Saturday, July 7, 2012

AMA Pro Flat Track Lima Half-Mile Review-Getting Ready for Tonight's Hagerstown Half-Mile

With round 6 of the 2012 AMA Pro Flat Track Harley-Davidson Insurance Grand National Championship presented by season getting ready to hit the half-mile clay surface in Hagerstown,MD. tonight, we wanted to take a moment to review just a few of the highlights from round 5 last Saturday in Lima, OH.  Two of the people with great results at the Allen County Fairgrounds of note, pictured above, could figure heavily into tonight's event and as the season progresses into the meat of the schedule down the road.

During first round qualifying at what is for the most part the last cushion surface half-mile left on the series schedule, Johnny Lewis on the #10 Scott Powersports/Saddlemen Seats/Wallace Trucking/AXO-sponsored Kawasaki parallel twin flirts with the hay bales coming out of turn 2, while Bryan Smith on the #42 Moroney's XR750 tries his hand on this go-around with the middle groove of the racing surface.

Lewis went on to qualify in the 10th-place spot on the day after flirting with the top-5 early in the proceedings as he shows he is fast gaining a handle on the high-revving Kawi on all of the Twins Series tracks, after laying down some mastery of his mount at last summer's Springfield Mile II event and the Springfield Mile I round on May 27.  The former AMA Supermoto Champ is fast gaining the experience to run with the bid dogs in The Rolling Thunder Show and left no doubt in anyone's mind after winning his heat #3 over brother-in-law Jake Johnson, 2011 Rookie of the Year Brad Baker and Jared Mees.

Lewis then brought it home in 2nd in the Dash event, and led some laps and battled at the front with Johnson early in the 25-lap National main, ending the evening in the 5th-place position.  He now sits in the 3rd-place spot in the overall championship with 81 points.

Flyin' Bryan on his #42 XR750 ended qualifying in the 8th position, won his heat #2 and finished on the back-end of the 6-rider Dash after experiencing mechanical difficulites with his Barry Smith-prepped mount, but fought hard to card an 8th-place finish in the main.  Smith will roll-off tonight at Hagerstown sitting in the 7th-place spot in the overall standings with 62 points.

Of note, aforementioned Baker will be riding as a fill-in for injured rider Kenny Coolbeth, Jr. on the factory Harley-Davidson after it was announced the Coolbeth will be out until around the Indy Mile event.  Baker is expected to fill the seat on the Screamin' Eagle machine tonight a the Hub City Classic in Hagerstown and at the end of the month at the Sacramento Mile.

Sammy Halbert lost his steel shoe while battling for the win in heat race #1 with eventual-winner Jeffrey Carver, Jr. and it caused the #7 South East H-D/The South Ass/Mo Vaughn Transport/LZ Racing-sponsored XR750-mounted rider to crash out in between turns 3 and 4.  Remounting to finish the red flag-delayed heat, Slammin' Sammy still came back to finish 2nd in his heat and also nab a couple of extra points for finishing 4th in the Dash event. 

Halbert showed his mastery of the pea gravel surface at Lima in the National main, however, by working his way past early-leaders Jake Johnson and Johnny Lewis to win his second in-a-row at the Allen County Fairgrounds event after a stellar battle in the red flad-delayed event's final five laps with runner-up Henry Wiles.  Halbert has finishes of 3-2-1-1 the last four years at Lima, putting away any doubts in anyone's mind as to who currently owns the pea gravel Ohio event.

Sammy left Lima last Saturday sitting in the 4th-place spot in the overall point standings with 77 points after his great recovery from his Springfield Mile I crash on May 27. 

The Dash for Cash podium resembled the parity in the AMA Pro Flat Track events over the course of the last few seasons, with three brands making it into the 6-rider extra points and money-paying event.  When the checkers flew after the 4-lap romp, Henry Wiles was the winner on the #17 Lloyd Brothers Motorsports/Foremost Insurance Group/Ramspur Winery/ENI USA-backed Ducati 'L' twin, with runner-up Johnny Lewis on the #10 Scott Powersports Kawasaki and Jake Johnson on the #1 Zanotti Racing XR750 slotting into the 3rd-place spot to add to his title run for the 2012 season.

Hammerin' Hank had a near-perfect night at Lima by scoring a triple-dose of deuces on the evening (2nd-fast qualifier, 2nd-place in his heat race #2, and 2nd-place in the National main behind winner Sammy Halbert) after the Lloyd Brothers team got the big twin dialed in for the Clio, MI. resident.  Wiles nearly won the 2008 event while riding the Lloyd Brothers Aprilia but was caught at the stripe by eventual-winner Joe Kopp.  Hank came back to win the 2010 event riding the Eddie Adkins-tuned XR750.

Tempers were a little on the warm side on the podium after the National main was over, however, as winner Halbert and runner-up Wiles had words and a disagreement over a last-lap move that brought both riders into full attention in the sprint to the checkers.

In what was viewed as a hard, but fair racing move heading into turn 3, Wiles and Halbert nearly came together while debating who had what line, with Wiles having the lead going into the corner.  From my spot watching on the front straight, the great night of racing was capped-off by what I saw as a great battle amongst competitors going for it to win the race.  No harm, no foul and no one went down or was injured, and the folks on-hand at the Allen County Fairgrounds got more then their money's worth all-night long. 

After the dust had settled, Wiles left Lima sitting in a tie for 5th-place in the championship alongside Daytona round 2 winner Matt Weidman (fast qualifier at Lima) with 64 points.  With Mighty Matt expected out until around the Indy Mile event on August 18 due to suffering a broken collarbone and severly bruised foot, Wiles will most likely take ahold of the 5th-place position in the points with a solid finish after tonight's Hagerstown event.

