Tuesday, October 30, 2012

AMA Flat Track: Winter Break & Bad Weather Getting You Down? Read All About The Season-Finale Pomona Half-Mile Round 16 to Get You Through the Hurricane Sandy Aftermath

Riders get ready to roll out for the final qualifying session at round 10 of the 2012 AMA Pro Flat Track Harley-Davidson Insurance Grand National Championship presented by Motorcycle-Superstore.com season at the Lucas Oil Indy Mile on August 18 and three of the four main protagonists in the final fight for the brass ring that is the 2012 AMA Grand National Championship are ready to hit the track.

Jake Johnson, the 2-Time and defending AMA Grand National Champion, would lead the National main event at Indy early before crashing out just past the mid-point of the 25-lap final, and would leave the Indiana State Fair event down in the points with a deficit that not even the come-from-behind specialist was able to surpass this year.  In spite of his record of coming from behind in the last two seasons to take the title, first from Joe Kopp in the 2010 season and then from Jared Mees in the 2011 season, Johnson and his #1 Zanotti Racing/Schaeffer's H-D/Boughner Racing Suspension/Arai-sponsored XR750 weren't able to recover again at the end of the 2012 season.

After coming through the semi to make the main, and thusly missing valuable points for not making the Dash at Pomona, Johnson soldiered home to a 14th-place finish in the final round to end the season in the 3rd-place spot in the overall championship to his friend and rival, Jared Mees.  Jake and the Zanotti team are expected back together for the 2013 season and will no doubt be as tough as ever as they work to get the #1 plate back on what will be the #5 again for the 2013 season.  And although it is strictly a rumor at this point, there has been buzz throughout flat track nation that one Dave Zanotti, the great man behind this great effort, has even spoken of putting together a Kawasaki for the mile events for next year.  Say it ain't so, Joe.......

Mees, who more or less controlled the championship hunt from the mid-point of the season, would leave Indy with another podium (3rd-place) and would suffer his only downfall of the year at the next round at Knoxville (18th-place) but would hold on through the rest of the season to bring it home in the 8th-place spot at Pomona to capture the 2012 AMA Grand National Championship that he had been so wanting to claim for years now.

The rider of the #9 Rogers Racing/Blue Springs H-D/Saddlemen/National Cycle-backed XR added to his '09 and '11 Twins Series and '12 Singles Series Championships by taking the big marbles that he has been shooting for since being named Rookie of the Year in the 2004 season. 

With the announcement last week of long-time tuner Brent Armbruster leaving the team to join the Lloyd Brothers Motorsports team and former multi-time championship winning tuner Kenny Tolbert coming back to the track to turn the wrenches for the Rogers Racing rider in 2013, the upcoming season should see some interesting combinations moving forward. 

According to Mees at the Springfield doubleheader round in mid-September, he stated that there could be a distinct possibility that he may have to mount-up a new ride on the mile tracks in order to stay competitive with the Kawasakis that have hit the scene of late.  After asking master builder Rick Howerton if he was interested in putting something together for him (half in jest and half serious), Howerton stated he was much too busy to be able to spread himself that thin and still run his IndyCar/NHRA/NASCAR fabrication business on Indy's west side and still keep his Eaken-powered Kawi in the hunt for rider Bryan Smith. 

This begs the question, will KT be rolling out his mean green Kawasaki armada (that was last seen at the Springfield Mile I round in late May with then-rider Brad Baker before being mothballed for the remainder of the season due to lack of sponsorship) for next season to help keep The Jammer in the front at the big tracks, or will the wrench spinning on Rogers Racing XRs' by the former H-D factory mechanic be enough to keep them in contention?  If anyone can keep an XR finely tuned, it is KT, but at what cost will the fragility and expense of the long-in-the-tooth Milwaukee iron (or alloy, as it would be) be able to remain competitive, and not just on the mile ovals?  Time will tell.

Bryan Smith announced way back in early April that he would be joining a new 'rookie' team based out of Indianapolis and headed-up by one Mr. Howerton, and would be saddling up on the #42 Crosley Radio/Howerton Motorsports powered by Eaken Racing/MPH/Dreyer Motorsports-sponsored Kawasaki parallel twins for the five mile events in the 2012 season.  Looking back, that rookie team with that veteran rider (and mile specialist, to boot!) had taken the series by storm by winning two events, taking home two 3rd-place finishes and a 14th-place at Indy (that could have resulted in a much higher finish if not for one errant battery-failure issue). 

