NEWS March 21, 2013
Story by Dan Jacobson Sr. Photos by Larry Jannsen. Courtesy of Today's Cycle Coverage:
DAYTONA BEACH, FL, MAR. 15, 2013 - When it comes to the AMA Pro Flat Track presented by J&P Cycles, Daytona flat-track races, historic first-time finishes rock the fans at every race. Last year, we had a first-time Grand National winner on both nights: Johnny Lewis and Matt Weidman. This year… well, let’s find out how the night went...
Qualifying was as tight as at round one, only this time Brad Baker topped the speed chart for the National Expert Singles with a 17.337-second time. Round one’s top qualifier, Jeffrey Carver Jr., clocked in at 17.164, while Baker was 15th. Rolling with the fastest flat trackers in the world only creates drama; racing on limestone is much the same as gravel on pavement: It takes a truckload of talent just to stay on two wheels.
In the first heat, Henry Wiles (17), Brad Baker (12, behind Wiles), Bryan Smith (42), Jared Mees (1) and Kenny Coolbeth Jr. (2) thunder through turn one at Daytona International Speedway.
After skipping the 2012 Daytona short track, Bryan Smith and the Crosley Radios/ Howerton Motorsports/ Oasis Homes/ Honda team proved they are after the GNC 2013 title, winning the Expert Twins title in 2012. Smith is running the full schedule in 2013. Brad Baker is called “The Bullet,” partly because of his starts. And in the first Grand National Championship Expert Singles heat, like a bullet, Baker took another flag-to-flag win, with Smith closely chasing him all 10 laps. New National number 14, young Memphis Shades/ Babe DeMay/ Rod Lake-supported Briar Bauman, brought the lone Yamaha entry in third after his near-death round-one main-event incident involving a close encounter with a straightaway soft bale. Making his comeback to the series, Johnny Lewis, on the Triple J Racing/ Wallace Trucking/ Saddlemen-backed Honda, closed out the direct transfers to the main. Baker’s margin of victory was .385 of a second.
The second Expert Singles heat saw Henry “Hammering Hank” Wiles, on a Honda this year, finding his way to the podium after a dismal 2012 Daytona experience. GNC number-one rider Jared Mees, riding his Montgomeryville Cycle/ National Cycle/ Rogers Racing-backed, Kenny Tolbert-tuned Honda, nailed the start and led the first seven of 10 laps. Wiles dogged Mees until he made the pass for the win. The fun-to-watch Robert Pearson (who is now on the Weirbach Racing/ KDM Forrest Products/ Michael King Honda) put more pressure on Mees, because Michael (Mikey) Martin, on the Bonneville Performance/ WKR/ Kibblewhite Honda, found a line past Stevie Bonsey late in the race and was closing on the Pearson-Mees duel. The margin of victory for Wiles was 1.046 seconds.
Brandon Robinson, on his new team’s T.J. Burnett Farms/ USC Racing-backed, James Hart-tuned Kawasaki, went flag to flag in the third GNC Expert Singles heat, a 10-lap test ride to improve on his round-one results. The “King of Cool,” Kenny Coolbeth Jr., once again on the Chaplin Kawasaki/ Cometic Gasket/ Saddlemen-supported ride, worked his way past Jethro Halbert and Matt Weidman to take second and make that Dash For Cash. Jethro Halbert, on the Southland Racing Suspension Suzuki, moved past Weidman’s Scott Powersports/ Saddlemen/ Shoei/ Honda in the closing laps for third. Robinson’s margin of victory was just .664 of a second.
The GNC Expert Singles Dash For Cash featured the six fastest riders running for four laps and all-important GNC bonus points and money. Brad Baker, Brandon Robinson, Henry Wiles, Bryan Smith, Kenny Coolbeth Jr. and Jared Mees lined up, looking for green in every way. The starting-light tree, as in drag racing, is computer-controlled, with light beams on each line to stop the progress if broken. Once again, Baker won the holeshot and grabbed the lead, over Robinson, who was banging at Baker’s back door every lap. Coolbeth ended up in third after dropping Wiles to fourth. Best friends Smith and Mees settled for the fifth and sixth, respectively. The margin of victory for Baker a slim ninety-four-thousandths of a second – or about four inches.
