The penultimate round of the 2014 AMA Pro Flat Track Grand National Championship saw the final outcome shake up the points standings as the series gets ready to head the it's season finale at the Pomona Half-Mile Flat Track Finals this coming Saturday, October 11. Defending AMA Grand National Champion Brad Baker got the monkey off his back that had been clinging to him all season to take the win at the Ramspur Winery Calistoga Half-Mile, his first with the Harley-Davidson Motor Company and his first carrying that elusive #1 plate.
But probably the biggest subject of talk after the race and since has surrounded the disqualification of Bryan Smith at Calistoga after his mount starting spewing smoke close to the halfway point of the race, and he was shown the black flag roughly 12 laps into the race while running in 4th-place and had managed to move up into 2nd- place in the race behind eventual winner Baker. What had been a 7-point lead in the series championship standings over 2012 AMA Grand National Champion Jared Mees heading into the penultimate round left Smith with a 13-point deficit to Mees, and only 3-points up on 2010-11 AMA Grand National Champ Jake Johnson, both of whom grabbed podium finishes of 2nd- and 3rd-place, respectively, to better shore up their positions in the title battle.
A disqualification in any given race is bad for any team on any level, but a lot of talk, especially on some of the internet boards and on the largest social network available today to the masses has seen the usual rants from those 'not in the know' about the AMA holding favorites and wanting to favor the long-standing Harley-Davidson teams over the now-more dominant Kawasaki teams. But those same rants come from those that aren't familiar with race rules as they pertain to a smoking machine involved in high-speed competition and fail to realize that Smith's machine could have been spewing oil onto the track and thusly onto the riders if it had been allowed to continue, thusly creating what could have been even more disastrous implications if it would have been oiling down the surface, and causing injury or worse to those behind him.
Obviously, the biggest loser in this situation that occurred last weekend at Calistoga was to Smith and the #42 Villa-Esparza/Crosley Radio/Howerton Products Kawasaki team, in terms of losing their decent lead in the championship standings, in what would have been a strengthening of that lead if the race had played out (under normal, non-smoking conditions) as Smith would have most likely finished in the runner-up spot to Baker, and Mees would have been bumped back to 3rd-place and Johnson to 4th-place in the finishing order. But unfortunately for the #42 team, that didn't occur, and safety took hold in the form of the black flag that negated Smith's possible solid finish. And obviously, safety is paramount above all in any form of motorized competition and as we all have seen in our years (or decades) of following any form of racing, safety was not compromised and as a result, the points standings were shaken up as a result of safety being played out above all other wants or wishes.
And what we have now is a new points leader heading into the season finale at Pomona on Saturday, with Mees taking over the point in the standings which he had held earlier in the season, and we see for the third time in the last five seasons the points being shaken up after the leader coming into one of the final rounds losing that lead either due to a DQ or a mechanical malady. For those that don't remember those other two instances, Joe Kopp went into the Minnesota round in late 2010 as the title leader when the wheels came off of his title aspirations after losing the chain on his Lloyd Brothers Motorsports Ducati and handing the lead over to eventual champion Jake Johnson, and then in 2011 with Jared Mees leading the championship heading into the Calistoga round when he was DQ'd for the use of his back-up machine in what was deemed to be a misread on an AMA Pro Flat Track rules interpretation, and again handing over the championship points reign to Johnson, who went on to score his second of two overall AMA Grand National Championships.
In the shot above, the top-3 riders in the title hunt are ready to go in round 14 of the 2014 AMA Pro Flat Track Grand National Championship main event at the Springfield Mile II at the Illinois State Fairgrounds on August 31.
Bryan Smith on the #42 Villa-Esparza/Crosley Radio/Howerton Products-sponsored Kawasaki EX650, Jared Mees on the #9 Rogers Racing/Las Vegas H-D/Blue Springs H-D-backed Harley-Davidson XR750, and Jake Johnson on the #5 Ramspur Winery/Lloyd Brothers Motorsports/Parkinson Brothers Racing-sponsored Kawasaki are all in in each of their own trains of thought prior to the switching on of the green light for the 25-lap National main at the iconic facility that hosts the greatest racers in the greatest racing series on two wheels in the world over the Labor Day weekend.
