Tuesday, June 26, 2012

AMA Pro Flat Track Round 5 Lima Half-Mile Preview

Round 4 of the 2012 AMA Pro Flat Track Harley-Davidson Insurance Grand National Championship presented by Motorcycle-Superstore.com season at the Springfield Mile I event on May 27 saw Sammy Halbert take a fierce tumble into the turn 1 air fence shortly after the green flag waived to start the 19-rider field on it's 25-lap National main journey.  Although not seriously injured, it did force him to sit out the event and left him and his #7 South East Harley/The South Ass/Mo Vaughn Transport/LZ Racing-sponsored XR750 team on the sidelines.

The defending winner of the Lima Half-Mile, however, is back and ready to go after racing in the Medina TT event in New York State this last weekend, winning the Grand Prix event and coming home in 2nd-place in the main event (after crashing and making a big-time dash through the field to take that runner-up spot.)  The most dominant racer at the last three events at the Allen County Fairgrounds (3rd-place 2009, 2nd-place 2010) will be ready defend his title and get back on track for the 2012 season, of which there are still 12 of 16-scheduled events left on the calendar.

2009 AMA Pro Motorcycle-Superstore.com Pro Singles Champion and 2011 AMA Pro Flat Track Rookie of the Year Brad Baker had a rough start to his 2012 Twins Series campaign at round 4 at Springfield over the Memorial Day Weekend.  After a solid 6th-place finish in the previous evening's TT event at the Multipurpose Arena, The Bullet and the #12 Kenny Tolbert Kawasaki Racing/Big Ed Beckley/Werner-Springsteen/D&D Exhaust-backed team were all set to roll out their new chassis on the mile oval, but unfortunately mechanical ills kept team owner/tuner/patriarch Kenny Tolbert working feverishly in the pit area trying to get to the bottom of the bike's errant miss. 

Baker was able to come back to run the semi, but missed the cut, and with former Rookie of the Year Matt Weidman getting the provisional for the main, Baker missed the cut.  After a strong 4th-place finish at Lima in 2011 aboard the Lloyd Brothers Motorsports Ducati (and winning the 2010 event as a Pro Singles rider) look for Baker and Company to be back fighting at the front come Saturday at Lima at a track that he is obviously comfortable on.

With a new team and new mounts in the form of GCR XR750s, '08 Rookie of the Year Matt Weidman is also looking to improve on his previous Lima results, as well as his rough weekend on the Springfield Mile in May.  After poor results kept him and the #20 GCR/White's H-D/SNIP/Fiorio Investments-backed Harley-Davidson XR750 team from from qualifying directly to the National main at the Illinois State Fairgrounds, Mighty Matt was forced to use his Twins Series provisional to nab a spot in the 19-rider main event and had to settle for a 15th-place finish.

Shown in the pits at Springfield talking with the GCR team with it's impressive stable of XRs for him and Dustin Crow #61, Matt will be ready to hit what he describes as one of his all-time favorite tracks at Lima on Saturday.  After finishes of 4th (2009), 3rd (2010) and 2nd (2011) in the previous three season, the New York State resident will be looking to improve a notch and add to his first-ever series win at Daytona in round 2 in March.

Henry Wiles gets ready to roll out for first practice at the Springfield Mile I in May in his first outing in the Twins Series events with his new-again team, on the Lloyd Brothers Motorsports Ducati 'L' twin on May 27.  The 2-Time AMA Pro Flat Track Singles Champ is back with the Ohio-based team that he almost got their first win for at Lima during the 2008 stop at the Allen County Fairgrounds while riding their Aprilia-based mount.

The Springfield event was also and up-and-down affair for Hammerin' Hank after he was forced to run the semi in order to make the National main.  After a solid and big win in the semi, Wiles had taken the #17 Foremost Insurance Group/Ramspur Winery/ENI USA/Motorcyclist Magazine-sponsored 1098-based big twin up to the 7th spot in the National when what was reported as an 'electrical problem' forced him out of the 25-lap event, and a 14th-place finish to show for his and the team's great efforts on the day.

