Sammy Halbert missed the opening two AMA Pro Grand National rounds at Daytona, still recovering from off-season knee surgery, but a victory Saturday night at the Stockton Half-Mile proves that the Graham, Washington rider has returned as strong as ever.
Halbert, riding the South East Harley, Flat Track Live-backed Harley-Davidson XR750, came out on top of a great battle with Dodge Bros Racing’s Brad Baker. Halbert and Baker swapped the lead back and forth nearly the entire 25 laps, but in the end the experience of Halbert paid off and he took the checkered flag .961 of a second ahead of young Baker.
Lloyd Brothers Motorsports rider Henry Wiles took third with a late-race surge around former champ Jake Johnson. It was a great ride for the Short Track and TT specialist Wiles, since he hadn’t raced a Harley-Davidson in a long time. Johnson rounded out the top five.
It was a bad night for defending series champ Jared Mees. After a promising start where he won both his heat race and the Dash for Cash, Mees had a hard impact with Wiles early on and nearly crashed. The miscue dropped him back to last place and he never recovered, only circulating the track in an effort to score as many points as possible. He finished 16th, the last rider running.
For Halbert he couldn’t have dreamed a better comeback.
“That was awesome! What a race,” said a jubilant Halbert. “They did a great job on the track and I’m stoked. I had a long layoff from racing there with shoulder surgery and then I came back and tore up my knee. I’m only 12 weeks out of knee surgery and it’s still not 100 percent, but I feel a 100 percent on the bike that’s for sure.”
Halbert reflected on his epic battle with Baker.
“Brad came by me;I know he’s hungry for a win,” Halbert explained. “I was like, ‘Let’s see if I can steal another from him.’ He was right there and I didn’t want to be the guy who gave him that first win so I had to dig deep. I was getting tired and he was starting to pull away and I started thinking about that big Harley contingency and I was like, ‘I want that money. Let’s go!’
“I got on the gas and put it on the outside and found a line on the outside there in turn three and four and made it happen. It took me awhile to get around Brad. I ran into him a few times, but I finally got by and I didn’t see him again.”
Brandon Robinson, who came into Stockton with the series lead, finished sixth and leaves with a seven point lead (55-48) over Baker in the standings. Wiles moved up to third with 47 points.
Wyatt Maguire, of Mead, Washington, scored the victory in the Pro Singles final. Maguire, riding a Kirkland Racing Yamaha YZ450F, moved past early leader Shayna Texter and pulled away to a comfortable 4.616-second victory over Texter. Kyle Johnson had a great surge late in the race to pass Rodney Spencer Jr. to nail down the final podium spot.
“It was definitely tough getting by people, but we ended up changing gearing and it helped a lot,” Maguire said. “This is my first main [victory] and I’m happy to do it pretty close to home. I mean 14 hours, that’s about as close as it gets for me.”
Maguire and Johnson are now tied atop the Pro Singles standings.
Next up in the AMA Pro Grand National Series is the Memorial Day weekend Springfield (Ill.) Mile on May 26.
AMA Pro Grand National Final, Stockton, Calif. Half-Mile – May 11, 2013
1. Sammy Halbert, Harley-Davidson
2. Brad Baker, Harley-Davidson
3. Henry Wiles, Harley-Davidson
4. Jake Johnson, Harley-Davidson
5. Robert Pearson, Harley-Davidson
6. Brandon Robinson, Kawasaki
7. Kenny Coolbeth, Jr., Harley-Davidson
8. Doug Lawrence, Harley-Davidson
9. Jeffrey Carver Jr., Harley-Davidson
10. Michael Martin, Triumph
11. Stevie Bonsey, Harley-Davidson
12. Bryan Smith, Kawasaki
13. Johnny Lewis, Triumph
14. Kayl Kolkman, Harley-Davidson
15. Briar Bauman, Suzuki
16. Jared Mees, Harley-Davidson
17. Shawn Baer, Kawasai
18. Daniel Ingram, Harley-Davidson
J&P Cycles Pro Singles Final
1. Wyatt Maguire, Yamaha YZ 450F
2. Shayna Texter, Honda CRF450R
3. Kyle Johnson, Kawasaki KX450F
4. Rodney Spencer Jr., Honda CRF450R
5. Cole Frederickson, Honda CRF450R
6. Hunter Taylor, Honda CRF450R
7. Bronson Bauman, Honda CRF450R
8. Ryan Kearns, Honda CRF450R
9. Ryan Wells, Honda CRF450R
10. Stephen Vanderkuur, Honda CRF450R