Also seen clearly in this shot are last year's double Springfield Mile winner Brandon Robinson on the #44 TJ Burnett Farms/Bob Lanphere's Beaverton Motorcycles/Dan Wall Racing Kawasaki on the second row and Scooter Vernon on the #74 Walrath Racing/Hovey Helmholz Racing/Teasdale Racing-backed Kawasaki on the third row of the 18-rider grid.
With the points now having been shaken up heading to Pomona, all three of the championship contenders have a shot at taking home the crown jewel that is the 2014 AMA Grand National Championship. And each has his own advantages in stellar crew chiefs (Mees, with the second all-time winning tuner in AMA Grand National Championships with tuner to the stars Kenny Tolbert, Smith with the powerhouse crew of Jeff Gordon, Dink Glidden and Bryan's Dad, Barry, behind him, and Johnson with the tuning finesse of championship-winning wrench master Bret Armbruster in his corner, as well as a full stable of Lloyd Brothers Motorsports machinery to help him grab that #1 plate again.) Each has ample experience and history at Pomona, let alone on half-miles, and each has been there in the crunch for the big prize, although Smith is the only rider who doesn't sport a #1 plate in the overall championship to show for his merits.
Saturday will tell the tale when the men and women of The Rolling Thunder Show hit the track for the final time in 2014 and the final run to the season's end comes to a climax at the Cal-Expo Fairgrounds to wrap up what has been a superb season of battle amongst the greatest racers in the world. And all eyes will be on the three men in the chase for the #1 plate to see who will have the most to grab the crown and carry the #1 plate for the 2015 season. And you better not miss it!
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Oct. 1, 2014) - Saturday night, AMA Pro Flat Track riders gave new meaning to "taking the high road." After a full day of racing, and after the sun had set on the picturesque Calistoga Speedway in the heart of California's wine country, riders finally found the fastest way around the track was the higher line.
Brad Baker realized that just in time during the Expert main and used it to fly to the front of the field and win the Calistoga Half-Mile. It was the first win since last year's season finale at Pomona for the defending GNC champion and rider of the No. 1 Factory Harley-Davidson.
Baker paced runner-up Jared Mees and third-place finisher Jake Johnson. Sammy Halbert and Kenny Coolbeth rounded out the top five, respectively. "We just found that outside line," Baker said. "I found it just a little bit before Jake, but he just happened to be in a little bit better position to move forward a little bit quicker. I got hung up behind Sammy (Halbert) ... finally got by him and I was able to pick off my own pace."
Jared Mees, winner Brad Baker and Jake Johnson display their Ramspur Winery Calistoga Half-Mile trophies on the podium after finishing 2-1-3 in last weekend's penultimate round of the 2014 AMA Pro Flat Track Grand National Championship in Napa Valley. Mees and Johnson are within reach of the championship crown going into Saturday's event at Pomona, with Mees holding a 13-point lead over Bryan Smith, and Johnson 3-points behind Smith, to make what should be an exciting finish to what has been a stellar season of racing in The Rolling Thunder Show. AMA Pro Flat Track photo by Dave Hoenig.
Baker's third GNC victory of his career moved him into fourth in the points with one race left on the schedule; the Flat Track Finals at the LA County Fairplex in Pomona, Calif., Oct 11. "I needed that, that's for sure," Baker said.
Mees, on his No. 9 Rogers Racing Harley-Davidson, jumped out to the early lead in the main, but Johnson and his No. 5 Ramspur Winery Harley-Davidson also showed the speed to get to the front. Bryan Smith, the championship leader coming into Calistoga, moved as high as second, but was black flagged for a smoking bike, and the rider of the No. 42 Villa-Esparza/Crosley Radio Kawasaki was disqualified for failing to heed the call to pull into the pits.
Mees left with a 13-point lead over Smith, and Johnson stayed alive in the title chase, sitting 16 points behind Mees. Johnson wanted to make a bigger move in the point standings, and he too found the high line to be the fastest. He just couldn't put his bike in front at the end.
"It's pretty disappointing," Johnson said. "I got up front early, I was able to get around Jared, I kind of found that high line and I was able to work my way up into the lead, too bad Brad knew it too. He came up there and got by. I felt like I was matching his pace, I don't know if I would have been able to pass him, but we would have been there, but we ran into some lapped traffic and I about got ran off the track."
