LOS ANGELES, Ca — -- AMA Pro Racing Flat Track racing returned to the spacious LA County Fairplex “big” half-mile smooth dirt track Saturday, October 13 for the 2012 championship finals. It was round 16 of the touring national series had dirt track races scheduled at 13 tracks in ten states this year. AMA lost one of 17 original race dates (in Michigan) to rain. The season started in March at the Daytona Beach, FL short dirt track Tracks in IL, OH, MD, CO, IN, IA, AZ and CA followed. Some of the tracks host USAC or World of Outlaws sprint car races annually. California tracks were the Sacramento mile, Santa Rosa mile and Pomona half-mile. Tucson's ex-USA Raceway three-eights mile (now called TIS) hosted a race October 6.
Nine riders won the Expert Grand National 2012 main events. Sammy Halbert led win four wins. Others were Henry Wiles (3), Bryan Smith and Kenny Coolbeth (2 each). Single victories went to Jared Mees, Matt Weidman, Willie McCoy, Johnny Lewis and Steven Bonsey. The AMA GN Championship (Experts) Series has 55 assigned official numbers from 1 through 99. Thirty of the 55 eligible riders from around the USA competed October 13 at Pomona. Harley-Davidson had 16 cycles, Kawasaki six, Suzuki three, KTM, BMW, Ducati, Triumph and Buell one each.
The AMA Pro Singles Series support class for younger riders also had 30 riders racing in Pomona. That series also raced at the same 16 AMA National events and had ten different feature winners. Stephen Vandenkuur, Shayna Texter and Gerit Callies all won three times. Seven riders each won once. The most common cycle was a Honda CRF450R and 21 of the 30 bikes at Pomona were that model. Other Pro Singles were Suzuki and Yamaha. GN (Expert) riders came from 12 states. California is home for seven riders. Other states were: MI-5, WA-4, IL-3, PA and SD-2 each, and CT, KS, KY, MN, NY, and OH-1 each. One rider is a resident of Canada. The support Pro Singles riders hailed from eight states as follows: CA-18, PA and WA-3 each, MN-2, and MD, MI, NY, and OR-1 each.
The AMA Pomona National promoters were Chris Morgan and Charlie Frank of TAG Activation Group. Law Tigers, the motorcycle lawyers, Pomona Valley and Glendale Harley-Davidson dealerships were the official presenting sponsors. The combined GNC and Pro Singles championship purse was $44,000, including sanction fee and point fund money. The Expert main event awarded $33,450 (76%) for the 18 riders in it. The first three finishers earned $6,000, $4,100 and $2,850 respectively and 18th (last) paid $1,000. The two Expert semi-mains paid $525 each ($1,050 total). P. 4 paid $170 and P. 18 paid $100. The GN Expert Dash for Cash (for P 1-2 finishers in three ten rider, 10-lap heat races) paid $2,500. The dash winner received $1,000, with the drop-off per position $500, $350, $300, $250, and $100. The 18 rider field in the Pro Singles support main event raced for $4,000. The first three finishers received $1,000, $500 and $350 and P. 18 paid $100.
The glossy paper, color cover, 30-page printed AMA Pomona program cost $6.00. It had many photos, AMA points for both divisions, list of past GN champions, lineup/scoring charts, feature stories, 12 rider bios, a two-page color action shot of a GN field on a mile track, numerous black & white photos, and a story about the three California rookie riders. There was an interesting story about female rider Shayna Texter and a story about AMA Pomona racing and the Agajanian family. J. C. Agajanian, Jr. was the 2012 AMA Pomona Flat Track Grand Marshal. He plugged the USAC Midget Turkey night Grand Prix in Perris on Thursday night, November 22. Don Kazarian, the Perris Auto Speedway, was present and also spoke about the USAC sprint car Oval Nationals November 2-3 at his track. When asked how many AMA fans present also liked to watch midgets and sprint cars racing a loud cheer arose.
The Pomona covered grandstand seats 10,000 for thoroughbred horse racing and it appeared the AMA National attracted about 8,000 on a shirt-sleeve evening that was mid-70s for 3:30 pm group qualifying using electronic transponders attached to the front of each cycle. The partly cloudy/sunny day in Pomona was 76 degrees with 39% humidity during practice and qualifying per AMA. Riders received four laps to record their best lap. GN Expert FQ time was 30.904 (58.245 mph including slowing in the four corners) on lap 2 by Illini Jeffrey Carver (No. 23). The slowest time was 34.428 (52.650 mph). Sixteen riders were in the 31 seconds bracket, seven ran 32s, four had 33s and two ran 34s. The fastest Pro Singles time was 31.613 (56.939 mph) by Michigan's Stephen Vanderkuur. Five riders were in the 31 seconds bracket, 18 in 32s, six in 33s and one ran 34.173 (52.673 mph). By the way, the temp was still in the mid-60s when racing concluded.
