The AMA Pro Harley-Davidson Insurance Flat Track
Championship is preparing to invade a famous cushion half-mile for Round 9 of the 22-race series, and as the last Saturday of June approaches, the two-wheeled world knows the Allen County Fairgrounds, in Lima, Ohio, is the place to be.
Prior to the addition of the recently announced Pomona season finale, Lima was the last of the fairground cushion tracks--the circuits that made dirt track racing famous--that remained on the schedule. Despite the rooster tails that spray over the fence, fans regularly line the outside of Lima's oval to get an up-close view of all the bump-and-grind action, and they're set to do so again on June 25.
Rogers Lake Racing's Jared Mees, currently the hottest rider on the circuit after taking wins in two of the last three events, has had his share of success at Lima through the years. Mees scored his first Grand National win at Lima in 2005 and backed that up with yet another in 2007. "Lima has been pretty good to us in the past," said Mees. "We went and tested there a couple days ago [and] it felt pretty decent, but I'm going to try a couple different things."
"I really don't even care about points right now," Mees continued; "I just want to win races. If it's the last lap and I'm in second and I have a rider on the outside, and I have to go around him on the outside and crash it, I don't care--I'm crashing it. I just want to win. I don't care about the points anymore."
Last year's winner, Henry Wiles, is still recovering from knee surgery, but the rest of the podium will be back. Current points-leader Sammy Halbert (Kings Kustoms) and 2009 Rookie of the Year Matt Weidman (White's Harley-Davidson), for example, are both eager to fill the void left by Wiles.
"I'm pretty excited for Lima, that should go well," said Weidman. "Hopefully I'll have a good-running bike for that one. I got a podium there last year, [and] without Henry out there right now, it's pretty much anybody's game. Hopefully me and Sammy can battle for the win. Bryan [Smith] goes pretty good at Lima, too, and Jared--Jared's on a roll. It should be a good race for sure; it'll be fun."
Coming off a solid third-place finish at the Hartford half-mile, Moroney's Harley-Davidson
's Smith is looking to repeat his 2009 Lima win and get back into the points-race after his early season struggles. And although Harley-Davidson Motor Company's Kenny Coolbeth has had his share of problems at Lima the last few years, he pulled off a second to Mees in 2007 and is looking forward to fighting the cushion. "We tested here last week, and we've been working hard," said Coolbeth. "We've been dialing her in on the suspension, [and] I'm actually looking forward to Lima. It should be good."
The overall AMA Pro Harley-Davidson Insurance Grand National Championship points race, meanwhile, has continued to tighten: While Sammy Halbert still holds the lead he's had all year, defending Grand National Champion Jake Johnson (Zanotti Racing) is just nine points back, with Mees another eight down.
"I only lost two points to [Halbert]," said Johnson after his eighth-place finish at Hartford. "Jared made up some good points tonight by winning it, and Kenny [Coolbeth] is right there in the points too, and he finished good. It's definitely going to tighten things up in the points. I was expecting that," he continued; "I didn't think it was going to be a two-rider runaway with the points all season. It's still early, and we're still in there."
Pro Singles class will also run at Lima, and that class' points race is developing into a ferocious three-rider battle. California's Mikey Avila and South Dakota's Gerit Callies split wins in Daytona to start the year, and their battle raged on throughout the next seven rounds--but another young-gun is sticking close to the pair.
Avila, who has four wins to his credit heading into Lima, holds a ten-point lead over Callies and the latter's two victories. Californian Mikey Martin, however, is just another ten points back, having stayed well in contention thanks to the consistency he's shown thus far.
For June 25 Lima Half-Mile tickets and information, call (419) 991-1491 or visit www.ohionationalchampionship.net
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