Saddlemen

California Dreamin’ – or, The Calistoga Crush

| 7 October 2014 1:19 am

AMA Pro Racing Flat Track Grand National Championship Series
Round 15: Ramspur Winery Calistoga Half Mile, Presented by Victory Chevrolet

Story by Dan Jacobson Sr.
Photos by David N. Haughs and Dan Jacobson Sr.
CALISTOGA, CA, SEPT. 27, 2014

To suggest that the last two races of this series mean more than the first two at Daytona is crazy talk. Every race in the 16-event AMA Pro Racing Flat Track Grand National Championship schedule is very important; there are no throw-away races. The cold fact was, there was no time to waste: The racers would only have this day and the finals in Pomona on October 11 to gain positions for the GNC number-one title. Crush time brings out everything these world-class athletes have in talent, skill and courage to see who will be the best of 2014.

Sammy Halbert (7) warms up in a practice session. Sammy went on to win the Dash For Cash and finish fourth in the Expert Twins main event. Photo by David N. Haughs

Sammy Halbert (7) warms up in a practice session. Sammy went on to win the Dash For Cash and finish fourth in the Expert Twins main event. Photo by David N. Haughs

Event promoters Terry and Nancy Otten, Chris Morgan, Eddie and Jodi Mulder, along with Steve De Lorenzi, have brought together the right people with the vision and strong ideas to improve the already successful fan experience. Legends Dick Mann, Mert Lawwill, Bubba Shobert and Grand Marshal Eddie Mulder were all in the house, exchanging stories and greeting the fans.

Dick Mann and Mert Lawwill compare notes at the conclusion of the fan walk in the Calistoga paddock. Photo by Dan Jacobson Sr.

Dick Mann and Mert Lawwill compare notes at the conclusion of the fan walk in the Calistoga paddock. Photo by Dan Jacobson Sr.

The vendor midway had more choices of food and drink, including craft beer and Ramspur wine. The displays included a Triumph world-record-holder Streamliner and many other very cool motorcycles, as well as power products from Motion Pro, KYMCO, Rod Lake Racing, Specialty Fabrications Inc., and SDI Insulation Inc., which is also a sponsor of the Craig Rogers Racing/ Las Vegas and Blue Springs H-D rider Jared Mees.

Motion Pro shows off the newest version of the Rev Throttle. Photo by Dan Jacobson Sr.

Motion Pro shows off the newest version of the Rev Throttle. Photo by Dan Jacobson Sr.

To set the track surface for the day, the Calistoga crew widened and progressively banked the turns, so throw out all your old notes on this track; this was a new day.

A fan tribute by the racers during the opening ceremonies. Photo by Dan Jacobson Sr.

A fan tribute by the racers during the opening ceremonies. Photo by Dan Jacobson Sr.

Qualifying wasn’t without drama. Early on, Stevie Bonsey high-sided the Zanotti Racing number-80 Harley-Davidson in turn one. Bonsey was the first to visit the local ER; he had a broken clavicle.

Points leader Bryan Smith’s Villa-Esparza/ Crosley Radio Kawasaki was on the back wheel and at max rpm, like he needed one more gear in practice. It was looking like this could be a part of the story in the main event.

Topping the Expert speed chart to set the grids for the heat races was Canadian Doug Lawrence, followed by Kenny Coolbeth Jr., Jared Mees, Wyatt Maguire and Jake Johnson. Points leader Smith was 20th in qualifying.

Jake Johnson (5) backs his Ramspur Winery Harley-Davidson XR750 into turn three during GNC Twins qualifying. Photo by David N. Haughs

Jake Johnson (5) backs his Ramspur Winery Harley-Davidson XR750 into turn three during GNC Twins qualifying. Photo by David N. Haughs

In the AMA Pro Singles class, there is little difference between the bikes, meaning it’s all up to the rider to find the victory podium. A confident Davis Fisher showed the way by nearly three-tenths of a second over Jarod Vanderkooi and Bronson Bauman.

