DAYTONA BEACH, FL, MAR. 3 – Halbert/Woody Kyle Racing’s Sammy Halbert was in the zone tonight at the brand-spanking new Daytona International Speedway short track, the Yamaha YZF450-mounted Washingtonian finding the line that worked in the middle of the new racetrack to pull away to as dominating a victory as you will ever see on a short track.
“I found my line and I kept charging,” Halbert said after his third-career Grand National victory. “I looked back and saw my lead and was just so excited. I tried not to think about think about winning at Daytona and I let out a yell in my helmet a few times because I was so happy and I knew I was going to win it. It feels great.”
Halbert made history in becoming the first rider to win an Expert main event at the new track that’s located on the outside of NASCAR turn one. He did so in front of a packed house estimated to be close to 5000 spectators for the opening round of the AMA Grand National Championship.
Halbert wasn’t the fastest qualifier, he didn’t win the fastest heat race and he didn’t win the Expert Dash For Cash. The fastest qualifier was Josh Koch, the fastest heat race win went to Joe Kopp and the Expert Dash was won by Johnny Lewis – but the National belonged to Halbert.
Halbert followed Joe Kopp off the start and sat behind his fellow Washington State resident for the first seven of the 25 laps in the main event. But then he made his move, moving down low to ride the middle of the track while Kopp and the rest seemed commited to the high line – emulating what looked to be the best way around the short track in the Pro Sport main that was won by Jeffrey Carver Jr. Halbert proved them wrong, though, as he was able to make the middle of the track work and he simply pulled away.
In his wake he left behind a battle that consisted of Kopp, Monster Kawasaki’s Henry Wiles, Lewis, Zanotti Racing’s Jake Johnson, Bettencourt Honda’s Kenny Coolbeth and a charging Jethro Halbert, Sammy’s older brother. Wiles would end up getting the best of the fight to take second, with Johnson third in his debut with his new National #5.
It was a good night for the Halberts, as Jethro fought through the pack to finish fourth, besting Kopp, Lewis and Coolbeth.
MDR’s Matt Weidman, Raun Wood and AMA Grand National Twins Champion Jared Mees, who had to transfer from one of two semis, rounded out the top 10 finishers.
For the most part, the riders liked the new facility and the new racetrack, and the program ran smoothly – with only two red flags the entire night.
In the Pro Singles final, Carver topped James Rispoli and Stephen Vanderkuur. Defending Pro Singles Champion Brad Baker endedup fifth after crashing on the first lap and starting from the back row on the restart. Ditto for JD Beach, who was also involved in that first-turn crash. Beach fought through to finish seventh.
Expert Main Event Results
1. Sammy Halbert (Yamaha)
2. Henry Wiles (Kawasaki)
3. Jake Johnson (Honda)
4. Jethro Halbert (Yamaha)
5. Joe Kopp (Honda)
6. Johnny Lewis (Honda)
7. Kenny Coolbeth (Honda)
8. Matt Weidman (Honda)
9. Raun Wood (Honda)
10. Jared Mees (Honda)