The first NC Expert Singles semifinal would be taking only three racers of the 18 starters into the main. Three rows of six races were ready for the start. Jake Johnson, on the Zanotti Racing Honda, held off charging round-one winner Mikey Rush’s Machete Energy/ Cascio/ Rush Racing Southland Racing Suspension Honda. A back-and-forth battle between Stevie Bonsey, on the RGR/ Alpinestars/Motion Pro Honda, and Kayl Kolkman, on the Simi Valley Kawasaki/ Wieblers Harley-Davidson, for the last transfer had the fans on their feet. Bonsey settled into the spot over the last three laps. Johnson’s margin of victory was .145 of a second.
In the second semi, John Wood, making a return to GNC racing, placed the Scott Powersports/ Rich Phanders/ Arai /John Standiford Honda into the main. Carver, on the Mack Daddy/ Kiesow Racing/ Eddie Adkins Honda, was second, followed by Joe Hartrich, on the American Harley-Davidson/ Niagara Hog/ Kontor Law Firm-supported Honda. We now had the 18 racers locked and loaded for the round-two GNC main event.
The fastest of the fast engage in the turn-one scramble for the lead at the start of the 25-lap battle that is the main event.
During the rider introductions, the teams walked toward the starting grid, controlled by assistant flag person Kelly Bell, and got ready for the Grand National Championship Expert Singles main event. The front row was comprised of Baker, Robinson, Wiles, Smith, Coolbeth and Mees. Row two had Bauman, Jethro Halbert, Pearson, Lewis, Weidman and Martin. Row three included Johnson, Wood, Rush, Carver, Bonsey and Hartrich. The riders fired their engines, and one by one the riders were released by Bell for a sighting lap. Then they rolled back to the grid.
It was a clean start, with Coolbeth taking the point and Robinson and Wiles giving chase. Right on their tails was a tightly packed field of Experts, giving it all they had for 25 laps. The bar-banging battle saw full contact throughout the field as positions shuffled.
Brandon Robinson (44) is looking for a slim space to move past Kenny Coolbeth Jr. (2) on lap two.
The whole field is putting on a high-speed war for each position on lap two.
Wiles got pushed high, dropping three spots, while Robinson overhauled Coolbeth for the lead. Baker made tracks up three spots to third by the finish of lap two. From the back row, round-one winner Mikey Rush was finding the traction needed for speed as he moved his way from 13th to sixth on lap one. There was no time to “settle in,” as they were turning laps every 18 seconds...
Brad Baker (12) makes the pass on Kenny Coolbeth Jr. (2) for second on lap four.
By lap five, the top five were Robinson, Baker, Coolbeth, Lewis and Johnson. Looking very strong, Jake Johnson moved past 2012 round-one winner Johnny Lewis, and taking Smith along with him into fifth place.
On lap five, Brandon Robinson (44) starts slipping away, while Brad Baker (12) makes a move past Kenny Coolbeth Jr. (2).
At halfway, on lap 13, Robinson, Baker, Coolbeth, Smith, Johnson and Rush were the top six. Behind them was a high-speed rumble among Jethro Halbert, Matt Weidman, Johnny Lewis and a charging Pearson, who was making a steady move forward.
The battle for third shapes up at the halfway point, with Kenny Coolbeth Jr. (2), leading Bryan Smith (42) and Jake Johnson (5).
With five laps to go, one soon-to-be-lapped racer was in the sights of the leaders; he let the leader, Robinson, and Baker fly by. The closing Mikey Rush, now in sixth, disposed of Coolbeth, moving one more place closer, and he was now working on Johnson with laps three to go.
Brandon Robinson had build a one-second lead over Baker, and the real battles were between Johnson and Rush and then Pearson and Halbert, all in the top 10. Lewis, Wiles and Bonsey continued rubbing and banging for 11th through 13th.
Coming from a row-three start, Mikey Rush (54) sets up Kenny Coolbeth Jr. (2) for fifth on lap 22 of 25.
