It’s been nearly five years in the making, but Sammy Halbert finally broke through to earn his first AMA Grand National Twins victory, his second overall Grand National victory, Saturday night at Volunteer Speedway.
Sammy, the younger of the two racing Halbert brothers, nearly made a clean sweep of it riding the high-banked red clay 3/8ths-miles on his Halbert Family/Kings Kustoms Harley-Davidson XR750. He was the fastest in timed qualifying, won his heat race, the Dash for Cash and the National.
Despite Halbert’s obvious speed all day the victory didn’t come easy. Halbert battled all race with Blue Springs/Screamin’ Eagle Harley-Davidson’s Jared Mees, who won this race in 2007, and dealt with a late challenge by Kenny Coolbeth on the factory Harley-Davidson.
Halbert led early, but was passed on lap five by Mees, just before a red flag stopped the race when A.J. Eslick laid his bike down between turns one and two. On the restart Mees for another half-a-dozen laps, before Halbert took back the lead on lap 12 of 25. The leading duo battle so hard that it allowed a smooth riding Coolbeth to close the gap and join the battle foe the lead. For several laps it looked like the race would come down to a three-way, last-lap fight, but Halbert turned in a couple of picture-perfect laps to open a gap in the closing laps.
Halbert crossed the line .565 of a second ahead of Mees, with Coolbeth a close third.
“It’s been a long time coming, but it was worth the wait,” Halbert said of his first win on the big bikes. “Jared and I had a great race and fortunately I was able to buckle down and turn in a strong last five laps. It feels great to get my first Twins win. Everything seems to be going in a good direction for me now.”
Halbert’s victory was even more surprising since he crashed hard last weekend in Dayton, Ohio, along with his brother and Nick Cummings, injuring his shoulder in the process.
After two rounds of the GNC Twins Series, Coolbeth now leads by five points over Mees, 43-38. Chris Carr is third with 32 points; Sammy Halbert has 30 and Matt Weidman rounds out the top five in the standings with 27 points.
Brad Baker, riding a Brothers Power Sports/Mike Velasco Honda, won the rain-shortened Pro Singles final over Red Bull/Team 95 Honda’s J.D. Beach and Shayna Texter on the Lancaster Harley-Davidson/Screamin’ Eagle Suzuki. The victory, Baker’s second of the season, put him back in the Pro Singles Series lead by seven points over James Rispoli, who finished fourth.
The series moves to Lima, Ohio, next Saturday.