KENNEDY: AMA Flat Track Finale At Pomona
LOS ANGELES — AMA Pro Flat Track Racing returned to the spacious LA County Fairplex “big” half-mile smooth dirt track Oct. 13 for the 2012 championship finals. It was round 16 of the touring series that featured races at 13 tracks in 10 states.
The season started in March at the Daytona Beach, Fla., short dirt track. Some of the tracks host USAC or World of Outlaws sprint car races annually. California tracks were the Sacramento mile, Santa Rosa mile and Pomona half-mile. Tucson’s ex-USA Raceway three-eighths mile hosted a race Oct. 6.
Nine riders won the Expert Grand National 2012 main events. Sammy Halbert led with four wins. Others were Henry Wiles (three), Bryan Smith and Kenny Coolbeth (two each). Single victories went to Jared Mees, Matt Weidman, Willie McCoy, Johnny Lewis and Steven Bonsey.
The AMA GN Championship (Expert) Series has 55 assigned official numbers. Thirty of the 55 eligible riders from around the USA competed at Pomona. Harley-Davidson had 16 cycles, Kawasaki six, Suzuki three, KTM, BMW, Ducati, Triumph and Buell one each.
The AMA Pro Singles Series support class for younger riders also had 30 riders at Pomona. That series also raced at the same 16 AMA National events and had 10 different feature winners. Stephen Vandenkuur, Shayna Texter and Gerit Callies all won three times. Seven riders each won once. The most common cycle was a Honda CRF450R and 21 of the 30 bikes at Pomona were that model.
The AMA Pomona National promoters were Chris Morgan and Charlie Frank of TAG Activation Group. The combined GNC and Pro Singles championship purse was $44,000, including sanction fee and point fund money. The Expert main event awarded $33,450 (76%) for the 18 riders in it. The first three finishers earned $6,000, $4,100 and $2,850 respectively and 18th (last) paid $1,000. The two Expert semi-mains paid $525 each ($1,050 total). P. 4 paid $170 and P. 18 paid $100. The GN Expert Dash for Cash (for P 1-2 finishers in three 10 rider, 10-lap heat races) paid $2,500. The dash winner received $1,000, with the drop-off per position $500, $350, $300, $250, and $100. The 18 rider field in the Pro Singles support main event raced for $4,000. The first three finishers received $1,000, $500 and $350 and 18th paid $100.
The Pomona covered grandstand seats 10,000 for thoroughbred horse racing and it appeared the AMA National attracted about 8,000 on a shirt-sleeve evening.
Pomona had an open paddock (pit) for spectators from 5:45 top 6:45 and it was crowded with fans talking to riders and collecting autographs on photo cards. Another feature was an autograph session with retired “Legends of Flat Track” from various decades. They sat behind tables on the grandstand side of the track and talked to an orderly line of fans who brought posters, photos and t-shirts for autographs. The 25 legends present were Jim Berry, Terry Dorsch, Don Emde, Jimmy Filice, Broc Glover, Dave Hansen, John Hately, tom Horton, Ronnie Jones, John Kocinski, Keith Mashburn, Vince Mead, Rob Morrison, Eddie Mulder, Jody Nicholas, Sonny Nutter, Preston Petty, Jim Rice, Sammy Tanner, Nick Theroux, Skip Van Leeuwen, C. H. Wheat, Ralph White, Tom White and Eddie Wirth.
Wheel-to-wheel, elbow-to-elbow racing at speeds up to 130 mph on the long straights before braking for the tight turns is the norm at Pomona. The first AMA race in Pomona was in 1991 and Kevin Atherton won. The next five years had three winners — Scott Parker, Ricky Graham and Will Davis. There were no AMA Pomona races from 1997-2008 for lack of a promoter. In 2009, Henry Wiles won when AMA returned to Pomona. AMA did not race at Pomona in 2010. In 2011, Jake Johnson won the return to Pomona en route to earning his second consecutive No. 1 plate.
Three personable AMA female riders raced at Pomona. Nicole Cheza, 25, is a four-year AMA pro racer from Clio, Mich. She rode a pink No. 15 Harley-Davidson in the GN Expert class, but dropped out of heat one with an engine problem. She finished seventh in a main earlier this season. The 5’1”, 125-pound muscular rider is a former gymnast and barrel-racer. .
Shayna Texter, 21, is a five-year veteran from Pennsylvania who has three support division Pro Singles feature wins this season — at the Sacramento mile, Knoxville (Iowa) half and Tucson a week before Pomona. The 5’0”, 95 pound blond is the daughter of late AMA racer Randy Texter; her brother Cory, 25, is a GN Expert.
Danielle Caldeira, a 21-year old from Salinas, Calif., raced her yellow No. 26y Suzuki RMZ450 in the second of two Pro Single heats. The rookie has raced most of her life on smaller cycles and was in her fourth Pro race.
The AMA national champion designation started 58 years ago in 1954. The first national champion was Joe Leonard, of San Jose, on his No. 98 H-D. He later became a prominent Indy Car and Indianapolis 500 driver.
There have been 25 different champions and 14 of them have won more than one GNC. Michigan’s Scott Parker leads with nine and Chris Carr has seven. Harley-Davidson has won 47 of the 58 manufacturer titles.