As the summer of 2012 heats up, so does the AMA Pro Flat Track action in the AMA Pro Harley-Davidson Insurance Grand National Championship presented by Motorcycle-Superstore.com and Lucas Oil and AMA Pro Motorcycle-Superstore.com Pro Singles. The “Hub City” Classic is approaching as the series heads to Hagerstown, MD and the red clay of the Hagerstown Speedway.
The July 7th event will be the 31st AMA Pro Grand National Championship race on the normally smooth, banked half-mile; a big change from last week’s “grip it and rip it” cushion half-mile. Always a big fan favorite, it will be the only appearance on the East Coast for the throaty GNC Twins in 2012.
The Rolling Thunder Show, literally and figuratively, rolled into Lima, OH last week and the National was filled with bar-to-bar racing and a little MMA blended in. Sammy Halbert (South East Harley-Davidson) and Henry Wiles (Lloyd Brothers Motorsports / Foremost Insurance) battled down to the wire with the win going to Halbert.
Neither the “Slammer” (Halbert) nor the “Hammer” (Wiles) have won a national main event at Hagerstown, but Halbert has been on the podium twice, scoring a second- and third- place finish in the 2008 and 2009 editions. Wiles’ best finish has been an eighth, earned in 2010, but this weekend will be his first attempt on his potent Ducati.
There are only two active riders with Hagerstown wins. Kenny Coolbeth (Harley-Davidson Motor Company) has taken home victory three times (2007, 2008 and 2011) and defending Grand National Champion Jake Johnson (Zanotti Racing / Schaeffer’s Harley-Davidson) has one to his credit (2009). Unfortunately, Coolbeth has joined the inactive riders after suffering a broken leg in an on-track incident at Lima. Another favorite that will be sitting out is early season points leader Matt Weidman (Greg Crow Racing / White’s Harley-Davidson), who was also injured in Lima.
Johnny Lewis is still looking for his first “Big Bike” win aboard his Scott Powersports Kawasaki, but Lewis has been knocking on the door and it appears only a matter of time until he charges through. Lewis finished second at Hagerstown last year behind Coolbeth.
Current points leader Jared Mees has been on the Hagerstown podium three times, all third place finishes (2007, 2010 and 2011). The Rogers Racing / Blue Springs Harley-Davidson backed Mees is a proven groove track rider and although he is still looking for his first win this season, he still holds an 11 point lead after five races.
Johnson’s title defense got off to a slow start and he is also still looking for his first win of the year, but his consistency has pushed him into second in the points over Lewis, with Halbert moving up to fourth, 16 points off the lead.
Bryan Smith (Moroney’s Harley-Davidson) is another top-10 rider with some success at Hagerstown. He finished second in 2007.
The big oval has produced a few first time winners in Rusty Rogers (1992), Kevin Varnes (1995) and Nicky Hayden (1999), all of which won their first GNC main events in Maryland. Could this be the year for Brad Baker (Columbia Avionics), Briar Bauman (Rod Lake Racing / USC Kawasaki) or Jeffery Carver (Kiesow Racing / Hall’s Cycles), who are all having solid years while looking for that elusive first win?
The always competitive AMA Pro Motorcycle-Superstore.com Pro Singles division will also be in action as points leader Gerit Callies (Fun Mart Cycles) tries to fend off the fast closing Ryan Wells (Weirbach Racing). Callies’ two wins make him the only repeat winner in AMA Pro Flat Track, but inconsistency has plagued the South Dakotan.
Sitting third in the Motorcycle-Superstore.com Pro Singles points is Jason Isennock (Highs Dairy Store). Isennock is from nearby Timonium, MD and is undoubtedly looking forward to racing so close to home.
The 2011 Motorcycle-Superstore.com Pro Singles winner at Hagerstown, Mikey Martin, has moved on to the Grand National Expert ranks, leaving fellow podium finishers Callies (2nd) and third-place Adam Bushman (Midwest CNC) to repeat their efforts in 2012.