Sunday, June 12, 2011

AMA Flat Track: Jared Mees Takes the Win at Hartford Over Kenny Coolbeth & Bryan Smith

Kenny Coolbeth, Jr. on his #2 Harley-Davidson Motor Co/Screamin Eagle/Spectro Oils/Fox-sponsored H-D Factory XR-750 adjusts his gloves just prior to rolling out for practice at the Springfield Mile on May 29.  Eventual event winner, Jared Mees on his #9 Rogers Lake/Blue Springs H-D/Lucas Oil/Saddlemen-backed XR does some final stretching to get ready for the day's events during round 6 action of the 2011 AMA Pro Flat Track Harley-Davidson Insurance Grand National Championship Series.

Mees seems to be on quite the roll this year in terms of wins accumulated in the last three races on the 2011 AMA Pro Flat Track schedule.  After having a winless 'drought' that lasted almost four years, Jammin Jared has stood on the top step of the podium now in two straight Twins Series events, and in 2 of 3 overall events on the series calendar (not to mention his 2nd place at the Springfield TT as the meat in his winning sandwich) overall.  The Pennsylvania transplant, who now calls Michigan home, has been the model of consistency for several of the last few seasons (garnering the '09 AMA Pro Flat Track Grand National Twins Series Championship along the way), and has obviously now figured out the correct formula for him and his Rogers Lake XR to get to that final step on top of the box.  And just to add an exclamation point to his winning ways of late, Mees also won last night's Dash for Cash to add a valuable 5 points to his winning total for the evening, to go along with his winning the fastest heat of the night, almost 2.6 seconds quicker then the next fastest heat race, won by Jimmy Wood on his #37 Southland Racing/M.E.H. Corp/Race Tech/Hostility Clothing-sponsored Kawasaki.

His wins at the Springfield Mile on May 29 and last night's Hartford Half-Mile are further proof (and vindication, maybe?!) that The Jammer is here for the long run.  With his solid results overall the last few years, added to this string of wins at this point in the 2011 campaign, should have just about anyone that is a fan of The Rolling Thunder Show taking a good, hard look at the former AMA Horizon Award winner in terms of the overall championship picture.  The 'Mr. Consistency' tag that I have been throwing his way of late may have to make way for a new 'Mr. Winning' tag! 

Mees made a big move in terms of garnering points after last night's event win, while still lying in 3rd in the overall championship picture, he is now only 17 points behind current points leader Sammy Halbert (158-141), with 2010 AMA Grand National Champion Jake Johnson still in the 2nd spot overall with 149 points, after his 8th place finish at Hartford. 

Halbert brought home a hard-fought 6th place in round 8, his first non-top 5 of the year.  It was also Johnson's first time out of the top 5 after 8 of 22-scheduled events this season.

Coolbeth has been showing all year that he is is going to be a factor in the championship for the 2011 season, and his 2nd place last night at the Hartford Half-Mile showed further promise for the only fully-factory backed rider left in the AMA Pro Flat Track Grand National Championship Series traveling circus.  Coming off row 2 in the National main event, The King of Cool had things fall his way much better then fellow row 2 starters Johnson and Halbert, in terms of the start and the race pace, and finished just 3.046 seconds behind winner Mees, after getting around 3rd place finisher Bryan Smith in their fight for the second spot on the box.

Round 8 of the 2011 AMA Pro Flat Track Harley-Davidson Insurance Grand National Championship Series made a stop last night at one of the circuit's new venues, the Hartford Motor Speedway, in Hartford, MI., and when the last checkered flag dropped and the dust had cleared, Jared Mees, National #9, had won his second Twins Series event in a row on his Rogers Lake Racing H-D XR-750 over runner-up Kenny Coolbeth, Jr., with a great return to the podium by 3rd place finisher Bryan Smith.

Not being able to attend this round in person, I was glued to the laptop all afternoon and evening, to keep up with the action at the Hartford Half-Mile, which was described to me as a 'beautiful facility' thanks to Kevin 'Chew' Larcom and Mia Moore, Flat's Fans in the Stands.  According to Chew, a long-time fan of flat track racing like myself, the track is primarily a sprint car track that some drivers label 'a wicked-fast half mile track.'  Chew mentioned that the lay-out and speed of the track reminded him a lot of Parkersburg, one of the series' former stops on The Rolling Thunder Show.  The one-man promoter of the event also did a great job of putting on the venue's first AMA Grand National race, and considering the colder-than normal weather, the crowd was fairly good for a first-time event at the Hartford track. 

In what ended up being a groove track (in spite of all of the hard work by the AMA Pro Flat Track officials), the three main men at the top were the groove masters for the evening.  Coolbeth was the only top 3 finisher NOT to win his heat, and came off the second row in the main for his strong 2nd place finish.  And what was surmised by 'watching' the evening's events via the AMA's Live Timing and Scoring, along with Miriam Deitcher's Flat Track Live Facebook coverage, was confirmed by Chew and Mia that if you 'had the gonads' you COULD make a pass last night.  Current championship leader Sammy Halbert also came off the second row to garner a 6th place finish for the evening to gain two points on series runner-up Jake Johnson, who finished the evening in the 8th spot.

Of further note on the first-time venue and events, 7-Time AMA Grand National Champion Chris Carr finished in a VERY strong 4th place on the day's events after initially arriving at the race, but without his Kenny Tolbert-tuned/prepped #4 American Motorcyclist Assoc/DFW Honda/Arai/Phoenix Racing-sponsored stable of H-D XR-750s.  Apparently along the way to Hartford, Carr's transporter broke down 'somewhere in Indiana' and the team was forced to scramble with someone's pick-up truck to go after his machines.  Chew mentioned that it looked like a scene out of the '60s for the long-time competitor of AMA Flat Track racing, working out of the back of a pick-up instead of his usual 'not for hire' transporter. 