With checkers in hand, chief starter Kevin Clark spun and unfurled the checkered flag for first-time GNC winner Brandon Robinson. Running down the race order, following Robinson were Baker, Smith, Johnson, Rush, Coolbeth, Weidman, Halbert, Pearson, Carver, Lewis, Wiles, Bonsey, Bauman, Mees, Martin, Hartrich and Wood.
As fireworks were shot off, the victory podium filled with racers as teams and members of the media circled the stage. AMA Pro Racing had made history once again.
Brandon Robinson (44) takes his first AMA Pro GNC victory lap.
In a postrace inspection, Brad Baker’s bike was found to be out of OEM Honda specifications, and as of press time, due to that rule infraction, Baker will lose all points from this event.
Runner-up Brad Baker (left), victor Brandon Robinson (center) and third-place finisher Bryan Smith celebrate on the podium with the J&P Cycles girls.
Next, the AMA Pro Racing Flat Track Series heads west to Stockton, California, for a half mile on May 11, 2013, and then comes back to Springfield, Illinois, for the IMDA Mile-I on May 26, 2013. Many teams have switched from the Harley-Davidson XR-750 Expert Twins in 2013 to other brands such as Triumph, Kawasaki, Ducati and Suzuki, and there are plans for a new Yamaha entry in the works. The remaining half miles and mile tracks will offer more of the best racing on the planet!
Daytona International Speedway
Daytona Beach, Florida
Results: March 15, 2013 (Round 2)
EX SINGLES HEAT 1: 1. Brad Baker* (Hon); 2. Bryan Smith (Hon); 3. Briar Bauman (Yam); 4. Johnny Lewis (Hon); 5. Jake Johnson (Hon); 6. Doug Lawrence (Hon); 7. Jake Shoemaker (Hon); 8. Joe Hartrich (Hon); 9. Mikey Rush (Hon); 10. Sam Lowe (Hon); 11. Adam Bushman (Hon); 12. Darren Carter (Hon); 13. Shawn Raggio (Hon); 14. Shane Fox (Hon).
EX SINGLES HEAT 2: 1. Henry Wiles (Hon); 2. Jared Mees (Hon); 3. Robert Pearson (Hon); 4. Michael Martin (Hon); 5. Stevie Bonsey (Hon); 6. John Wood (Hon); 7. Kayl Kolkman (Kaw); 8. Jeffrey Carver Jr. ( Hon); 9. Gary Conklin (Yam); 10. Ion Stear (Hon); 11. Adam Carpinello (Hon); 12. Jake Mataya (Kaw); 13. Justin Hittle (Hon); 14. Duke Erickson (Kaw).
EX SINGLES HEAT 3: 1. Brandon Robinson (Kaw); 2. Kenny Coolbeth Jr. (Kaw); 3. Jethro Halbert (Suz); 4. Matt Weidman (Hon); 5. Chad Cose (Hon); 6. Bradley Hazel (Hon); 7. Aaron King (KTM); 8. Scott Baker (Hon); 9. Don Taylor (Hon); 10. Jake Cunningham (Hon); 11. Shawn Baer (Hon); 12. Donald Mullen II (Hon); 13. Kevin Anderson (Hon).
EX SINGLES DFC: 1. Brad Baker* (Hon); 2. Brandon Robinson (Kaw); 3. Kenny Coolbeth Jr. (Kaw); 4. Henry Wiles (Hon); 5. Bryan Smith (Hon); 6. Jared Mees (Hon).
EX SINGLES MAIN: 1. Brandon Robinson (Kaw); 2. Brad Baker* (Hon); 3. Bryan Smith (Hon); 4. Jake Johnson (Hon); 5. Mikey Rush (Hon); 6. Kenny Coolbeth Jr. (Kaw); 7. Matt Weidman (Hon); 8. Jethro Halbert (Suz); 9. Robert Pearson (Hon) ; 10. Jeffrey Carver Jr. (Hon); 11. Johnny Lewis (Hon); 12. Henry Wiles (Hon); 13. Stevie Bonsey (Hon); 14. Briar Bauman (Yam); 15. Jared Mees (Hon); 16. Michael Martin (Hon); 17. Joe Hartrich (Hon); 18. John Wood (Hon).
*Final outcome pending due to rule infraction