InSLIDE Line 41...It's nearly a wrap folks!Oct 11, 2013
Hello, and welcome to the InSlide Line Presented by Bell Helmets.Well, here we are...at the end! The end of the AMA Pro Grand National season that is. Oh the suspense and drama we have for our final round this year too. Both classes, the Pro Singles and the Grand National Experts have a few scenarios that could play out. Nothing is decided at all going into Saturday night at the LA County Fairplex in Pomona California so I would HIGHLY advise you getting some tickets to make it out there or follow along on AMA Pro Racing's website www.amaproracing.com . However, we have a whole column to talk about this stuff, so let's get to work.
We are now approaching the half-way mark in October and there are still races to hit up. Of course, we all know about the Grand National in Pomona this weekend, but there are places where you can still sink your dunlops into the dirt too. Personally, you can find me at Mid America Speedway this weekend. The track is a ton of fun, the crew does a great job shuffling through the races and did I mention fun?
Pomona, CA Half-Mile AMA Pro Grand National
Perris, CA Short Track Night Before The National Race
Mid America Speedway, Indianapolis, IN Short Track
Erie, CO Short Track
Next week the racing continues! Pretty neat to still have some outdoor racing going on this late in the year, but it may force you to drive to a little warmer location. Read below where you could be racing next week.
Volusia County Speedway, Ocala, FL (Two Day Biketoberfest Event)
Willow Springs, CA (Two Day Eddie Mulder Event Big $$)
Oakland Valley Speedway, Cuddebackville, NY
In injury news I was VERY happy to see that Molly Terry is home from the hospital and is recovering well. There are many great racing days ahead of her, but she still has a little ways to go, so make sure to continue keeping her in your thoughts and prayers.
Heading into Pomona, I think most of us are familiar with the riders and the points situation for the lead in both classes really. However, I think this years final round could offer up more interesting news than just who will take home the title. There is a lot on the line from the aspect of the future of our sport. Sure, the story of the year has been "what are we going to do with those Kawasaki's on the miles?" but our final round is not a mile. It's a half-mile. It's a rider favorite half mile at that. Pomona has a thin cushion to it, of course which depends on how it is prepped for the race. We have strong cushion riders like Henry Wiles andSammy Halbert who are always going to be fast there, but Pomona can also harbor a magical night for a rider who isn't known to be real strong on a cushion. Just look at what happened last year with Kenny Coolbeth and how he absolutely destroyed the field, which nobody saw coming.
With all of the miles that we have had in a row, and the RPM's that teams are turning on their Harley's to try to run with the Kawasaki's, we have seen a lot of mechanicals this year. Sure, anything can happen at any time, but for Pomona, tuner's won't be gearing their bikes in fear of them not making the checkered flag. The Harley's will have to go back to their 32mm restrictors while they have been at 33mm for the miles, but when you have a bike with 104 straight half mile wins, it's not a lack of power winning races. All of the Harley teams are going to be bringing fast horses to the track and with this being the last national, nobody has much to lose. Whatever is left at the end of Saturday night will probably show up at Eddie Mulder'sWillow Springs race the next weekend.
While the Harley's will be in top form this weekend and have a history of wins on their side, this year's Kawasaki's are NOT the same as last year's. The rider's aren't either. Teams like the Howerton Motorsports/Crosley Radio and Burnett Farms/USC Kawasaki/Hart Racing worked their tails off during the off season making their bikes better knowing that the Harley's would be a little better also. Bryan Smith has come back to the Howerton team and been just as impressive as he was last year, but Brandon Robinson joined the Burnett Farms/USC team and took his game to a whole new level. Armed with great motorcycles and with both riders having a lot of confidence, this could just stop the Harley Half-Mile win streak. While the Harley has the upper hand in the mid corner speed and torque departments, the big hard hitting power of the Kawasaki can find it's home on a track like Pomona. I think that as long as the track allows for multi-line racing, we could see every brand, not just the Harley's and Kawasaki's be more even than they have ever been. Jake Johnson could no doubt steal a win on the Lloyd Brother's Motorsports Ducati and what an ending to the season that would be for everybody involved!
