Halbert Wins Daytona Opener

Paul Carruthers | March 10, 2011

DAYTONA BEACH, FL., MAR. 10 – Never one to settle for second place, much less third, you could have bet the house that Sammy Halbert wasn’t going to settle for where he was early in the main event during the first round of the Daytona Short Track doubleheader tonight.

And he didn’t.

After winning both his heat race and the Dash For Cash, Halbert found himself behind Jake Johnson and Johnny Lewis nearing the halfway mark in the 25-lap season-opening final. So he went to work, disposing of Lewis first and then setting his sights Johnson, the defending AMA Grand National Champion Johnson.

From there it was AMA flat tracking at its very best with the top three riders going at it for the duration with Halbert and his Woody Kyle Racing/Fredericktown Yamaha YZF450 finally taking the lead for good on the 22nd lap. And from there he was able to hold on, duplicating his effort from a year ago when he also came out with both guns blazing to win the season opener.

“I never gave up hope, but it looked like he [Johnson] was setting sail,” Halbert said. “It was a long 25 laps. I was happy when I saw the halfway flags come out and knew I still had some time to make up ground on him. I kept my head down and got it done.”

And Lewis was also able to get around Johnson as last year’s race-two winner at Daytona couldn’t make the high line work. For Lewis the second-place finish was a career highmark, the former Supermoto winner standing on the podium for the first time in a flat track National. Lewis also went into the main event injured after crashing in the Dash For Cash and twisting his ankle. Zanotti Racing’s Johnson ended up a shadow third with the top three pulling away from the battle behind them that featured rookie Brad Baker and defending Singles Champion Henry Wiles.

Wiles didn’t seem prepared to let the kid beat him in his first Expert main event, so the slamming ensued. But it was Baker coming out on top with Wiles going down near the end of the race after the two made contact one last time. Wiles got back on the Monster Kawasaki rider to finish a disappointing 16th while Baker made a bold statement with a fourth-place finish in his Expert debut.

Pennsylvania’s John Wood ended up fifth, beating Matt Weidman by less than a second. Former Grand National Champion Kenny Coolbeth Jr. was another second and a half behind in seventh, leading Jimmy Wood and Jared Mees across the line. Aaron King, the winner of the first semi, rounded out the top 10.

Mikey Avila rode his Honda to a convincing victory in the Motorcycle-Superstore.com Pro Sport final, beating Gerrit Callies by almost a second at the finish.

1. Sammy Halbert (Yamaha)
2. Johnny Lewis (Honda)
3. Jake Johnson (Honda)
4. Brad Baker (Honda)
5. John Wood (Honda)
6. Matt Weidman (Honda)
7. Kenny Coolbeth (Kawasaki)
8. Jimmy Wood (Honda)
9. Jared Mees (Honda)
10. Aaron King (Honda)

Paul Carruthers | Editor

Paul Carruthers took over as the editor of Cycle News in 1993 after serving as associate editor since starting his career at the publication in 1985. Carruthers has covered every facet of the sport in his near-28-year tenure at America's Daily Motorcycle News Source.