Ronnie Jones and Jimmy Odem, enjoying the large crowd at Calistoga. Photo by Dan Jacobson Sr.

Ronnie Jones and Jimmy Odem, enjoying the large crowd at Calistoga. Photo by Dan Jacobson Sr.

Motorcycles have a danger factor unlike any other vehicle. A motorcycle is also the most maneuverable vehicle. Couple that with the riders’ talent, skill, experience and courage, and sometimes huge high-speed wrecks happen. This is a part of what makes AMA Pro Racing Flat Track so exciting. Seeing the look of a first-time spectator’s face is priceless when they see how fearless and competitive these motorcycle racers are. Throughout history, since the second motorcycle was built, there have been great races. Today, it’s not a man-against-man gender-bias sport, it’s men and women battling for inches to cross the finish line first.

Davis Fisher was fast and confident all day, and in the first AMA Pro Singles heat race, he had only one thing in mind: winning at Calistoga. From the start, Austin Helmholz led the pack, with Davis on the inside by a half-bikelength. Davis then pulled away by four-tenths of a second on lap one. He was now followed by points leader Kyle Johnson, who’d taken over the second-place Spot. Bronson Bauman moved up to third, relegating Helmholz to fourth. Davis Fisher would be heading to the pole in the main. The top seven would all go to the main, while the balance headed to a last-chance qualifier.

Jarod Vanderkooi (17F) won his heat race, transferring directly to the Pro Singles main event, in which he finished second. Photo by David N. Haughs

Jarod Vanderkooi (17F) won his heat race, transferring directly to the Pro Singles main event, in which he finished second. Photo by David N. Haughs

Easily the favorite in heat two, Jarod Vanderkooi took over the lead on lap six of eight by passing Nick Armstrong and early leader Ryan Foster. The top three all landed at the checkers within nine-tenths of a second of one another, and the scrum for the other four transfers was less than four-tenths of a second among Austin Scaggs, Jeffrey Lowery, Molly Terry and Ryan Wells.

Ryan Foster (23Y) finished second in his heat race to transfer directly to the Pro Singles main event, in which he finished third. Photo by David N. Haughs

Ryan Foster (23Y) finished second in his heat race to transfer directly to the Pro Singles main event, in which he finished third. Photo by David N. Haughs

In the first AMA Pro Expert GNC Twins heat, Mikey Martin, on the Factory Triumph, held on until lap three, when his bike slowed, leaving the race to Henry Wiles and Doug Lawrence. Rookie of the Year contender Wyatt Maguire, now on the Kirkland/ Weirbach Racing Suzuki, found himself in a solid third. Fourth was Jake Shoemaker, now on the USC Kawasaki tuned by James Hart. The top two would transfer to the Dash For Cash and the front row of the main event; the balance were headed to a Pro Expert GNC Twins semi.

The second Pro Expert GNC Twins heat brought the fans to their feet and the edges of their seats when Nichole Mees, on the Black Hills Harley-Davidson, led the hungry racers into turn one. The racing lady soon had pressure from Kenny Coolbeth Jr., who took the lead and brought Jake Johnson and Bryan Smith along with him by lap four. Jeffrey Carver Jr. grabbed the last direct transfer spot from Nichole, sending her to the semi.

Kenny Coolbeth Jr. acknowledges the fans after winning his heat race. Photo by Dan Jacobson Sr.

Kenny Coolbeth Jr. acknowledges the fans after winning his heat race. Photo by Dan Jacobson Sr.

The third Pro Expert GNC Twins heat got off to a scary start when Jethro Halbert and Aaron Lindfors collided off turn two, with Jared Mees out front. The red flags flew and the medical crew rushed to the scene. Jethro was transferred to the ER, and Aaron Lindfors would not make the restart.

