th at Calistoga.)  If not for his two bad finishes at both Springfield Mile rounds this year, Smith would very likely be fighting for a top 5 finish on the year after winning the Sacramento Mile at the end of July.

With one round remaining in the 2011 AMA Pro Flat Track Harley-Davidson Insurance Grand National Championship Series presented by, the season finale at the Pomona Half-Mile should prove to be the end of one of the most closely fought title fights in AMA Grand National Championship Series history.  With three men seperated by just 8 points, the last race of the 20 race-long season will come down to brains, brawn, balls and bravado as The Rolling Thunder Show winds this fast moving train down to what will surely be an historical finish to what has been a great year and super season of racing.  All the cards are on the table, and all bets are getting ready to be placed as to who will come out on top at the end of the season on October 15.

Former 5-Time Australian Flat Track Champion Luke Gough talks with Lloyd Brothers Motorsports co-owner, Dave Lloyd at the Springfield Mile I round in May 2011.  Gough was debuting the #62 Digger/Dick Ford/KK Cycle/Eaken Racing-sponsored Kawasaki 650R-based machine at the first Twins Series event of the year at round 6 of the 2011 AMA Pro Flat Track Harley-Davidson Insurance Grand National Championship Series event, and Lloyd had come by to discuss the sano-looking machine, having been quite familiar himself in building a variety of non-XR machines in the series over the years.

Ricky Howerton of Howerton Racing Products/Indianapolis built the machine during the off season, and he comes from a background of former USAC racers, including former Silver Crown competitor, Jackie Howerton.  HRP is also listed as one of the team's sponsors.  Starting late last year, Howerton put the machine together after having been a long-time fan of AMA Flat Track Series racing.  The team also had former AMA Grand National competitor Dan Ingram testing for them earlier in the season and helping to set-up the machine for the National series.  Look for more on the team and HRP during the off-season from Stu's Shots.

Gough should get the 'most-improved' award for the season based alone on his 4th place finish on the night last Saturday at the Calistoga Speedway Half-Mile.  Coming off the back row after a 4th-place finish in his heat behind Johnson, Rob Pearson and JD Beach (on the USC Racing Kawasaki), Luke fought his way into the 4th spot taking on the likes of Matt Weidman and Kenny Coolbeth, Jr. and grabbed the spot for good on the 20th lap and held on to it right up until the checkers, for his best finish of the year (and possibly best-ever in the Twins Series to this date.)  Gough finished just 7.581 seconds behind winner Johnson after a close battle with Baker on the #12 LBM Ducati.

This was his third main event appearance this year on the new parallel twin after taking 9th at Sacramento and 15th at the Springfield Mile II, and it obviously proves that the team is making headway with the Kawi.  They also put the team's XR750 in the show for two other main events this year, with a best of 10th at the Lima Half-Mile in late June.

This is really good to see for Eaken Racing and for the likeable Australian.  For those of you old enough to remember, Skip Eaken was the driving force behind Bubba Shobert's reign in the AMA Grand National Championship Series in the mid '80s with Team Honda.  This team has legs in the experience department and the machine isn't hard to spot on the track, either, as it's day glo orange wheels and tank really set the beautiful machine off, up close AND from a distance.  Go get 'em mate, great job on ya man!

Jake Johnson Captures AMA Pro Harley-Davidson Insurance Grand National Championship Points Lead with Win at Calistoga

Rookie Briar Bauman Claims Second Career Victory in Thrilling Pro Singles Final

CALISTOGA, Ca. (October 2, 2011) - Defending Grand National Champion Jake Johnson captured the AMA Pro Flat Track Harley-Davidson Insurance Grand National Championship presented by points lead with a win Saturday night at Calistoga Speedway, located in the picturesque wine country of Calistoga, Ca. Johnson deftly piloted his Zanotti's Racing Harley-Davidson, leading 22 laps of the 25 lap main event and crossing the stripe 1.855 seconds before Kings Kustoms / White's Harley-Davidson's Sammy Halbert.

Event promoter Bob Bellino brought the series back to Calistoga following a successful event in 2010, and the stars of the AMA Pro Grand National Championship put on another breathtaking show for the near-capacity crowd. Halbert got the hole shot and led the 19-rider field into the first turn, where White's Harley-Davidson / SNIP backed Matt Weidman slipped by and proceeded to lead the first lap, followed by Halbert in second and the Harley-Davidson Motor Company's Kenny Coolbeth a close third.

Johnson took the point on lap four with Halbert, Coolbeth, Jared Mees and Weidman hot on his heels. Just as Johnson started to open up a gap, the red lights brought the racing action to a halt, as Mees had crashed his Rogers Lake / Blue Springs Harley-Davidson backed XR-750 in turn three. At the time of the red flag, the leader and several other riders had completed their sixth lap, meaning that, per the rule book, scoring would revert to the running order of lap five, the last officially completed lap, in order to accurately regrid the riders.

