Sammy Halbert proved today in the Santa Rosa Mile that it truly isn't over until it's over. It's not often that someone has a five-second lead in an AMA Grand National Mile and doesn't win, but that happened today in Northern California's wine country as Halbert and his Harley-Davidson managed to reel-in Bryan Smith and his Kawasaki in the closing laps to earn his fourth win of the season.
Smith and his Crosley Radio/Kawasaki grabbed the holeshot in today's race and was looking as if he'd cruise to his second straight mile-track win. With 10 laps to go, he held by 4.9 seconds, but it didn't last. Halbert had other ideas and he caught the Springfield Mile winner with five laps to go.
On the 20th lap, Halbert took the lead and led the rest of the way home.
"In the beginning, I was playing cat and mouse with Bryan [Smith]," said Halbert in an AMA press release. "Once I passed him, I just kept looking back and saw the guys catching me but I adapted and overcame it. It was a great win. I loved coming out here to Santa Rosa and really want to thank all the great fans. I also want to thank my mom, dad, girlfriend and all of my sponsors."
AMA Grand National Championship points leader Jared Mees also got past Smith to finish second - after a climb from 13th place. Though Smith was fading at the end, he was able to salvage a podium finish as he barely beat Jake Johnson by.18 of a second for third. Johnson and Robert Pearson rounded out the top five finishers, respectively.
Halbert, who also won the points-paying Dash For Cash, closed to within 14 points of Mees with two races left on the schedule - Tucson and Pomona - 262-248. Johnson slipped to third with 246 points.
Michigan product Stephen Vanderkuur (Parkinson Brothers/Honda) had no mercy on the field today as he beat Rodney Spencer Jr. (831 Pinnit/Honda) by almost 10 seconds in the Motorcycle-Superstore.com Pro Singles final. Vanderkuur started from pole position and increased his lead every lap en route to claiming his second victory of the year.
"I was just riding my own race," said Vanderkuur. "I knew I had to get ahead early and I did just that. This is a big accomplishment for my team as far as the point standings go. I have to thank my team and sponsors for all their support, without them I would not be here. I also want to give a shout-out to the great fans here in California."
The best race on the track was the battle for third. Cole Anderson (Diesel Minnesota/Honda) edged out Jake Shoemaker (Montgomeryville Cycle Center/Honda) by .26 of a second for an impressive third-place finish after starting from eighth on the grid. Less than a second separated third from seventh.
Santa Rosa Mile
1. Sammy Halbert (Harley-Davidson)
2. Jared Mees (Harley-Davidson)
3. Bryan Smith (Kawasaki)
4. Jake Johnson (Harley-Davidson)
5. Robert Pearson (Kawasaki)
6. Henry Wiles (Ducati)
7. Brad Baker (Harley-Davidson)
8. Kenny Coolbeth (Harley-Davidson)
9. Jeffrey Carver Jr. (Harley-Davidson)
10. Briar Bauman (Kawasaki)