The complete restart had Jared Mees, on the SDI/ Las Vegas/ Blue Springs H-D, out front and pulling away. Jared needed to gain as many points as possible on his friend Bryan Smith to have a chance at another Grand National Championship. Sammy Halbert stayed with Jared but could only get within seven-tenths of a second at the line. Factory Harley rider and 2013 Champion Brad Baker was third after running in second past the halfway point. Chad Cose, on the ERT/ Rod Lake Kawasaki entry, wrapped up the direct transfers.

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In their last-chance qualifier, it was go-or-go-home time for the 18 Pro Singles riders. Only the top four would move to the main. After a breakdown in his heat race, Dan Bromley marched the KTM Racing machine from fifth to first. The race-long battles had the fans screaming for more, as the Pro Singles do at every venue. Kolby Carlie grabbed the holeshot, with Bromley in hot pursuit. Andrew Luker, making his Pro Singles debut, was looking for the transfer slot, but he was harassed by Cole Anderson for the fourth position right up to the finish; Cole Anderson secured the transfer. In the two and three positions, Kolby Carlie and J.R. Addison would be lining up for the money main.

Jake Johnson (5) moved up from fourth to second place in the four-lap Dash For Cash. He finished behind Sammy Halbert (7), the winner of the Dash. Photo by David N. Haughs

Jake Johnson (5) moved up from fourth to second place in the four-lap Dash For Cash. He finished behind Sammy Halbert (7), the winner of the Dash. Photo by David N. Haughs

The scene for the Pro Expert GNC Twins Dash For Cash had Kenny Coolbeth Jr. on the pole, next to three other past champions – Sammy Halbert, Jake Johnson, Jared Mees – along with Expert Singles champion Henry Wiles, on the new Don’s Kawasaki twin, and qualifying’s fast-timer Doug Lawrence.

At the green, they all rolled into turn one, and Sammy’s and Kenny’s bars touched, sending the championship contender over the high side as the bike tumbled toward him. Coolbeth re-injured his wrist and didn’t make the restart of the Dash.

Kenny Coolbeth (2) won a front-row start in the main event by winning his heat race. He fell in the Dash For Cash but captured fifth place in the main event. Photo by David N. Haughs

Kenny Coolbeth Jr. (2) won a front-row start in the main event by winning his heat race. He fell in the Dash For Cash but captured fifth place in the main event. Photo by David N. Haughs

Five riders now lined up for the four-lap shoot-out, with another $5,000 added to the Dash purse from Specialty Fabrications Inc. owners Mark and Randy Zimmerman – making this a real dash for cash!

On lap one, Sammy Halbert, Jared Mees and Jake Johnson crossed the line only a few tenths of a second apart. Johnson dropped Jared to third on lap two and then went to work on leader Sammy Halbert. At the checkers, Sammy Halbert held on by eight-hundredths of a second over Johnson, a past winner of the Calistoga event.

As winner of the Dash For Cash, Sammy Halbert (7) got a big check from Specialty Fabrications. Photo by Dan Jacobson Sr.

As winner of the Dash For Cash, Sammy Halbert (7) got a big check from Specialty Fabrications. Photo by Dan Jacobson Sr.

In the first Pro Expert GNC Twins semi, Nichole Mees, the racing lady from Clio, Michigan, who is also a school teacher, went to the head of the class and never looked back. Only three riders would be moving forward. Ronnie Jones and Robert Pearson were giving chase to Nichole. Mike Rush overtook Bronson Bauman and then set his sights on Pearson. Rush edged out Pearson for third, while the Racing Lady sent the fans into overdrive excitement with her victory, putting her in the main with her husband, Jared Mees.

Nichole Mees (15) secured a place in the Expert Twins main event by leading her semifinal from wire to wire. Photo by David N. Haughs

Nichole Mees (15) secured a place in the Expert Twins main event by leading her semifinal from wire to wire. Photo by David N. Haughs

Barry Boone (left) interviews Nichole Mees after she won the semi, putting herself in the main with her hubby, Jared. Photo by Dan Jacobson Sr.