Kayl Kolkman has his Harley sporting Pink wheels for Breast Cancer Awareness Month
So with the evenness of equipment covered, we can once again talk points. It's not a secret, Brad Baker can roll into Pomona pretty confident. Earlier in the season when he had a big points lead heading into the parade of miles on the schedule, he told me "I'm just going to survive these miles the best I can and then win Pomona". How close to that plan has he come? Aside from the Virginia Mega Mile where he broke, he has been right near the front scooping up as many points as he could. Brad has been the model of consistency this year and had it not been for his rules infraction in Daytona that robbed him of points, this wouldn't even be a nail biter going into the last round. Brad is 11 points into the lead and even if Bryan Smith were to have the "perfect day" which includes the main win, dash win and the bonus point for the most laps lead, Brad could finish 2nd and still take the title. As fast as Bryan is, I can't feel too comfortable picking him for the win at this half mile. The records are not in the favor of a brand other than a Harley winning this race!
While the big talk is about Brad Baker and Bryan Smith, Brandon Robinson is back by only 15 points and could still win this title. What a story that would be! One of the nicest and most approachable racers in the pits, Brandon suffered one of the more bone chilling crashes in our sport's recent memory and at one point, doctors were not totally sure he would talk again. Brandon rebounded last year on theWerner/Springsteen Kawasaki's with his first ever career podium and made the jump to the Burnett Farms/USC Kawasaki team and grabbed his first national win in Daytona. It's been one heck of a season since then, hitting its peak over the Springfield Labor Day weekend where he won both Springfield Miles. The only real dark spot in his season was missing the main at the Castle Rock TT. Brandon has never claimed to be a great TT racer, but if he could have made the main there and put a few points on the board, we'd have an even better championship battle. Right now Brandon still has a great shot at the title, but he is going to need to win and hope that Brad and Bryan really struggle.
Looking back through the field, the only battle inside the top 10 that is really close is the battle for the 4th spot. Current champion Jared Mees is holding it down, well, for now by 1 point over Henry Wiles. Hard to say who could win that battle as Henry Wiles is one heck of a racer at Pomona, though who knows if he is comfortable enough on his new equipment to go out there and get the job done. Jared is no slouch either and he is armed with a Kenny Tolbert tuned Harley Davidson which everybody knows are some of the best bikes you could ever hope to be on.
So now it's predictions time. I hate picking these things, but the reactions I get from the racers and teams are too priceless not to do it. Many good laughs have been had over my predictions and Brandon Robinson has even started a superstition based around how I think he'll finish. That being said, my top 5 is going to be a little wild. I'm taking Sammy Halbert for the win followed by Brad Baker, Jake Johnson, Henry Wilesand Brandon Robinson. Now this doesn't reflect at all who I WANT to finish in the top 5, just who I BELIEVE will be your top 5. I try very hard to be fair in the column but my heart is buried into the sport and I can't help but to pull a little more for one racer than another. This title is no different. If you want to know who I am personally pulling for to take the title, it's Bryan Smith. No disrespect to Brad or Brandon, but both of them are VERY young and will probably only progress from here. Bryan on the other hand, this year was the perfect storm for him. Lots of miles, few singles races, it played right into his wheel house. Bryan is still young by most standards and has a lot of years of racing left in him, but not like Brad and Brandon do. It would also be cool with Bryan having a sponsor like Crosley to see how they celebrated things. Maybe some limited edition radios? Something to think about! When you get back to reality though,Brad Baker is the obvious choice for your title winner, he has just been too strong week in and week out this year. The race isn't over yet, and I have a feeling we are going to have some fireworks in Pomona when all is said and done.
On the Pro Singles side of things, while we do have one heck of a points battle there also, we don't have the drama associated with the difference in motorcycles. Just like Harley's dominated the results sheets for the last 30 years, you're going to see 95% of the racers on Honda's. I can tell you this from experience, the difference between a Honda and the other brands is so minimal that most wouldn't even know the difference. People are going to call me really crazy with this statement, but the truth is, there is a better bike out there than the Honda, at least in certain conditions. Nevertheless there is a lot on the line for 2 racers, Ryan Wellsand Wyatt Maguire.