LEGENDS: Pomona had an open paddock (pit) for spectators from 5:45 top 6:45 and it was crowded with fans talking to riders and collecting autographs on photo cards. Another feature was an autograph session with retired “Legends of Flat Track” from various decades. They sat behind tables on the grandstand side of the track from 6:00-7:00 and talked to an orderly line of fans who brought posters, photos and t-shirts for autographs. The 25 legends present (with their AMA National number in parenthesis) were: Jim Berry (39), Terry Dorsch (22), Don Emde (25), Jimmy Filice (17), Broc Glover (various numbers), Dave Hansen (23), John Hately (98), Tom Horton (55), Ronnie Jones (16), John Kocinski (19), Keith Mashburn (19), Vince Mead (94), Rob Morrison (25), Eddie Mulder (12), Jody Nicholas (58), Sonny Nutter (19), Preston Petty (68), Jim Rice (24), Sammy Tanner (7), Nick Theroux (64), Skip Van Leeuwen (59), C. H. Wheat (6), Ralph White (15), Tom White (80), and Eddie Wirth (77). Nutter and Wirth also raced CRA sprint cars successfully for many years at Ascot and other tracks following their AMA careers.
AMA @ Pomona: Wheel-to-wheel, elbow-to-elbow racing at speeds up to 130 mph on the long straights before braking for the tight turns is the norm at Pomona. The first AMA race in Pomona was in 1991 and Kevin Atherton won. The next five years had three winners: Scott Parker (1992-95 and 96), Ricky Graham (93) and Will Davis (94). There were no AMA Pomona races from 1997-2008 for lack of a promoter. In 2009 Henry Wiles won when AMA returned to Pomona. AMA did not race at Pomona in 2010. In 2011 Jake Johnson won the return to Pomona en-route to earning his second consecutive No. 1 plate.
FEMALE RIDERS: Three personable AMA female riders raced at Pomona, which is called a five-eights mile for horse racing. Nicole Cheza, 25, is a four -year AMA pro racer from Clio, MI. She rode a pink No. 15 Harley-Davidson in the GN Expert class, but dropped out of heat one with an engine problem. She finished 7th in a main earlier this season. The 5'1”, 125 pound muscular rider is a former gymnast and barrel-racer. ... Shayna Texter, 21, is a five year veteran from PA who has three support division Pro Singles feature wins this season—at the Sacramento mile, Knoxville (IA) half, and Tucson a week before Pomona. The 5'0”, 95 pound blond is the daughter of late AMA racer Randy Texter; her brother Cory, 25, is a GN Expert (No. 65). She uses No. 25A on her red/white Honda. She had the fifth best practice time in the first group practice and later qualified 13th fastest of 30 riders. Shayna finished 12th in the Pomona 16-lap Pro Singles main, 10.260 seconds off the lead. ... Danielle Caldeira, a 21-year old from Salinas, CA, raced her yellow No. 26y Suzuki RMZ450 in the second of two Pro Single heats. The rookie has raced most of her life on smaller cycles and was in her fourth Pro race. She qualified 25th fastest of 30. She finished tenth in the 8-lap LCQ (Last Chance Qualifier) and beat six males, but only the top four in the LCQ advanced to the Pro feature.
Following opening ceremonies AMA racing ran from 7:54 to 10:40 pm with two intermissions for track prep/inspection. Three AMA Speedway Cycles that raced in the May 30 to August 29 weekly Wednesday night races at Industry Speedway took part in a demo race. They all rode 500cc JAWA cycles, used a standing start, and raced three laps on the big half-mile. Gino Manzares, the 19-year old 2012 AMA Under 21 National Champion from Corona, led all three laps on his No. 24. “Fast” Eddie Castro, of Ojai, finished second, 50-yards back, on his No. 14. San Bernardino's Russell Green (No. 321) finished a straightaway back because of a “wheel wobble”.
RACING: The Pro Singles support series ran two 8-lap heats with P. 1-7 in each moving directly to the main event. Vanderkuur (4:11.655) and Dominic Colindres (4:14.901) won the heats. Then P. 8 and lower heat riders ran the 8-lap LCQ with P. 1-4 advancing to the feature. Aaron Colton (No. 93L) won in a time of 4:19.629. The Expert GNC Twins ran three heats with ten riders in each. P. 1-4 in each made the feature. H-1 went to 2012 rookie of the year Brad Baker (No. 12) in a time of 10:18.745 including red flag delay after Bryan Smith fell in turn 3. Smith came to the pits and returned on the same cycle but wearing his backup helmet. H-2 went to No. 80 Steven Bonsey in 5:09.662. H-3 went to No. 2 Kenny Coolbeth in 5:09.371. He led laps 4-10. Two 10-lap semi-mains for heat finishers in P. 4-10 transferred the first three finishers in each to the feature and completed the 18 rider field. H-1 crash vicTim Smith (No. 42) won the first semi in 5:12.656. Jake Johnson (No. 1) won the second semi in 5:11.566. Baker won the six rider, 4-lap Dash for Cash over S. Halbert, Coolbeth, J. Halbert, R. Pearson and Bonsey in a rapid 2:04.994. Baker passed S. Halbert on lap 2 and won by 10-yards over Halbert's No. 7.