Barry Boone (left) interviews Nichole Mees after she won the semi, putting herself in the main with her hubby, Jared. Photo by Dan Jacobson Sr.

Brandon Bergen led the first lap of the second Pro Expert GNC Twins semi, only to be passed by Scooter Vernon as the close pack fought for the remaining two spots in the main. Vernon would earn his National number by making the Expert Twins GNC main in his first year as an Expert.

Scooter Vernon (74) chases Brandon Bergen (26) on the first lap of the second Expert semi. Vernon slipped by Bergen and led the remainder of the race. Both riders transferred to the main event. Also pictured here is Ben Evans (69F, behind Vernon). Photo by David N. Haughs

Scooter Vernon (74) chases Brandon Bergen (26) on the first lap of the second Expert semi. Vernon slipped by Bergen and led the remainder of the race. Both riders transferred to the main event. Also pictured here is Ben Evans (69F, behind Vernon). Photo by David N. Haughs

Triumph factory racer Mikey Martin made a great run into the front three, only to fall short by a couple of tenths of a second. Scooter, Brandon and Colt Chebultz were heading to the GNC main’s third row.

Ryan Kearns (99Y) is introduced as he lines up for the Pro Singles main event. Ryan would finish in fourth place on his Martin Racing Yamaha YZ 450F. Photo by David N. Haughs

Ryan Kearns (99Y) is introduced as he lines up for the Pro Singles main event. Ryan would finish in fourth place on his Martin Racing Yamaha YZ 450F. Photo by David N. Haughs

Looking forward to the AMA Pro Racing Pro Singles main gave this reporter goose bumps as Barry Boone introduced the riders who would comprise the three-row line-up. They would have 16 laps to settle the score under the beautiful Calistoga sky.

Molly Terry (11P) lines up for the Pro Singles main event. Photo by David N. Haughs

Molly Terry (11P) lines up for the Pro Singles main event. Photo by David N. Haughs

At the green light, they were off! Davis Fisher led the pack into turn one, and then bikes start crashing midpack – five hit the Calistoga dirt. Points leader (by 20) Kyle Johnson and Molly Terry were both transported to the hospital.

Davis Fisher (67M) rolls out for the AMA Pro Singles National Championship Half Mile main event. Photo by David N. Haughs

Davis Fisher (67M) rolls out for the AMA Pro Singles National Championship Half Mile main event. Photo by David N. Haughs

The restart was all Davis Fisher’s; he was looking for his first AMA Pro Singles victory after being in the top three for more than half the year. Jarod Vanderkooi was looking for a way to reel in the dashin’ Davis Fisher, only to be slowed by two riders stepping off in turn three – J.R. Addison and Cole Frederickson. Both would restart from the now-crowded row four.

The third time was the charm, as the up-and-coming Pro racers ran this one red-flag-free. Once again, it was Fisher out front, with Bronson Bauman and Jarod Vanderkooi completing the top three. Jarod passed Bronson and then set his sights on the leader, Davis, with 13 laps to go.

Jarod would pressure Davis lap after lap until he nearly high-sided off the turn-two exit. At starter Kevin Clark’s double checkers, it would be first-time winner Davis Fisher on top of the box, flanked by Jarod Vanderkooi and Ryan Foster.

Davis and his dad, former National number-12 Rex Fisher, did the celebration together with a victory lap as the Experts get ready for their main.

After coming so close, scoring a second-place finish five times this year, Davis Fisher (67M) finally captured his first Pro Singles National victory. Photo by David N. Haughs

After coming so close, scoring a second-place finish five times this year, Davis Fisher (67M) finally captured his first Pro Singles National victory. Photo by David N. Haughs

Davis Fisher took center stage on the Pro Singles podium, flanked by Jarod Vanderkooi (left) and Ryan Foster (third from right). Photo by Dan Jacobson Sr.

Davis Fisher took center stage on the Pro Singles podium, flanked by Jarod Vanderkooi (left) and Ryan Foster (third from right). Photo by Dan Jacobson Sr.

