Mees Takes Victory at I-96, Championship Battle Narrow to Three Points
NEWS July 24, 2011
Photo by Dave Hoenig
LAKE ODESSA, MI (July 24, 2011) - Despite fierce competition at Michigan’s I-96 Speedway, the AMA Pro Harley-Davidson Insurance Flat Track field could not stop an assault by Rogers Lake Racing/Blue Springs Harley-Davidson’s Jared Mees. Though Mees’ race start left something to be desired, the home-state hero almost immediately began picking off riders, working his way up from fifth to take a big win in Lake Odessa that narrowed championship-leader Sammy Halbert’s lead to a fragile three points.
Round 11 of the AMA Pro Flat Track Championship rolled out under cloudy, overcast conditions, but by race time the skies had cleared and temperatures soared at the half-mile venue. Rookie sensation Brad Baker (Lloyd Brothers Motorsports/TeamHurtByAccident.com) -- who’d earned fast qualifier honors and won the first heat -- nailed the start of the main, only to see Bryan Smith (Fasthog.com/American Harley-Davidson) muscle his way into the lead.
Mees, meanwhile, had suffered a poor start that relegated him to fifth at the end of the first lap, but he soon began methodically working his way to the front and was challenging Smith by lap three. “Bryan slipped a little high,” said Mees after podium ceremonies, “and I was able to get inside. As soon as I got to the front, I knew I could win this.”
As Mees proceeded to dominate the rest of the race, opening his lead to more than a second and a half over Smith, defending Grand National Champion Jake Johnson (Zanotti Racing) worked to keep his Harley right on Smith’s rear tire. Johnson was unable to make any inroads on Smith’s second position, however, while Halbert (King’s Kustoms/White’s Harley-Davidson) was stymied even farther back, forced to be satisfied with the fourth-place spot he took over on lap six.
Chris Carr (American Motorcyclist Association/Classic Harley-Davidson), Matt Weidman (White’s Harley-Davidson/Snip), and Jeff Carver (Eddie Adkins Racing) did everything they could to make life difficult for Halbert, while three-time Lake Odessa winner Kenny Coolbeth (Harley-Davidson Motor Company) finished a lonely eighth. Baker and Action Motorsports’ Brandon Robinson filled out the top ten.
Mees’ significant victory has jumbled and tightened the points race. Halbert’s fourth-place finish gives him only three points’-worth of breathing room over Mees, who’s leapfrogged over Johnson into second. Johnson, however, lurks a mere six points behind.
It was another no-holds-barred performance by the Motorcycle-Superstore.com Pro Singles field in the class’ main event, for which Michigan’s Stephen Vanderkuur (Mack Daddy Racing Honda) took the early lead. He almost immediately ran into trouble, however, and was forced to pull out after only four laps – an occurrence Weirbach Racing’s Mikey Martin took full advantage of.
Another Michigan native, Chaz Springsteen, was soon in hot pursuit, but like Vanderkuur, Springsteen’s night was over all too soon, as his Arai Helmets/K&K Supply/Jay Springsteen-backed Honda coasted to a stop after ten laps. Martin stretched his lead to more than four seconds over Diesel Minnesota’s Conner Anderson and Scott Powersports’ Jake Shoemaker, while Mike LaBelle (LaBelle Racing/Heads Up Racing) held off John Long (Powered by Clark/SICKBOY Racing) and Jason Isennock (Foard Racing) for fourth.
Martin’s back-to-back wins have earned the young Californian to a ten-point lead in the Motorcycle-Superstore.com Pro Singles point standings. In the first part of the season, it appeared the title would be decided between Mikey Avila and Gerit Callies, but Martin’s strong showings in the last handful of races have significantly changed the championship picture as the series moves into its second half.
The AMA Pro Harley-Davidson Insurance Flat Track Championship will next be in action at Sacramento, California’s legendary Sacramento Mile, July 30 at the Cal Expo Fair. For tickets and information, visit www.sacramentoflattrack.com or call 916-263-3049. To be a part of the AMA Pro Harley-Davidson Insurance Flat Track Championship, visit www.amaproracing.com and join us on facebook.com/AMAProFlatTrackSeries and twitter.com/AMAProFlatTrack.