The 18 rider Pro Singles field lined up in three rows of six and started their 16-lap main from a standing start after the starting lights went from red to yellow to green at 9:49. One rider fell in turn 3 and the red light stopped everyone at start/finish. Row 3 starter Cole Anderson (No. 21L) came to the tech inspection and returned on the same cycle. When interviewed on the infield microphone the Minnesotan said, “Yeah, I'm good. Let me go to row 4 (penalty row) and go.” He finished 13th (-10.260 seconds from the winner) with 17 riders racing at the end. Two riders were lapped and P. 15 was 16.911 seconds in back of the winner.
Colindres, from Brisbane, CA, led the first four laps after starting from row 1 next to pole rider Vanderkuur. A rider fell on lap 5 for another red. The field restarted lap 5 single file and Vanderkuur's No. 10J Honda passed Colindres' No. 66Y Honda and opened a 30-yard lead with three laps remaining. His lead slipped to five yards (0.231) at the finish. The winner earned 24 points and became the 2012 Pro Singles champion by 22 points (214-192). He scored three 2012 victories--at the Indy mile, Santa Rosa mile, and Pomona. After his victory lap with the checkered flag, Vanderkuur, from Davison, MI, told the crowd, “This feels unbelievable. Thanks to my team and to our sponsors and everyone who helped us.” Honda with 345 points to 169 for Yamaha won the 2012 Pro Singles Manufacturers Championship.
EXPERT MAIN: The 25-lap feature winner was three-time GNC (2006-08) Kenny Coolbeth (No.2) from Morris, CT on a factory Harley-Davidson. The 5'10”, 140 pound 35-year old came from the pole in the first of three rows (six riders per row). He led all 25 laps and had a rare straightaway lead by lap 12. He won by a straightaway (8.561 seconds) over Washington's Brad Baker (H-D). Bryan Smith, from Flint, MI, finished third on a Kawasaki and was 8.706 seconds off the lead. The key battle was for P. 2 over the final ten laps. Coolbeth's lap times went from a low of 30.395 (L 3) to 30.921 (L 16). Then, with his huge lead, he slowed to 31-second laps --31.025 (L 17) to a ”leisurely” 31.942 (L 25). Rounding out the 17 finishers (all on the lead lap) were: Robert Pearson, J. D. Beach, October 6 Tucson winner Bonsey, Ducati rider Henry Wiles, Jared Mees, Brandon Robinson and Jethro Halbert. Only one rider dropped out. Two riders (Wiles and Kayl Kolkman) fell together in turn 3 on the opening lap. Both restarted from row 4 and finished in P. 7 and P. 11 respectively. Other finishers of note were 2012 feature winners Sammy Halbert (13th) and Jake Johnson (14th) about 22 seconds off the lead. The 17th place rider was 30.290 seconds in back of the winner. The race time was 12:56.0017 including red flag delay.
“King of Cool” Coolbeth, the Knoxville IA winner, credited his team effort. “It paid off. I came to this race with one goal—to win.” Runner-up Brad “the Bullet” Baker is the fastest rising young star at age 19. He stated, “Hats off of Kenny. He put the hammer down and blew our doors off. I had second and had a heck of a race with Bryan (Smith). I was second last year too and didn't have anything for the winner last year either.” Smith won the 2012 GN Twins title by five points over S. Halbert (180-175). Three riders entered the Pomona event with a chance to become the 2012 AMA Combined GN Champion. After Pomona, Jared Mees, of Clio, MI had one victory and scored 291 points to earn the coveted No. 1 plate. Four-time 2012 winner Sammy Halbert, from Graham, WA, was second with 278 points. Jake Johnson, the 2010-11 GNC champ from PA, had 265 points and no 2012 feature victories. That ended his ten year streak with at least one main event triumph since he won 2002 AMA Flat Track Rookie of the Year honor. The AMA representative from HQ in Pickering, OH, presented Mees his No. 1 plate. “This feels great. It's a lot of hard work for all the team and myself. I'm glad we brought it home. I was in a pack the last couple of laps and (with the point lead) didn't want to be there, but I brought it home.”
The AMA National Champion designation started 58 years ago in 1954. The first national champion was Joe Leonard, of San Jose, on his No. 98 H-D. He later became a prominent Indy Car and Indianapolis 500 driver. There have been 25 different champions and 14 of them have won more than one GNC. Michigan's Scott Parker leads with nine and Chris Carr has seven. Others are: (4 titles)-C. Resweber; (3)- J. Leonard, D. Mann, J. Springsteen, B. Shobert, and Coolbeth; (2)-G. Nixon, K. Roberts, R. Goss, R. Graham, J. Johnson and J. Mees; (1)- B. Andres, B. Markel, R. Reiman, M. Lawwill, G. Romero, D. Mann, M. Brelsford, G. Scott, S. Eklund, M. Kidd, and J. Kopp in 2000. Harley-Davidson has won 47 of the 58 manufacturer titles. Yamaha shared the title with H-D in 1979 and 1981. Honda and H-D shared the 2006-07 title. BSA won in 1963 and 1971. Triumph won three titles (1967-68 & 70). Yamaha won in 1973-74. Honda was the sole winner five times (1984-87 and 1993).