The starting grid of the 25-lap Pro Expert GNC Twins main had 19 of the fastest flat-track racers in the world. On the front row were Coolbeth, Mees, Wiles, Johnson, Sammy Halbert and Doug Lawrence. Using a provisional, Brandon Robinson would be starting on row four. Henry Wiles’ ride threw a chain, breaking the case on his primary bike. Wiles was moved to the back row for the start, and it was crush time…

Jared Mees, with another championship in sight, took the lead going into turn one.

At the one-third mark, Sammy Halbert, Jake Johnson, Brad Baker and an injured Kenny Coolbeth Jr. were making a charge. Smoke started to appear from the bike of the points leader Bryan Smith.

On lap 13, the black flag came out for Smith, while Baker took the lead, over Johnson, Jared Mees, Sammy Halbert and Coolbeth.

Brad Baker (1) came from fifth place on the first lap to win the Calistoga Half Mile National Championship race. This was Baker’s first National Championship win this year. Photo by David N. Haughs

Brad Baker (1) came from fifth place on the first lap to win the Calistoga Half Mile National Championship race. This was Baker’s first National Championship win this year. Photo by David N. Haughs

With five laps to go, Jared made a pass on Johnson for second. Smith, still being black-flagged (and who would eventually be scored as last), took over the second spot, making a point by disregarding the black flag.

Brad “The Bullet” Baker took the win, with Jared “The Jammer” Mees second and “Jersey Jake” Johnson third. They all headed for the victory podium.

Brad Baker (1) celebrates with a victory lap after his win at Calistoga. Photo by David N. Haughs

Brad Baker (1) celebrates with a victory lap after his win at Calistoga. Photo by David N. Haughs

Brad Baker pulls on to the podium after his first win of 2014. Photo by Dan Jacobson Sr.

Brad Baker pulls on to the podium after his first win of 2014. Photo by Dan Jacobson Sr.

Each of the top three Experts received a beautiful, engraved bottle of Ramspur Wine, emblazoned with the Calistoga event logo and the rider’s name. D&D Performance Exhaust presented Jared Mees with an award as the top finisher using their products.

Jared Mees took over the points lead, gapping Bryan Smith by nine points after being back 13 points before the event.

Bryan Smith (42), the points leader coming into Calistoga, was disqualified when his Kawasaki EX650 began smoking in the main event. Smith now trails Jared Mees by 13 points going into the season finale at Pomona. Photo by David N. Haughs

Bryan Smith (42), the points leader coming into Calistoga, was disqualified when his Kawasaki EX650 began smoking in the main event. Smith now trails Jared Mees by 13 points going into the season finale at Pomona. Photo by David N. Haughs

The injury report was cause for concern, as there were no less than five racers who were injured badly enough to be transported to the hospital or the ER for more medical care. Before the event, Stevie Bonsey was back at the track, wrapped up and with his arm in a sling.

“I will get surgery in the next couple days and be ready for Pomona in two weeks,” Bonsey declared.

Kenny Coolbeth Jr. ended up going to the hospital after the 25-lap GNC main. His throttle hand was badly damaged after he hit the ground in the Dash For Cash.

Molly Terry (who, as announcer “Hollywood” Deubler says, is “no bigger than a minute”) and points leader Kyle Johnson took the ride to the ICU after the Pro Singles’ first-corner five-bike wreck. Both are stable and improving daily.

Eighteen-year-old Molly Terry (11P) earned a second-row start in the Pro Singles main event. Unfortunately, she was transported to the hospital after being involved in a first-turn pile-up in that race. She is now home and doing fine. Photo by David N. Haughs

Eighteen-year-old Molly Terry (11P) earned a second-row start in the Pro Singles main event. Unfortunately, she was transported to the hospital after being involved in a first-turn pile-up in that race. She is now home and doing fine. Photo by David N. Haughs

Jethro Halbert, the oldest of the three Halbert brothers and a new dad, is in the worst shape. As of October 4 he is still unconscious.