The man that is celebrating his Farewell to Flat Track Tour in the 2011 season obviously made it work, as he came home 4th, 7.769 seconds behind winner Mees in what was one of the better battles on the track for the main event.  As a result, he solidified his 6th place spot in the overall standings with 95 points, only 6 point behind 5th place man Brad Baker. 

Baker seemed to struggle on the groove at Hartford on his #12 Lloyd Brothers/Team Hurt By Insurance/ENI USA-sponsored Ducati, coming home in the 17th position in the main after having to run the semi race to gain his card to the main event.  However, Brad The Bullet 'did a great job on throttle control' throughout his heat, semi and main event, and was gradually coming to terms with the slick track.  During his heat race alone, after 6 of 10 laps, Baker was getting to within .3 second on lap times of heat/main/Dash-winner Mees before time ran out, and then went on to win his semi race.  This fine young man isn't done impressing anyone yet, believe me, and it shouldn't be long before he arrives at the top in his first full year of Expert Class competition, after winning the '09 AMA Pro Flat Track Pro Singles Championship, and coming home 2nd in the 2010 campaign behind '10 Pro Singles Champ Jeffrey Carver, Jr.

On a track that seemed to favor the venerable XRs, a new Kawasaki emerged as a factor early in the evening in the hands of California resident Jimmy Woods on his all-white #37.  Woods, who showed up at Springfield two weeks ago with an all-new Kawasaki, won his heat race and also came home 3rd in the Dash for Cash event.  After getting the initial hole-shot on the start, he slipped to 9th at the finish, albeit just 8.958 seconds back of winner Mees, and leaving a strong impression on the folks at hand in the process. 

Also Kawasaki-mounted Johnny Lewis, on this #10 Scott Powersports/Dubach Racing Developments/Saddlemen/Triple J Racing-supported Ninja 650-based machine put the only other Kawi in the field, and brought it home to a very solid 5th place finish, after finishing his heat as runner-up to Woods.  Lewis still sits in the 7th overall position in the standings with 92 points, 27 points ahead of 8th ranked man Woods.

The series next stop is at the Allen County Fairgrounds, in Lima, OH. on June 25, the long-time pea gravel track's end-of-June date on the AMA Pro Flat Track Harley-Davidson Insurance Grand National Championship Series calendar.  Stay tuned, as this train is building up fire and ready to roll at full-steam-ahead!

And a BIG 'thanks' goes out to Chew and Mia/Flat's Fans in the Stands for the shout-out on the overall events at last night's Hartford event!

Bryan Smith can be seen in this shot from round 6 at the Springfield Mile on May 29 talking with fans in his pit area, in what was his debut for the 2011 AMA Pro Flat Track Harley-Davidson Insurance Grand National Championship Series season, with his new Twins Series line-up.  National #42 made a highly-publicized split from the Werner Springsteen/Monster Energy Kawasaki team after the opening Daytona rounds, and decided to go his own way with sponsorship from H-D/ and Boughner Racing, with a freshly-built tandem of XR-750s at his side for the big-bike rounds.

Out of the box at Springfield, Smith won his heat over current championship point leader Sammy Halbert, and the Springfield/Hartford main winner Jared Mees.  He also backed that up with a 2nd place in the Dash for Cash event behind winner Halbert.  His run at the front on the Illinois State Fairgrounds mile oval came up short in the main event, however, when he pulled off the track to finish in the 17th spot with what was a 'reported' mechanical problem.

At Hartford last night, Smith showed that his run of bad luck was (at least for now) behind him, as he fought with Kenny Coolbeth during the main event and ended up finishing in the 3rd spot, just 4.919 seconds behind winner Mees, and also carding two valuable points in the Dash event to bring it home in the 4th spot in the money race, after also winning his heat race earlier in the evening.  This also moved him up into the 14th spot in the overall point standings with 39 points.

With the next event at the Lima Half-Mile coming up on June 25, look for Flyin Bryan to be back towards the front to add to his new run of better luck in the series.  With him being back on his more 'familiar' H-D XRs, coupled with another track that he is strong on and has won at before, this should add up for the Michigan resident as he gets more familiar with his new team and mounts after a year away on the Kawasaki.

Thanks to Cycle for this short story on the action last night at the Hartford, MI. Half-Mile event:

Here is the full edition article thanks to Dave Hoenig and Cycle

Here is the link to the standard version of results of round 8 of the 2011 AMA Pro Flat Track Harley-Davidson Insurance Grand National Championship Series from Hartford Motor Speedway from last night's event, courtesy of AMA Pro Flat Track:

You can find complete event results for the Hartford Half-Mile (PDF versions) here thanks to AMA Pro Flat Track:

Dave Hoenig is a busy man around the AMA Pro Flat Track events.  Not only does he cover each event for AMA Pro Flat Track as their official photographer, but he also covers the series for Cycle (when regular flat track contributor, Larry Lawrence, is on another assignment), as well as his own website, Flat Trak

Here are some of Dave's great shots from last night's event at the Hartford, MI. round, courtesy of Dave and AMA Pro Flat Track:

And here is the link to Dave's site, which as of this writing has the results listed, and will have the links to the photos for this event posted within a few days (so make sure you come back to check those out as well!) which you will be able to find in the top right corner of Dave's event page for the Hartford round:

JG's Jim Grant was also on the scene at Hartford, and here is the link to his fine shots from last night's events.  Thanks to Jim, who is a long-time contributor to the flat track racing scene, for these great pics!

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