The Canterbury Park Mile saw intense Flat Track action as several championships are beginning to wind down.
The Canterbury Park Mile in Minneapolis, Minnesota may not boast the history and tradition of Springfield or Indy, but it is no less important. The Minnesota Mile marked a pivotal point in the AMA Pro Flat Track season. Several championships are on the line, a few teams chalked up firsts, while others saw their championship hopes dashed.
Canterbury Park is an impressive facility, next door to the Mall of America, it has more amenities than any other venue on the Flat Track circuit this year. The track fattens its coffers by filling the stands with horse racing enthusiasts and its take from a hand of Blackjack or two. AMA Pro Flat Track’s Operations Manager, Steve Morehead, worked feverishly to prep the track for the first Grand National it had seen in 13 years. Traditionally, horse tracks have a deep cushion that protects the horses’ lower extremities from the shock of impact when running flat out. Horses at a full gallop support their entire body mass on only one of four hooves at specific instant during their stride, while the other three are reaching for the next. It is a remarkable feat of athleticism.
Dirt Trackers need the exact opposite, requiring a hard, smooth surface to withstand the abuse 100hp and soft rubber tend to dish out. AMA officials and track crew worked long hours to prepare Canterbury Park for what was about to take place. The track started to break up in spots due to heavy rain the night before, but it held up long enough for Harley Davidson‘s Kenny Coolbeth to take his first win in 2010. Kenny’s win was not the focus, however, Round 15 in Minnesota was about position in the Championship, not on the track.
Although Kenny Coolbeth Jr. took the win in Minnesota, all eyes were on the Monster Energy Kawasaki team as they took their first Manufacturer’s Championship in Flat Track history.
Monster Energy Kawasaki is already polishing their name on one trophy. The Werner-Springsteen Team and Henry Wiles led Kawasaki to it’s first Manufacturer’s Championship in Flat Track history. Kawasaki won 4 of the last 5 races, scoring 273 to Harley-Davidson’s 214 total points, mathematically eliminating the American factory’s chances for the title. Scott Powesports’ Johnny Lewis (#10) assisted aboard his 650 twin, earning 12 points during Round 8 in Michigan, after Bryan Smith retired due to a crash. Those points proved to be the difference with two rounds left and Harley’s maximum point potential of 260.
Joe Kopp (#3) has held sole possession of the GNC Overall Points lead since his win during Round 8 at the I-96 Speedway. His Ducati failed him in Minnesota after 19 of 25 laps, crushing the team and Joe’s morale. Jake Johnson (#5) sailed passed him on the track and into the points lead with only two rounds left. Johnson leads Kopp 265-255 with 56 points to battle for between Knoxville and Yavapai. Joe, a 41yr old husband and father, has mentioned retirement at the end of the 2010 race season. Ending your career as #1 is a dream exit for any athlete. Considering the gravity of the situation, Joe will fight his last battle on the track with a level of tenacity few have ever seen. Knoxville, Iowa’s Half-Mile and the final at Yavapai Downs, AZ may prove to be the most heated races of the year.
Sammy Halbert (#7) was, essentially, eliminated from the Championship coming into Minnesota. He injured his throttle hand in a racing incident with Luke Gough (#62) at the Springfield Short Track, limiting his ability to get on the pace at the following day’s Springfield Mile. Halbert held second place in the standings until Springfield. AMA Pro Flat Track
The Pro Singles Championship is still being figured out as Jeffrey Carver remains 27 points ahead of Brad Baker with only a few rounds left.
Officials ruled Sammy’s tangle with Gough intentional and suspended him from the race at Canterbury Park. Halbert is known as an aggressive rider and had been placed on probation for his behavior on the track earlier in the season. The suspension is more than a slap on the wrist, as he slips down the overall rankings, he is losing his claim to more than $50,000 in prize money, contingency earnings and potential sponsorship bonuses. The 23 year old owns and operates Halbert Bros. Racing. It is unknown, how deep this penalty will cut into his team’s finances for 2010, but it will likely affect their 2011 campaign, fueling Halbert’s competitive fire.
The Pro Singles Championship is still being contested between 2009 Champion Brad Baker and Jeffrey Carver (24P). Carver leads Baker 278-251 with 46 points to fight for in the remaining rounds. Both riders are out to claim bragging rights and their share of more than $15,000 in prize money from Motorcycle-Superstore.com. The pair is also vying for rides in the Expert ranks for 2011. Baker is under pressure to win the both rounds and score maximum points, while Carver can be more conservative. Jeff must finish in the top ten in Iowa and Arizona to strip the #1 plate off of Baker’s Honda and plant it on his Yamaha.
Saddlemen’s Rookie of the Year award will be decided between young phenoms P.J. Jacobsen (99B) and J.D. Beach (#95C). Both traded in their red number plates for national numbers after their first Expert race.
Round 16 on Saturday, Sept. 18th and Round 17 Oct. 9th are sure to be “must see” racing. Stay tuned as we count down the AMA Pro Flat Track Championship!