Still, a podium finish at the home track for his sponsor, Ramspur Winery, wasn't anything to be too upset about. "It's great to be back here in Calistoga, it's a great are and a great racetrack," Johnson said.
Smith reflected afterward about his showing, and how untimely it was to have an issue with the bike in the penultimate race. "It's a huge disappointment to have any kind of mechanical deal like that at any point of the year," Smith said. "It's part of racing. The same thing could happen next week to Jared."
Kyle Johnson held a comfortable lead in the Pro Singles title hunt coming into Calistoga, but the rider of the No. 77J Parkinson Brothers Racing Honda crashed out on the first lap of the main event.
Instead of Johnson clinching, Davis Fisher raced his No. 67M T.J. Burnett Farms Honda to his first career victory, and leapfrogged into second place in the process. Fisher, who hasn't raced since suffering an injury at the Indy Mile, now sits just six points back of Johnson with one race to go. "I just got back from recovery," Fisher said. "I fell off at Indy. I've just been riding my bicycle and staying in shape."
Fisher held off a surging Jarod Vanderkooi, who looked to be faster in the closing moments of the race on his 17F Johnny's Vintage Motorcycle Honda, but nearly high sided on the back straight, allowing Fisher to open up a gap and seal the victory. "It was a pretty good race," Vanderkooi said. "I took off third, and Davis started pulling away and I changed my line up a little bit and I ended up catching him. Just got a little bit throttle-happy and I fell back. It's good to come out here and get a second place."
Third place went to California's own Ryan Foster, who had issues with his No. 23Y Thresher Communications Honda earlier in the day, but brought it together in time for the main. "I rode a backup bike today, my main bike blew up in practice," Foster said. "It felt good for a backup bike."
Vanderkooi is fifth in points, but is the only rider other than Johnson with multiple wins this year. Ryan Wells was 13th on his No. 94B KTM and fell to third in points. Fourth at Calistoga went to Ryan Kearns on his No. 99Y Josh Chisum Yamaha. Bronson Bauman record his sixth straight top 10 finish, bringing his No. 30Z Rod Lake Racing Honda home in fifth and keeping his fourth slot in the points.
Top five finishers in AMA Pro Flat Track Expert Main
1. Brad Baker (Harley-Davidson)
2. Jared Mees (Harley-Davidson)
3. Jake Johnson (Harley-Dasvidson)
4. Sammy Halbert (Harley-Davidson)
5. Kenny Coolbeth (Harley-Davidson)
AMA Pro Flat Track Expert points top five
1. Jared Mees 260
2. Bryan Smith 247
3. Jake Johnson 244
4. Kenny Coolbeth 208
5. Brad Baker 183
Top five finishers in AMA Pro Flat Track Pro Singles
1. Davis Fisher (Honda)
2. Jarod Vanderkooi (Honda)
3. Ryan Foster (Honda)
4. Ryan Kearns (Yamaha)
5. Bronson Bauman (Honda)
AMA Pro Flat Track Pro Singles points top five
1. Kyle Johnson 172
2. Davis Fisher 166
3. Ryan Wells 156
4. Bronson Bauman 147
5. Jarod Vanderkooi 134
The stars of AMA Pro Flat Track head to Southern California for the Flat Track Finals at the LA County Fairplex on Oct. 11. On-track action is set for 3 p.m. PT (6 p.m. ET) with opening ceremonies scheduled to start at 6:30 p.m. PT (9:30 ET). The Pro Singles main event is set to go green at 9 p.m. PT (midnight ET) and the Expert main will follow at 9:30 p.m. PT (12:30 a.m. ET). Information on the Flat Track Finals can be found here.
How to Watch:
FansChoice.tv will be the official home for live streaming coverage of AMA Pro Flat Track and AMA Pro Road Racing events in 2014. The site will also provide coverage of IMSA's development and single-make series, and NASCAR's touring and weekly series.
About AMA Pro Flat Track:
AMA Pro Flat Track is a national motorcycle racing series in North America and is considered one of the oldest forms of motorcycle racing. Sanctioned by AMA Pro Racing, the Series is highly regarded as the most competitive form of dirt track racing in the world. The 2014 schedule consists of 16 rounds on the country's finest flat track courses. For more information on AMA Pro Flat Track, please visit www.amaproracing.com/ft.
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 www.amaproracing.com.
For additional information contact:
AMA Pro Racing Communications, (386) 492-1014,