And then they did the unthinkable, and entered their rocket Kawi in the season-ending round at the Pomona Half-Mile, announcing just shy of two weeks before the finale that they would be making it one more go around in order to help Flyin' Bryan capture the ceremonial Twins Series Championship. 

Looking back, it was a pretty good move on all parts as Smith took 3rd-place at Pomona in the team's first half-mile event together and in the process claimed the 2012 AMA Grand National Twins Series Championship and a fine 4th-place overall in the overall standings, behind Mees, Sammy Halbert and Johnson. 

With new rules expected to come into place to help quiet the naysayers (and those not-in-the-know) in terms of possible restrictor sizes being discussed and minimum weight limits being set (almost a given) for everyone running the Twins Series events, the little team that could AND did will have their work cut-out for them.  But ask their fearless leader if he's worried and he gives you one of those looks that make you rethink whether you are crazy or not (of which I am, of course) and states that they have 'more in the tank' and that their bike isn't 'nearly as light as it looks' and they will just adjust accordingly.  If you think he's kidding, you don't know the competitive spirit of Rocket Rick and his team of long-time flat track fans and aficionados.

After winning his semi at round 5 of the 2012 AMA Pro Flat Track Harley-Davidson Insurance Grand National Championship presented by Motorcycle-Superstore.com season at the Lima Half-Mile (shown above rolling onto the podium on June 30 after taking that semi win), less then an hour later 3-Time AMA Grand National Twins Champion Kenny Coolbeth was down and out after hitting a track marker on the first lap of the 25-lap National main at the Allen County Fairgrounds event.

Forced to sit out the next few rounds while recuperating from a broken left leg, Coolbeth and the #2 Screamin' Eagle/Harley-Davidson Motor Co/Fox/Arai Helmets-sponsored factory XR750 team came roaring back for a season-ending run that would leave young men gasping for air, let alone a long-time veteran of the sport.  Looking like he had hardly broken a sweat, The King of Cool took the season-finale win at Pomona to put a stamp on a season of what if's for the long tenured veteran of the sport, after also having won the Knoxville Half-Mile just over five weeks earlier. 

Coolbeth sandwiched those wins with finishes of 6th-place (Springfield Mile II), 8th-place (Santa Rosa Mile) and 11th-place (Tucson Half-Mile) to take the 7th-place spot in the final overall standings and let everyone know that he isn't done yet, by any means, and will no doubt be back for the 2013 season with a big head of steam under his seat ready to take on the pack again.

Sammy Halbert rolls onto the podium at round 5 of the 2012 AMA Pro Flat Track Harley-Davidson Insurance Grand National Championship presented by Motorcycle-Superstore.com season after taking the win over rival Henry Wiles at the Lima Half-Mile after a hard-fought 25-lap National main that was interrupted by a red-flag delay that saw the final five laps worthy of the paying house on hand.

Halbert and his #7 South East H-D/The South Ass/Mo Vaughn Transport/LZ Racing-backed XR had another great run for the championship during the 2012 season, winning a series' leading four rounds and finally taking the dirt track 'grand slam' after taking his initial mile event win at Indy back in August.

But like with all events and racing championships, the fat lady did not hit a good note for Slammin' Sammy as a clutch failure at the season-finale relegated him to an unlucky 13th-place finish at Pomona and the series' runner-up spot in the overall championship.

No doubt the Washington State resident will be back for the 2013 season and will be as tough as ever, and maybe even gazing at everyone with that determined but anguished stare that seemed to be ever-present throughout the 2012 season.  One thing for sure, you know he'll be at the front fighting it out to try and add to his '11 Singles Series Championship by finally nailing down the big brass ring that is the AMA Grand National Championship in The Rolling Thunder Show.

You can check out Jared Mees on the cover of Cycle News from Issue 40 at the link below, the 2012 AMA Grand National Champion:


And a big thanks to Cycle News editor Paul Carruthers for putting together this great season-ending write-up from round 16 of the 2012 AMA Pro Flat Track Harley-Davidson Insurance Grand National Championship presented by Motorcycle-Superstore.com season at the Pomona Half-Mile Flat Track Finals:


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