Gettin' Sideways: AMA Pro Flat Track Calistoga Half-Mile

A Night To Remember in Napa Valley.

AMA Flac Track Calistoga Brad Baker action shot

AMA Pro Flat Track hasn’t raced at the Calistoga Half-Mile in Northern California’s beautiful Napa Valley for a few years. In fact, the last time the series visited this fast clay track was in 2011, and Jake Johnson was the winner. One of Johnson’s sponsors, Ramspur Winery, along with Specialty Fabrications, SDI Insulation, and a host of other companies, came together to make this event possible.

Saturday night’s 25-lap Expert Twins main event was certainly one to remember. The race was filled with crashes, disqualifications, and bar-banging action. I have been busy finishing up my last semester of college, so I was unable to attend this race, but I was glued to FansChoice.TV into the wee hours of the night.

Action on the track started slowly but heated up as quickly as the brake rotor on Kenny Coolbeth Jr.'s Zanotti Racing Harley-Davidson XR750. Here are some highlights from this wild event:

• Brad Baker claimed his first win of the season. As soon as he made the pass for second, I knew he was going to grab victory. After a subpar season (by his standards) on the factory Harley-Davidson, the champ looked determined, and once in the lead, he inched away from the field to win by 1.6 seconds. He is currently fifth overall in points.

Bryan Smith and Sammy Halbert race action shot

• The controversy of the night involved series points-leader Bryan Smith, who was running in the top five when his motorcycle began to smoke. I noticed a few puffs in the early laps, but I thought it was just dust kicked up by his steel shoe or back tire. Smith was shown the black flag multiple times, but he kept racing and worked his way into second at the checkers. He was later disqualified and credited with last. I am not sure what caused his Kawasaki to smoke, but performance was obviously not affected because Smith continued to pass his competition. Smoke was, however, clearly visible, and AMA Pro Flat Track officials had to make a call for safety. A blown engine could be devastating for a close-following pack of riders, so I understand why the call was made, but I am bummed to see a hard-working and deserving racer like Smith knocked out in the heat of a championship battle.

• After Smith’s DQ, early race leader Jared Mees was credited with second place. Mees now holds a 13-point lead in the championship standings. He didn’t look very excited on the podium. “It’s unfortunate,” Mees said. “Smith and I are good buddies. I know that wasn’t what he wanted to see tonight.”

• Jake Johnson was the first rider to pass Mees, but Baker overtook him a few laps later. Johnson got caught up with a lapper and lost a bunch of time, but he managed his seventh podium of the season with a third-place finish. Johnson is now three points behind Smith, who is second in the standings.

• Thanks to Specialty Fabrications, the Dash for Cash had an additional $5000 up for grabs. Sammy Halbert got the holeshot and took the win with Johnson a close second.

Jared Mees and Kenny Coolbeth Jr race action shot

• After a dominating heat race win, Kenny Coolbeth Jr. looked like the man to beat. But he got tangled up with Halbert at the start of the Dash for Cash and went down hard. Coolbeth raced the main event and finished fifth, but he appeared to be in pain. On his Facebook page, Coolbeth acknowledged that he spent the rest of the night in a hospital. “After the race, I was coughing up blood,” he wrote. “My hand is broken, and I have a severely bruised back.” That was a gutsy ride from a former champion.

• Speaking of injuries, Stevie Bonsey crashed in first practice and broke his collarbone. He plans to have surgery on Monday and race the last round at Pomona.

• The Pro Singles main event had its fair share of action, as well. After multiple red flags, Davis Fisher came through to claim his inaugural career victory in his first race back after an ugly crash at the Indy Mile. Jarod Vanderkooi closed on Fisher during the final laps, but he almost stepped off his motorcycle with a couple laps remaining. That was one of the best saves I have seen this season. Vanderkooi held on and finished second. Local rider Ryan Foster was third.

• Colt Chebultz made his first main event after finishing third in the second semi. At the checkers, the rider from Kansas was 16th.

• A few riders were transported to the hospital for observations. Jethro Halbert was involved in a crash during his heat race. Kyle Johnson and Molly Terry also went down hard at the start of the Pro Singles main event. According to a post made by her mother on Facebook, Terry suffered a concussion and is in ICU. No further details were available at press time.

• With Johnson unable to finish the race, the Pro Singles points standings tightened up. Johnson holds a six-point advantage over Fisher heading into the final round at Pomona. Ryan Wells, who was also involved in the first-lap crash that collected Johnson, is 10 points behind Fisher.

Pro Singles winner Davis Fisher Shot

• With their seasons officially complete, roadracing standouts Joe Roberts and Gage McAllister raced the Pro Singles class at Calistoga. They finished 11th and 12th, respectively, in the LCQ.

Next race: October 11, Round 16, LA County Fairplex, Pomona, California

Cory Texter is a third-generation motorcycle racer from Willow Street, Pennsylvania. He is currently national number 65 in the AMA Pro Flat Track Grand National Championship and has also held an AMA Pro Road Racing license. His father, Randy, was the 1990 AMA TwinSports champion, and his sister, Shayna, is the only female to win an AMA Pro Grand National Expert Singles race. Cory also co-hosts Flat Track Weekly Radio.