AMA Pro Singles Grand National Championship Series
Round 13: Castle Rock TT
Story and Photos by Clay Light
CASTLE ROCK, WA, AUG. 6, 2011
Washington home-state hero Sam Halbert was the dominant performer at round 13 of the AMA Pro Singles Grand National Championship Series, which made a return to the Pacific Northwest. Halbert breezed through the evening with impressive wins, starting off with his victory in the second of three National heat races. Halbert then backed up that performance with a win in the six-rider Dash For Cash, followed by a start-to-finish domination of the 25-lap, 19-rider National.
The Yamaha-mounted Halbert set the evening’s fastest lap time during timed qualifying with a 24.748, followed by another Washingtonian, National number 12, Brad Baker (with a 24.781). Baker used his familiarity with the track to his advantage; he’s most likely the Expert rider in attendance with the most familiarity with the facilities here, along with Halbert and the third-fastest rider, Joe Kopp. Kopp (24.828), fellow Kawasaki rider Henry Wiles (24.833), and the fifth-fastest rider, Rob Pearson (24.897), were the only riders to log times in the 24-second bracket.
Halbert, Jared Mees and Baker captured heat-race wins during qualifying. Mees, Wiles, Kopp, Johnny Lewis and Jake Johnson were locked in a close battle for transfer positions in the opening heat race, which went Mees’ way. Wiles, Kopp and Lewis made it in, but Johnson couldn’t get the drive past Lewis on the final lap and was bound for the semifinals.
Baker, riding a Honda, edged Kawasaki-mounted Kenny Coolbeth to win the third heat race, while another of the many Washington riders in attendance, Scooter Vernon, went directly to the National with his third-place finish, as did fourth-place finisher Chad Cose. Halbert dominated the second – and fastest – heat race to sit on the pole position in the main, with his win over Bryan Smith (last week’s Sacramento Mile winner), veteran Chris Carr (who was making his final Castle Rock appearance), and Pearson.
Washington’s Eric Beers, another of the many Castle Rock regulars on hand, was impressive en route to his victory in the first of two semis, beating fellow Washingtonian Christian Vernon, while the battle for the third-place position went down to the finish, as Kawasaki’s J.R. Schnabel bobbled coming out of the next-to-last turn, and Matt Weidman slipped past the stunned Monster Energy/ Werner-Springsteen Racing-backed rider to net the final transfer to the National. One rider visibly out of the picture all night was Washington’s Jethro Halbert, who was off the pace most of the evening, though he did garner a ticket to the 25-lap, 19-rider final by using a provisional.
A 14-rider, 16-lap AMA Pro Singles main event got the later portion of the program rolling and featured several of the top riders in the nation, including Californians Gerit Callies, Briar Bauman and Mikey Martin. Callies, riding a Honda, got the jump at the start of the final and stayed there to the finish; Bauman was right on his rear wheel the entire way but couldn’t find a way past the jubilant Callies. Bauman, Martin, Rodney Spencer Jr. and Cole Crowley rounded out the top five.
Halbert appeared confident prior to the staging for the 25-lap final; after all, he had bested the competition in every aspect thus far in the evening. Halbert got off the line well and had a slim lead in the early stages of the National main event, but when two riders tangled off the infield jump, the race was red-flagged.
Although Halbert had to do it all over again, he did post the same results as in the first take: The Woody Kyle Racing/ Fredericktown Yamaha/ AGV-backed rider bolted back into the lead and was never headed. Mees did keep Halbert honest, but the rider from Graham, Washington, endeared himself to the large gallery of spectators who cheered his every move on his way to victory.
“A great win for me,” Halbert said. “I had a really good night from start to finish, and to do this at home, hey, I’ll take it!”
Mees ended the evening with an impressive second-place finish, followed by Baker, who was also pumped to land on the podium in his home state. TT specialist Wiles garnered a fourth-place finish – probably not what he was looking for heading into a race he has dominated for years: Peoria. Kopp finished fifth after a come-from-behind effort. Johnson, who followed Kopp through traffic, placed sixth, ahead of Coolbeth and Carr, who, after the second restart on lap 12, came from last to overtake Scooter Vernon to net eighth place. Vernon, who scored a career-best ninth-place GNC finish after running as high as fourth in the early stages of the National, and Pearson rounded out the top 10.
Castle Rock Race Park
Castle Rock, Washington
Results: August 6, 2011 (Round 13)
AMA PRO SINGLES FINAL (14 riders, 16 laps): 1. Gerit Callies (Hon); 2. Briar Bauman (Hon); 3. Mikey Martin (Hon); 4. Rodney Spencer (Hon); 5. Cole Crowley (Hon); 6. Dominic Colindres (Hon); 7. Wyatt Maguire (Yam); 8. Jake Shoemaker (Suz); 9. Michael Avila (Hon); 10. Adam Bushman (Hon); 11. Shayna Texter (Hon); 12. Robert Treinen (Hon); 13. Jermaine Bacosa (Hon); 14. Hunter Taylor (Hon).
AMA NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP SINGLES FINAL (19 riders, 25 laps): 1. Sam Halbert (Yam); 2. Jared Mees (Hon); 3. Brad Baker (Hon); 4. Henry Wiles (Kaw); 5. Joe Kopp (Kaw); 6. Jake Johnson (Hon); 7. Kenny Coolbeth (Kaw); 8. Chris Carr (Hon); 9. Scooter Vernon (Hon); 10. Rob Pearson (Yam); 11. Shaun Russell (Kaw); 12. Matt Weidman (Hon); 13. Johnny Lewis (Hon); 14. Jesse Janisch (Hon); 15. Jethro Halbert (Yam); 16. Chad Cose (Hon); 17. Eric Beers (Yam); 18. Christian Vernon (Hon); 19. Bryan Smith (Hon).
[For a racer’s-eye view of the AMA Pro Singles portion of this event, please check out “Race Report from Castle Rock” by rider Mikey Martin… Editor]