The on-track incident was quickly resolved and following the restart, Johnson, Halbert and Coolbeth picked up where they left off, with Digger 57 / Dick Ford's Luke Gough, / American Harley-Davidson's Bryan Smith, and Matt Weidman battling for fourth. Coolbeth then briefly lost control of the back end giving up his position in third as Smith and Gough worked their way to the front.

The champagne showers come from the podium celebrations at round 19 of the 2011 AMA Pro Flat Track Harley-Davidson Insurance Grand National Championship Series at the Calistoga Speedway Half-Mile as Sammy Halbert, Jake Johnson and Bryan Smith whoop it up after finishing 2-1-3 on the night at the penulitmate round of the season.  AMA Pro Flat Track photo by Dave Hoenig.

The large crowd watched in amazement as Mees, who started from the back of the field on the restart using his backup bike, sliced through the field and gained position after position on a methodical march. When the checkered flag came out, Johnson soared across the line nearly two seconds ahead of Halbert and over five seconds ahead of third-place finisher Smith. Fourth place went to Gough and Lloyd Brothers Motorsports / Team Hurt by Accident's Brad Baker rounded out the top five.

Although Mees led a brilliant charge through the field, the rule relating to backup bike usage in the event of red flag restarts states that riders can only utilize backup bikes until five laps have been completed by the leader.

"Following the on-track incident, there was no way that Jared could get his "A" bike ready in time for the restart," said Director of Flat Track Dan Johnsen. "We allowed him to restart on his backup bike to safeguard him as we considered the interpretation of the rule. As he was circulating, we reexamined the rulebook and conferred with scoring to determine that the leader had officially completed six laps and was working on his seventh lap at the time of the red flag, and therefore backup machines were not an option for competition. He was credited with the five laps he completed prior to the red flag on his "A" bike and the subsequent points."

Earlier in the night, Coolbeth pulled off a narrow.371 second win over Mees in the all-important Dash for Cash. The points that Mees gained from that second place finish could prove vital as the series winds down.

The points swing now has Johnson in the lead by a narrow four points over Mees, 357-353, and Halbert just another four points back with 349. Baker backed up his fast qualifying effort with a fifth place finish on the potent Ducati, putting him sixth in points going into the last round.

In the ever-competitive Pro Singles class, Rod Lake Racing / Brown's Cycles' Brian Bauman earned his second win of the season, finishing 2.181 seconds ahead of Knoxville winner Shayna Texter's RLT Racing Honda.

The 16-lap Pro Singles main featured much of the same excitement as the GNC Twins main. Texter had her RLT Racing Honda out in front on the initial start and led the first lap when points leader Mikey Martin had his Weirbach Racing Honda blow up on lap two, landing him on the ground in turn two. With less than two laps in the books, Martin was allowed to use his back up Honda for the complete restart. Bowman nailed the restart and ran away, leading every lap on his way to the top spot on the podium.

"When Shayna got the hole shot I thought 'Oh no there she goes again, just like Knoxville,' but I was able to get the restart and hold on for the win," Bauman said.

With Bauman holding over a two second advantage, the crowd turned its attention to fan-favorite Shayna Texter and points-contender Gerit Callies. The two battled for 16 straight laps, repeatedly exchanging positions. When all was said and done, it was Texter who grabbed second place, earning her second podium in the last three races.

Martin worked his backup bike up to an eighth place finish, allowing him to maintain a 14 point advantage over Mikey Avila, 303-289. Calistoga third-place finisher Callies is now just one point back from Avila with 288 points.

Next up for the AMA Pro Flat Track Harley-Davidson Insurance Grand National Championship presented by is the AMA Pro Flat Track Season Finale, scheduled for Saturday, October 15, 2011 at the LA County Fairplex in Pomona, Ca.

AMA Pro Racing is the premier professional motorcycle racing organization in North America, operating a full schedule of events and championships for a variety of motorcycle disciplines. Learn more about AMA Pro Racing at

For additional information contact:

AMA Pro Racing Communications, (386) 492-1014,

Results, stories and photo links for round 19 of the 2011 AMA Pro Flat Track Harley-Davidson Insurance Grand National Championship presented by Series stop at the Calistoga Speedway Half-Mile.


AMA Pro Flat Track round 19 results (standard versions):

AMA Pro Flat Track round 19 complete event results (PDF versions):


AMA Pro Flat Track's official photo gallery from round 19 of the AMA Pro Flat Track Harley-Davidson Insurance Grand National Championship presented by Series, shot by AMA Pro Flat Track official photographer, Dave Hoenig:

And thanks to Dave for his official gallery (which should be posted within a few days of the event) and results section at his official site, Flat Trak

Here's Cycle's abbreviated version of the events at the Calistoga Speedway Half-Mile:

And Matt Davidson filed this story of the race at Calistoga over at

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