When you consider that the Pro Singles class was brought on as a major national series in 2009, the level that the class has risen to in that short time is amazing. The machinery needed to win is nearly at the Expert level, and the people who have left the class to go Expert have mostly found themselves with national numbers. Because of the provisional rule, some active Pro Singles riders are making Grand National Expert main events! The level of talent is that deep! Your 2009 class champion is the odds on favorite to be your 2013 Grand National Champion. Think about that one for a moment. Jeffrey Carver was your 2010 Champion and he won his first national this year, 2011 saw Mikey Martin take the Pro Singles title and now he is sitting on top of a Factory Triumph and has made multiple main events. The 2012 Champion, Stephen Vanderkuur decided to defend his title this year, but there is no doubt in my mind that he won't find success as an Expert too. This just goes to show you that winning the Pro Singles title is a pretty important thing.
While Wyatt Maguire has a 5 point lead going into Pomona he also has a big problem: a broken leg. He re-broke it in a crash at the Santa Rosa Mile 2 weeks ago in a crash during the main event which was cut short after he went down. This is the same leg that was broken in Peoria when he caught it against the berm in the right hander. Wyatt didn't go down in the crash in Peoria, but it did keep him out of the main event that day. With a lot of tape and one of my larger sized boots, Wyatt soldiered on the next week on the Indy Mile to bring home a 5th place which was crucial to his Championship run. In talking with him, Wyatt even said that the pain isn't as bad right now as it was in Indy, so perhaps it won't affect him as much in Pomona and he can do what he needs to do. The thing that Wyatt has on his side is a little race in Stockton California early in the season. Wyatt is coming to the table with a win to his credit, meaning that at this point, if there was a tie in points, his win would give him the tie breaker. However, if Ryan Wells breaks through for his first win in Pomona, Wyatt has to finish 2nd to capture the number 1 plate. Pretty much, Wyatt has to be ahead of Ryan at any cost. If he just can't make it happen, he needs to be right behind him. Don't you think that will keep the blood pumping for the racers and fans alike?
When you look at Ryan Wells' situation, I personally believe it is the better one to be in. Nothing to lose. Ryan is coming into Pomona healthy, with a good bike, and he doesn't have to worry about riding smart or using strategy. Ryan Wells can leave it all up on the table. He does have 5 points to make up, and if he and Wyatt aren't in the front pack, that is hard to do once the points drop back to just 1 point difference per position. I haven't been able to talk to Ryan going into this event, but from what I have been around him, he has the right attitude for this situation. Ryan is typically all smiles in the pits and seems to be more of a "take it as it comes" kind of racer. That kind of attitude can typically work into a racer's favor in a high stakes moment such as this. Where Wyatt Maguire is an all around rider, meaning that he is very equal in all of the disciplines of racing that we do in dirttrack, Ryan Wells has a certain strength on the cushion tracks and has a lot of experience on them. This is something else to watch for. We are going to have one heck of a final!
The wild card in the Pro Singles class is just that, the wild card. Stephen Vanderkuur, if he was able to get his bike repaired after it let go in Santa Rosa, or if he found another one to ride could be that card. He was last year's Pomona winner. Realistically Stephen still has a shot at this title, but only if he is your Pomona winner once again and Ryan Wells finishes 10th or worse and Wyatt Maguire is 15th or worse. That scenario isn't that grand for Stephen though because Ryan Wells has made every Pro Singles main event this year, the only other rider to do it besides Dominic Colindres. Ryan's worst finish is 10th. Wyatt's worst finish of the year is also a 10th place, but as mentioned above, he missed the Peoria main event. Stephen doesn't have to be good at math to see where he needs to be in Pomona, he just has to know that he must win for any chance at being the first 2 time Pro Singles champion.
The wild card talk can't end there as the Pro Singles class is a strange place. Many of the racers in the Pro Singles class don't have the budget to make it to every round, and being that Pomona is obviously on the West Coast, there will be many racers there that have the speed to win or at least podium the race that we haven't seen for a full season. These riders could really throw a wrench in the points standings when they are battling against our series regulars. Jacob Lehmann is just that sort of racer. Jacob made a splash last year by winning his first ever Pro Singles race at his home track in Castle Rock Washington but he has serious speed anywhere he goes. Nate Wait is another West Coast based rider who since his return to Pro racing this year can get in there and shake up things in the points. Our other series regulars could also break through and take up some important positions.