The 2008 runner-up and 2010 main event winner, Wiles should be good to go again this Saturday after also having taken part in the Lima Test 'n Tune held back on June 14, where he was reported to be in fine shape and looking very strong, and on a track that he obviously does well at.  This just could be the man, team and event that will add to the team's Arizona Mile I win from the 2010 season with rider Joe Kopp.

In the closely-fought National main at Springfield, three brands of equipment actually made the 19-rider final after eight brands had started the day in an attempt to make the biggest show in AMA Pro Flat Track Grand National Championship racing.

  With the majority of riders on the long-standing XR750, coupled with 12 riders entered on Kawasaki's potent Ninja 650R-based twin, two Ducatis, a Ron Wood-tuned and built Rotax/BMW, the lone Bonneville Performance Triumph, a Buell, the two KTMs and two Suzukis, the brands available to race in the greatest racing series on wheels in the world has really opened up the competition factor.

But in the end, it was five Kaws, a Duc and ten XRs that fought their way into the big show, and two of those Kawasakis left an indelible impression on the crowded house against the might of the always and still strong XR750s.

Leading at just shy of the half-way point, Bryan Smith took a big bite out of the competition at Springfield when he led the majority of laps on the day on the #42 Howerton Motorsports/Eaken Racing Kawasaki/Midwest Performance Hardware/Guts Wear-backed 650R, with 2-Time and defending AMA Grand National Champion Jake Johnson hanging close all day on the #1 Zanotti Racing/Schaeffer's H-D/Boughner Racing/Arai-backed XR750. 

The fastest XR750 earlier in the day, Kenny Coolbeth, Jr. hangs close on the #2 Screamin Eagle/Harley-Davidson Motor Co/Fox/Arai-backed factory H-D XR, with the 2nd-best Kawasaki on the day in the capable hands of Johnny Lewis on the #10 Scott Powersports/Saddlemen Seats/Wallace Trucking/AXO-sponsored 650R claiming the next-most laps led on the day.

Take your pick out of this bunch, and even if you're wrong, you won't be far off in picking the winner of this Saturday's Lima Half-Mile, as any one of these fast and furious men could be atop the box when the dust settles late at the Allen County Fairgrounds.

Jared Mees started on a roll last season at round 6 of the 2011 AMA Pro Flat Track Harley-Davidson Insurance Grand National Championship presented by Motorcycle-Superstore.com season by winning the Springfield Mile I event on his Brent Armbruster-tuned XR750, one that eventually led to him winning five events on the season on the #9 Rogers Lake Racing/Blue Springs H-D/Lucas Oil/Saddlemen-sponsored mount and taking him to the runner-up spot in the championship behind Jake Johnson. 

Four of last season's wins came on half-miles (Hartford, Lake Odessa, Knoxville, Brainerd) for Jammin' Jared, and the 2-Time Lima winner ('05 and '07) could just be the one to be the spoiler when the pea gravel starts flying this Saturday.  With his runner-up finish in '09, 6th-place finish in 2010, and 5th-place in last year's event, The Jammer is surely one of the people you have to add to this year's event favorites.

After winning the first heat race on the day and then coming back to win the Dash for Cash event at the Springfield Mile I event on May 27, Bryan Smith showed that there is a new sheriff in town on the uber-potent Rick Howerton-built and Skip Eaken-tuned #42 Kawasaki.  After spinning his tire on the last corner of the last lap, Flyin' Bryan realized he made a mistake by swinging low out of turn four and allowing eventual-winner Willie McCoy and runner-up Jake Johnson to take the top-two spots in the big show.

But in the Dash event, it was all Smith and his Howerton-built and prepped 650R-based machine, as is evidenced here on the podium as Dash runner-up Johnson and 3rd-place man Jared Mees laugh it up on the podium and check out the Indy-based Kawi rocketship.

Although some will say that it's a good thing that Bryan will be back on his Moroney's FastHog.com-sponsored XR for the Lima event, it was in last year's event where the Michigan resident brought home a solid 3rd-place finish on that same Moroney's H-D.  Smith also won the '09 event on a Screamin Eagle/Moroney's machine and was a strong 4th-place finisher in 2010 on the Werner-Springsteen Kawi, so he obviously knows his way around the Allen County Fairgrounds half-mile oval.  Don't count him out, either, even though he will be giving the Howerton/Eaken Racing Kawi a breather until the end of July at the Sacramento Mile.

