Fight For Dirt Track's InSlide Line with Tyler Porter - Daytona Flat Track 1 Recap
NEWS March 15, 2012
Photo by Dave Hoenig
Courtesy of Tyler Porter, InSlide Line:
Hello, and welcome to the InSlide Line Presented by Bell Helmets. Once again this column is coming to you from Ormond Beach Florida but guess what, the season has started!! So good to be back in race mode. Of course, this column is going to be dedicated to nearly everything that happened in Daytona on Thursday and then we will talk about what COULD go down on Friday night to wrap up the double header. First, let's rewind.
If you haven't heard, Brandon Robinson is on a tear right now. Brandon and I have had a deal since mid season last year that the less I talked about him, the better he seamed to do. Hey, as a washed up never was racer and even less of what some people call a journalist, I would have never guessed in a thousand years that this column would put pressure on a racer! However, I like Brandon a lot, he's a great, hard working kid and the Burnett Farms/USC Kawasaki/Hart Racing team has their stuff together! From the reports I heard, he straight up left the field aboard his Scott framed Kawasaki's to take the win in the Expert singles class, and backed that up with a win in the Expert Twins class too. Shayna Texter has also been on fire, dominating the Pro Singles classes on the way to the season opener.
The cool thing about the Burnett Farms/USC Kawasaki/Hart Racing team is that though Brandon is really getting things done on the Scott framed Kawasaki, they are testing very hard with their new C&J bikes to get them dialed in. When I talked to Brandon after his big Savannah win, he mentioned that he thinks he could have won on the C&J also, but he was just a little bit more comfortable on the Scott. I just hope that the team finds a better looking solution for their body work before the season gets rolling!
AMA Pro Racing announced this week that they are offering a Sunoco fleet card to all of it's racers that want to sign up. It's a fuel card that saves you 5 cents a gallon on your fuel purchases at any Sunoco gas station. This card can be used at 90% of all service stations according to the press release, and they are waiving all sign up fees and such for Pro Racing members. Anyone who wants can sign up at the nationals during tech inspection. Cool move by AMA Pro Racing and Sunoco on trying to some how cut our costs. Is free race fuel next?
Let's talk night 1 of Daytona. Well for one, everything I heard, everything I guessed, just wrong. But hey, that's half the fun right? For one, Sammy Halbert didn't race. I was just sure that the gritty rider from Washington would gut it out and ride, especially being that he once rode with broken bones in his leg in California and did very well. It wasn't to be though and I'm sure some fans were let down, but hey, once all of the racing started, it was all but forgotten. The track ended up being just brutal for lack of a better term by the end of the night, but yet, during the daytime qualifying, it was very smooth. After qualifying, they dug the track up and from there, it got VERY gnarly. Now, they did a similar thing in 2011 where the track was loose and rough on night one, then rolled in and hard pack on night two. Only time will tell if this track ends up being the same way. The first thing that I was very impressed by was the new graphics on the AMA Pro Flat Track hauler. I have long hated that our rig looked like a used moving van while the other disciplines had professional looking rigs, but that has changed now. The other thing I liked? The new AMA Pro Flat track media guide! Talk about informative! AMA Pro Flat Track director, Dan Johnsen tracked me down first thing to give me a copy and it is full of great stuff. Great job guys!
On to racing! After qualifying, we were left with 2 important names, Michael Inderbitzin and Jeffrey Carver, those were your fast qualifiers. In typical Daytona fashion, the qualifying times were incredibly close, with the top 32 in Pro Singles being within .373 of a second from the pole spot, and the top 40 Experts being within .66 of a second. That's a lot of similar times! Heat races in the Pro Singles class went to Pro Singles Rookie Kyle Johnson and Jason Isennock. What I found incredible is the fact that Rodney Spencer Jr. had issues on the track and ended up being a lap down and LCQ bound. When the LCQ took off, Rodney went from the 3rd row and on a charge like you couldn't believe to end up 3rd at the checkers and move into the main. Robert Lewis won the LCQ with Will Cato in second, Spencer in 3rd and Shayna Texter holding on to the last transfer spot to the main event. In the main what a battle we had, not only up front but all the way through the field. Up front it was Mike Poe taking the early point, but rookie Kyle Johnson went to work and eventually took the lead and set sail. Never heard of Kyle Johnson before? I have a feeling you will hear a lot more from him in the future. For one, he is on a Kawasaki which makes him stand out and two, he is getting mechanical support from Johnny Olmstead, Henry Wiles' former mechanic. Remember my mention of Rodney Spencer Jr.? Yeah, he saddled up and went from row three to a 5th place finish. Ladies and Gentlemen, Rodney Spencer Jr. is a BEAST! Bum deal for Stephen Vanderkuur who was involved in a crash and was a DNF, only completing 9 laps. Never fear, Stephen skipped both Daytona rounds and still won the title last year and today is a brand new day for him! For the other two podium finishers, Jason Isennock and Mike Poe, it was an emotional one for both of them. Not only have they grown up racing each other nearly their whole lives, but they thanked each other in their sponsor lists on the podium. They also dedicated their race to Chris Klinefelter, who tragically passed away a few months ago. It was an emotional podium all around, but that is what builds character, and character is one thing our sport needs now more than ever. Congratulations.
