Gary Nixon Memorial Invitational Pro Short Track
Maryland Short Track
Maryland State Fairgrounds
Story and Photos by Len Breech and Ben Breech
TIMONIUM, MD, JULY 24, 2015
While a mannequin dressed in the leathers that Gary Nixon wore at his last dirt-track race, complete with helmet and boots, looked on, the current holder of the number nine, Jared Mees, jumped out to the lead at the start of the first-ever Gary Nixon Memorial Invitational Pro Short Track. Even though he wears the big bad number one on his machines this season, Mees’ assigned number is nine – the same number so famously worn by Nixon.
The Baltimore County Trail Riders and Cockeysville Optimist Club added this event to the opening race of their annual four-race short-track series, based on a statement from Nixon before he died two years ago that it would be great to have many National riders run an event on this small short track.
The event was open to any current card-carrying Pro rider, with 24 being the maximum possible number of entrants. The winner would get $2,000 (and Metro Racing would give the winner another $250 if they were wearing a free Metro Nixon jersey).
Out of the 21 riders entered, nine were National number holders, including three single-digit former or current champions, plus another, Chris Carr, as the on-track announcer. Riders were seeded by points standings into four heat races, with riders drawing a pill to determine their starting spot right before their heat started. The top two would go to the final, while the others were put into two semifinals, from which only the winner would move on to the final to comprise a 10-rider field.
Ten-lap heat wins went to Mees, Sammy Halbert, Ryan Wells and Justin Jones.
Donnie Mullen and Jesse Long won the semis.
By the completion of the heats, the officials had realized that the time left was too short to get all the races completed before the curfew, so the remaining regular event heats were shortened to five laps and finals to six, and the Nixon Invitational went from 20 to 15. With the largest spectator attendance in the history of this series – there were more than 1,600 fans in the house – the riders came to the line to choose their spots.
When the green light came on, Mees put his Montgomeryville CC/ Rodgers Racing/ SDI-sponsored Honda almost a bikelength in front of fellow heat winners Jones, Halbert and Wells, with Jeremy Higgins, Mullen and Jason Isennock right behind. Halbert put his Fredericktown Yamaha/ Vans Yamaha in second going into turn three on the second lap, with Wells following suit on the next lap.
Mees kept a steady four-length margin over Halbert, who had put a little distance on Wells. Mullen, Jake Shoemaker and Jason Isennock started battling for position, which brought them up to Jones. Shoemaker took fourth on the 10th lap. Mullen got by two laps later, and Isennock did likewise in the closing laps.
At the flag, Mees had a lead of several bikelengths over Halbert.
The only thing that didn’t go well for Mees this evening was his checkered-flag lap, when the special Gary Nixon flag flew off the pole right after it was handed to him, letting him carry… a stick.
Maryland State Fairgrounds
Results: July 24, 2015
GARY NIXON INVITATIONAL: 1. Jared Mees (Hon); 2. Sammy Halbert (Yam); 3. Ryan Wells (Hon); 4. Jake Shoemaker (Hon); 5. Donnie Mullen (Hon); 6. Jason Isennock (Hon); 7. Justin Jones (Hon); 8. Jeremy Higgins (Yam); 9. Jesse Long (Hon); 10. Chad Cose (Hon).