Heat race #2 gets off to a gravel-slinging start at round 5 of the 2012 AMA Pro Flat Track Harley-Davidson Insurance Grand National Championship presented by season at the 29th Annual Ohio National Championship in Lima, OH. 

Bryan Smith took his #42 Moroney's H-D/ H-D/Doc's H-D-sponsored XR750 to the eventual heat race win ahead of runner-up Henry Wiles on the #17 Lloyd Brothers Motorsports Ducati, with Rob Pearson following them home on the #27 Memphis Shades/Yamaha/Wiseco/K&N-backed XR750 in the 3rd-place spot.  Smith went on to finish the National main in the 8th-place position, Wiles came home in 2nd, and Pearson came home in the 'lucky' 7th-place spot. 

Also of note for the June 30th evening at Lima, Dan Ingram rode the #31J TCR/Zanna Racing/Indy Southside H-D/Tucker Rocky-sponsored XR750 into a 4th-place finish in this heat, and the Clermont, IN. resident fought through the rough track conditions to a solid 13th-place finish for his efforts in the main.

On a sad note, Kenny Coolbeth, Jr. broke his tibia and fibula in his left leg when his foot was caught in one of the inside track markers early in the National main when he was working his way towards the front on the #2 Screamin' Eagle/Harley-Davidson Motor Co/Fox/Arai Helmets-backed factory H-D XR750.  Per his Facebook page earlier this week, The King of Cool is expected to be out of action until the Lucas Oil Indy Mile in mid-August.  It was a rough ending to the evening for the 3-Time AMA Grand National Twins Series Champion after he won the second semi to qualify for the National main, and resulted in an 18th-place finish on the night for the long-time veteran of the series.

Also seen in this shot, on the second row, just behind Rob Pearson #27, is Brandon Robinson who took the #44 Werner-Springsteen Racing/Actiona Motorsports/Big Dawg Racing/Action Motorsports-sponsored Kawasaki parallel twin to the main after a 2nd-place finish in semi race #1 behind winner Jethro Halbert.  However, the former Expert Twins Champion crashed out of the main, shaken but not stirred, coming off of the back straight heavily damaging his machine, and bringing out the ensuing red flag-delay 20 laps into the 25-lap final. 

And finally, front row starter Corey Crawford failed to make the cut on the #80B Baer Racing Products/KB5/Priestley Racing/Andrews Powersports-sponsored Kawasaki after finishes of 10th in this heat and 6th in semi #1.

Jeffrey Carver, Jr. took his first-ever heat race win in the Twins Series class at Lima last Saturday night, and showed everyone on-hand that the Alton, IL. resident is definitely coming into his own as an Expert-ranked twins rider in his second year of Expert class riding.  After winning the '10 AMA Pro Pro Singles Championship, Carver moved up to the Expert ranks with a brand new white number plate and black #23, courtesy of the retiring Kevin Atherton.

Carver is getting a strong handle on the #23 Kiesow Racing/Hall's Cycles/Eddie Adkins/Sponseller-sponsored XR750 and had a great night at Lima with finishes of 5th in the Dash and 6th-place in the National main event.  Heading into tonight's round 6 in Hagerstown, MD. he sits in the 11th overall position in the point standings with 40 points.

Jake Johnson shows the form that took him to his best-ever finish at the Lima Half-Mile on the #1 Zanotti Racing/Schaeffer's H-D/Boughner Racing/Arai-backed XR750 coming out of turn 2 during first round qualifying for round 5 of the series.  The defending 2-Time Champ made no excuses on the podium for his elation at finishing on the box after years of trying at the pea gravel track, a facility that he humbly calls his 'achilles heel' over the years.

Johnson made a big jump in the championship standings with his 3rd-place finish in the National main and in the Dash event, and now sits in the 2nd-place spot in the overall points heading to the Hagerstown Half-Mile Hub City Classic today, with 82 markers. 

Johnson's usual late-season surge is ahead of schedule after only five rounds in the bag, and this should be the point where the rest of the competitors in the AMA Pro Flat Track Harley-Davidson Insurance Grand National Championship presented by series start to formulate their plans on how they are going to keep the New Jersey transplanted Pennsylvania resident from running away with his third title in-a-row with 15 events left to run on the schedule.

Jared Mees on the #9 Rogers Racing/Blue Springs H-D/Saddlemen Seats/National Cycle-sponsored XR750 takes to the outside line during the final qualifying session at the Allen County Fairgrounds while Johnny Lewis on the #10 Scott Powersports Kawasaki holds firm on the inside line coming out of turn 4.

Mees ended the day in 4th-place after fighting through the red-flag delay of the 25-lap National main to take an 11-point lead in the overall championship hunt with 93 points, while Lewis strong 5th-place finish after leading some laps at the front of the field along with brother-in-law Johnson saw him end the day in the 3rd-place spot in the championship with 81 points, just one point behind Johnson.

You can read the full story of round 5 of the 2012 AMA Pro Flat Track Harley-Davidson Insurance Grand National Championship presented by season at the Allen County Fairgrounds half-mile here thanks to my friend and traveling partner, Larry Lawrence, and Cycle News:

A big thanks to Miriam Deitcher and her Flat Track Live at Facebook for this video of the exciting last-lap of the Lima Half-Mile on June 30:

AMA Pro Racing has the podium interview videos here from round 5 at Lima:

Winner Sammy Halbert talks about the race here:

Runner-up Henry Wiles talks about the National main at Lima here:

And 3rd-place finisher and defending 2-Time AMA Grand National Champion Jake Johnson talks about his first-ever podium at the pea gravel track at Lima:

Thanks to AMA Pro Flat Track for the complete event results from the Lima Half-Mile:

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