Dan Jacobson Sr. and Sonja Bloomquist on site at the Ramspur Winery Calistoga Half Mile. Photo by Dan Jacobson Sr.

Dan Jacobson Sr. and Sonja Bloomquist on site at the Ramspur Winery Calistoga Half Mile. Photo by Dan Jacobson Sr.

Sonja’s Sidebar

By Sonja Bloomquist

Millions of people go to the California wine country every year for the world-class wines and beautiful scenery. To throw in a world-class AMA Pro GNC event is over-the-top exciting! Being a big fan of Ramspur Winery owners Nancy and Terry Otten, I knew this event would be the best.

Our race day started out in downtown Calistoga with lunch and then a riders’ parade down Main Street, much like the circus did years ago, letting the people know these racers are just like you and me… they just go very fast on motorcycles.

Whenever it’s a close points race like it is this year in both classes, moving up one more place is worth hundreds, and you see that with the racers. It also means these riders are searching for their personal limits, that edge where the talent and skill run out. On this night, there were more bad wrecks than at any other race all season.

Sonja shows off the Triumph-powered Streamliner. Photo by Dan Jacobson Sr.

Sonja shows off the Triumph-powered Streamliner. Photo by Dan Jacobson Sr.

It takes more than a village to support these racers. Many marketing partners support the series: Harley-Davidson, Sunoco, Dunlop, MotoBatt, Cortech, Saddlemen, Thom Duma Jewelers, KYMCO, RacerSites, Clearwater Lights and SOZO. This event added many companies to help put on the Ramspur Winery Calistoga Half Mile: Victory Chevrolet, Motion Pro, Specialty Fabrications Inc., Santa Rosa Powersports, CertainTeed Insulation, Berkeley Honda/ Yamaha, Mach 1, Zanotti Racing, Craig Rogers Racing, Rod Lake Racing, “Dr. Dirt” Dennis & Cheryl Pearson, Larry Langley, Pete & Diane Francini, Bill Sessa, Randy Kremlacek and Karen Gould. We hope you will thank all these people for raising the bar for the best racing on the planet.

Calistoga Half Mile
Calistoga, California
Results: September 27, 2014 (Round 15 of 16)

PRO SINGLES MAIN (16 laps): 1. Davis Fisher (Hon) – (best lap time (23.692); 2. Jarod Vanderkooi (Hon); 3. Ryan Foster (Hon); 4. Ryan Kerns (Yam); 5. Bronson Bauman (Hon); 6. Dan Bromley (KTM); 7. Jeffrey Lowery (Hon); 8. Nick Armstrong (Hon); 9. Kolby Carlie (KTM); 10. Cole Frederickson (Hon); 11. Cole Anderson (Hon); 12. J.R. Addison (Hon); 13. Ryan Wells (KTM) 14. Austin Helmholz (Hon); 15. James Monaco (Hon); 16. Austin Scaggs (Hon); 17. Kyle Johnson (Hon) DNS; 18. Molly Terry (Hon) DNS.

PRO EX GNC TWINS MAIN (25 laps): 1. Brad Baker (H-D) – (best lap time 23.807); 2. Jared Mees (H-D); 3. Jake Johnson (H-D); 4. Sammy Halbert (H-D); 5. Kenny Coolbeth Jr. (H-D); 6. Doug Lawrence (H-D); 7. Jake Shoemaker (Kaw); 8. Jeffrey Carver (H-D); 9. Brandon Robinson (Kaw); 10. Henry Wiles (Kaw); 11. Ronnie Jones (H-D); 12. Wyatt Maguire (Suz); 13. Chad Cose (Kaw); 14. Mike Rush (Suz); 15. Nichole Mees (H-D); 16. Colt Chebultz (H-D); 17. Scooter Vernon (Kaw); 18. Brandon Bergen (Kaw); 19. Bryan Smith (Kaw).

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