In the Expert Class, honestly, it's hard to know where to start. Heat 1, Brandon Robinson continues his hot streak during bike week and wins it, followed by one heck of a crew! Henry Wiles, Kenny Coolbeth and Jeffrey Carver were all giving chase. Not only did Brandon win it, but he won it by a lot of bike lengths! He was also on a Kawasaki, so, take that all of you people who say that only a Honda works for dirt track. Heat 2, we had a Halbert as a winner, yep, Jethro Halbert! Jethro was just on fire in the heat, looking like he couldn't put a wheel wrong. It was really cool to see because Jethro is a true do-it-yourself guy and gets things done with minimal support. He fended off defending champ Jared Mees, eventual winner Mikey Rush and last year's night one winner Johnny Lewis to do it too! Then there was heat 3. Ohhhhh, heat three. Let me say this, heat three was pure racing magic. I mean, I believe a side by side racer could have appreciated it. Yes, that impressive. What we had was Brad Baker rocketing off the line and taking the lead from Jake Johnson. What happened next was Jake Johnson decided that heat 3 was his to win. The battle that followed is one that will go down in the record books as one of the most entertaining in the sports history I believe. What is it with Brad Baker and amazing heat races? Remember his and Briar Bauman's battle at the Springfield short track last year? Yes, this was that good, possibly better. they were beating and banging all the way to the finish, which Jake ended up winning. After the checkers, they high fived in turn one. That right there is sportsmanship! Rounding out the top 5 was Brad's older brother Scott Baker, Stevie Bonsey and Mikey Martin. Semi 1 went to Matt Weidman, with Rob Pearson and Don Mullen also punching their ticket to the main behind him. Doug Lawrence was the odd man out, the friendly Canadian missing the main event by one spot. In Semi 2, it was Briar Bauman who got an awesome start on his Memphis Shades Yamaha and won with a fairly comfortable lead. Bryan Smith and Kayl Kolkman followed him home and into the main with John Raun Wood missing out on the main by one single spot. At this point, the track was so rough that Briar was standing up on his bike coming out of turn two!
Now our field is set for the main event, and we have already witnessed racing that blows the doors off of any other sport. How can people not being begging for more dirt track when we are racing this hard? The main gets the green and it's Brad Baker out front. At about 5 laps in, I'm thinking, "I finally get to see Brad's first national win!" I kept watching the laps tick on, and to be honest, almost tweeted that the race was his. Then, Mikey Rush happened. Mikey started making a charge through the pack and on lap 18, sealed the deal. What a redemption story for Mikey Rush! Last year, broken pelvis, many of us thought his race career was probably over and now with a new training program and some suspension help from Jimmy Wood, he is your opening round winner. For Brad Baker, I can't help but feel bad. He has been in the lead or a close second so many times now and still hasn't been able to seal the deal. He will, oh I know he will and I hope that not only it is soon, but that I am there! Jared Mees put some valuable points on the board with his 3rd place ride. The thing that is really bad is that behind Jared it was a freight train of riders. On paper, Jake Johnson and Johnny Lewis' 7th and 8th place finishes don't seem that good, but they were so close to 4th place that they could smell it. Kenny Coolbeth was 12th, and to be honest, I thought he would be better and was hoping for a Coolbeth win! Poor Jethro Halbert went down twice and still ended up 10th, but Jeffrey Carver was in one of those crashes and ended up 15th. What a night for our sport though. Even though it was cold, the fans were out, and our racers put on a heck of a show! No complaints here!
Night 2 at Daytona can bring a whole host of things if we look back at history. Just think to last year when Ryan Wells didn't make the Pro Singles cut on the first day, but won the second night! On the other hand of things, Jake Johnson has doubled there before. Things could really go either way, but I know a lot of people who barely missed the show tonight will probably make it in on Friday.
As for me, what a disappointing day! All of the work put in by Don Stear, Aaron Ladd, Ben Macintosh, Dennis Porter, Charlie Johnson and myself and after riding 2 practice sessions very well, in the last one, when the track was at it's fastest, I just rode like a turd. Seriously that's the best and most polite way to say it. Clayton Shambaugh hauled all of my stuff around and helped me with a few set up tips and so many people were interested in my results, I just feel like I let a lot of people down. My boss let me have a day away from windshield sales to do some promoting of my own, an awesome couple that I met while discussing windshields even got my phone number and called to check up on me! That is pretty impressive and I'm very grateful for it. I sure wish I could have put it in the show! I won't be able to make it to the race today, as you are reading this, I am probably in an airplane heading to Indianapolis for a showcase. Then it's back on a plane to Daytona Beach so that I can wrap up bike week! It's been a long 2 weeks down here and I'm on a SERIOUS lack of sleep, but I hope you enjoyed your news. Thank you for reading and have a great weekend!