I think it's time for a Bronson Bauman win. I won't say that I have been disappointed with Bronson's results this year, but when he came to the line with the big red numbers this year, I really did think he was going to change the game. Bronson has been good, no doubt about it, but I really can't believe he has made it this far into the season without a win. Trust me, he has the talent to do it! Kyle Johnson, another rookie has already notched his first win and for a little while, you couldn't shake the kid off of the podium! A Michigan based rider, he is no stranger to a cushion half mile and he's armed with some very potent Johnny Olmstead tuned Kawasaki's. Rodney Spencer Jr. came through for a win this year and the multi-talented racer could also be right in the mix. Rodney cracks me up because he'll never really admit to having a strength in any of the disciplines, yet, no matter the style of track, he is near the front. Dominic Colindres needs to prove that he has what it takes to win Pomona, and trust me, he still has it. Sure, he is on much more of a privateer effort right now than he was early in the year, but his bikes are still strong he hasn't lost a bit of talent. JR Addisoncould break through for his first REAL win this weekend too. He was credited with the win in Santa Rosa because he won the fastest heat of the day and lined up 1st in the main event. However, he was awarded the same amount of points as the 18th person in the main event, 1, because of the main event being cancelled. However, a win is a win and AMA Pro Racing is crediting him with the win from Santa Rosa, I'm sure he wants to take a checkered flag and a victory lap though! He could do just that in Pomona. Last but certainly not least is the most popular racer in the Pro Singles class, Shayna Texter. Shayna typically dominates at super fast, smooth tracks, but in my opinion, this year she has proven to be a little bit more well rounded. Sure, she struggled at Daytona but still made both mains. Hagerstown didn't go as planned, but again, put it in the main. She only missed the Castle Rock TT main event and she will tell you that she is NOT a TT rider. She also elected not to race the Peoria TT. Other than that, she hasn't been outside of the top 5! A win in Pomona by the racing lady sure wouldn't be a surprise.
As you can see, even with the drama associated with the bike brand in the Expert Class, the Pro Singles class has just as much drama leading into the final round. I actually think it's the better type of drama too because it's about the racers and for many of them, their background that has brought them into this spot light. We have a gritty racer who is doing everything he can to stay on the bike, a racer who doesn't have a win but has been consistently scoring points at every round, wild cards who could break through, a racer who is making a big comeback into our sport and a female who not only isn't scared to race with the boys, but on certain days is on a whole other level than the boys. It's going to be one heck of a night at the LA County Fairplex!
Making picks for this one is not going to be an easy affair. I feel like I would be better off just drawing names out of a hat than to make a somewhat educated guess. However, this is my last pick of the year, so I have to go through with it. For the win, you know what, I'll take Bronson Bauman. Call it a long shot, but I'll take it. Bronson for the win followed by JR Addison, Stephen Vanderkuur, Wyatt Maguire andRyan Wells. I've typed it out now and I won't go back and edit it!
Don't forget, if you can't make it to Pomona, never fear. AMA Pro Racing will have their live timing going as well as living streaming video from the event. From 2:30p.m. Pacific time until the main goes off at 9:40p.m., you can listen to the live race call and pick from a few different camera views to catch all of the action. It's not a bad way to watch and listen to the race when you can't make it there! The live coverage can be found at www.amaprolive.com
Well folks, it's that time of year again. In fact, it may just be JD Beach's favorite time of the year....INDOOR TIME! Steve Nace Racing Promotions released their indoor schedule for the 2013/2014 season and we are going to be moving around this year. Sure, we are coming back to DuQuoin Illinois, but the series will also make a stop in Springfield Illinois on November 16th and then Sturgis Kentucky on December 14th. We haven't been to either of those tracks in several years! The Springfield races are held in the Coliseum which is outside of turn 1 at the mile. The series kicks off in DuQuoin Illinois on October 26th, so it's coming up very soon. Don't forget to bring your Halloween costume to the track, because there will be a Halloween party after the open practice on Friday night! For more information, check outwww.stevenaceracing.com
Well, that is all I have for the week. I sure hope that you are as revved up as I am for this final round in Pomona. Race and Championship interviews may be delayed a bit as I will be working in Florida over the week and may not be able to get in touch with the racers after I'm done for the day. However, I will get their words as soon as possible for you guys. Thanks so much for reading and we'll have some new champions this time next week! Have a great weekend!
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