AMA Pro Racing News Release

AMA Pro Flat Track Roars Into Lima for 29th Running of Ohio Grand National

Excitement Builds Around the Unique Pea Gravel Ohio Half-Mile

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Like us on Facebook Follow us on Twitter Find us on Google+ View our videos on YouTube Gray
DAYTONA, BEACH, Fla. (June 25, 2012) - The arrival of summer and the last Saturday of June traditionally mean the AMA Pro Harley-Davidson Insurance Grand National Championship presented by Motorcycle-Superstore.com and Lucas Oil will be at the Allen County Fairgrounds in Lima, Ohio.

June 30 will see the AMA Pro Racing stars of the premier dirt track Grand National Series descend on the "pea gravel" half-mile oval for the 29th consecutive year.

Jake Johnson #1, Kenny Coolbeth, Jr. #2 (hidden), Bryan Smith #42, Luke Gough #62, Brad Baker #12 and Sammy Halbert #7 roar off from the starting line for the start of the four-lap Dash for Cash event at the Lima Half-Mile in June 2011.  AMA Pro Flat Track photo by Dave Hoenig.

The 2012 season has yet to see a repeat winner in the Harley-Davidson Insurance Grand National Championship. Current Grand National Championship points leader Jared Mees (Rogers Racing) has yet to post a victory in 2012, but is the only active racer with more than one win at Lima. Mees captured the first of his eleven GNC victories in 2005, then backed it up with another in 2007.

Mees' consistency has rewarded him with a fourteen point lead over a log jam for second. Matt Weidman (Greg Crow Racing) is second in points and looking to be the first rider to notch their second win of the year. Weidman took his first career win at Daytona in March and his Lima history is promising. The last three years have seen the young New Yorker finish fourth, third and second. Obviously, this leaves only one place left to go.

Last year's winner, Sammy Halbert (Southeast Harley-Davidson) is coming off a disastrous Memorial Day Weekend that saw his title chase take a hard hit when a turn one crash on the Springfield Mile resulted in an 18th place finish and only one point. A shoulder injury has kept him on the sidelines for a month, but the defending Lima winner is looking to make a big comeback.

Henry Wiles (Lloyd Brothers Motorsports) posted a win at the Springfield TT and is also looking for his second Lima win, following his 2010 victory. In 2008 Wiles was aboard the Lloyd Brothers' Aprilia and came up just inches short, but returned on an Eddie Adkins Harley-Davidson to win in 2010. This year he will be back with the Lloyd Brothers on a Ducati and could very well become the first rider to win Lima on anything other than an XR-750 Harley-Davidson.

2009 winner Bryan Smith will be getting off the potent Kawasaki he rode in Springfield to ride the more "limestone" friendly Moroney's Harley-Davidson mount. The hard luck rider has posted top-five finishes every year since 2006.

Defending AMA Pro Harley-Davidson Insurance Grand National Champion Jake Johnson (Zanotti Racing/Schaeffer's H-D) has yet to break through at Lima with a fourth place finish in his first race at Lima in 2002 being his best finish. Kenny Coolbeth (Harley-Davidson Motor Company) has fared a little better posting second and third place finishes in 2007 & 2005.

Lima has contributed several first time winners as Will Davis, Dominic Beaulac, Chris Evans and Jared Mees all scored their first wins on the challenging oval, a young hoard of racers are looking to add to the list. Young guns that are in the top-15 in points, but in search of their first big win are Brad Baker (Big Ed Beckley / Tolbert Racing), Briar Bauman (USC Kawasaki), Jethro Halbert (Goodwin Racing), Jeffery Carver (Kiesow Racing) and Brandon Robinson (Werner-Springsteen Kawasaki).

The AMA Pro Motorcycle-Superstore.com Pro Singles class is just as much up for grabs. It has been "win or nothing" for current points leader Gerit Callies (Fun Mart Cycles) has won two of the four main events (Daytona and Springfield TT), but didn't even qualify for the other two. Springfield Mile winner, Jake Cunningham (Schillers' Tree Service) holds second in points while the other Daytona winner Ryan Wells (Weirbach Racing) holds third.

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, communications@amaproracing.com

Event info for 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 on Saturday, June 30:

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