Courtesy of AMA Pro Racing / Chris Hinkle
AMA Pro Flat Track riders are feeling the pressure, and with just six rounds remaining in 2016, the stakes have never been higher. Championship hopefuls in both the premier Harley-Davidson GNC1 presented by Vance & Hines and GNC2 classes will need to be at their best this weekend when the green flag drops in Charlotte.
Last year’s Charlotte Half-Mile winner, Bryan Smith, pilot of the No. 42 Crosley Radio Kawasaki Ninja 650, heads into this year’s event with a 13-point lead in the GNC1 point standings. Smith ripped off three consecutive wins in the month of May and is well within striking distance of capturing his first GNC1 championship. The Michigan native finished fourth in the Round 8 contest at Lima, which was impressive considering his strength is typically reserved for Mile circuits. If Smith wants to earn his first championship, he’s going to need to continue to find success on the shorter courses, as only two of the remaining six races in 2016 are Miles.
Another hurdle that Smith is going to need to overcome goes by the name Jared Mees. X Games Gold Medalist Mees stole the X Games crown from Smith this year, and aims to recoup from last year’s mechanical issue at Charlotte to take the crown in North Carolina too. Mees is the reigning GNC1 champion and has won the ultimate title three of the last four years. Sitting just 13 points back of Smith in the standings, and entering Charlotte fresh off three-straight races where he finished second or better, Mees has proven that he’s more than capable of running Smith down and capturing his fourth GNC1 championship in the last half decade. The No. 1 Las Vegas Harley-Davidson XR750 pilot was poised to earn the Charlotte Half-Mile win a year ago before a bike malfunction on the last lap of the main event forced him from the race and gave Smith the victory.
Entering Charlotte third in the point standings is Sammy Halbert, who is changing teams mid-season and arrives at Charlotte as the rider of the No. 69 Wiebler’s Harley-Davidson. Halbert is coming off his worst performance of the season, 13th at the previous round in Lima and is aggressively looking to get back to the front this weekend. Replacing Halbert on the No. 23 BriggsAuto.com Harley-Davidson is Jeffrey Carver, Jr.
Brad Baker and Davis Fisher have been hit or miss for the Factory Harley-Davidson team this season. Baker recorded his third podium appearance at Lima last round with a third-place finish while his teammate failed to make the main event. Look for Baker riding the No. 6 Harley-Davidson XR750 and Fisher aboard the brand new No. 67 Harley-Davidson XG750R this Saturday. Brandon Robinson will enter the weekend at Charlotte coming off his first win of 2016 and his first win aboard the No. 44 Kennedy Racing Harley-Davidson XR750. Robinson sits fifth in the GNC1 point standings and will look to continue his momentum this Saturday.
Another big story is that the popular brother and sister team of Cory (No. 65) and Shayna Texter (No. 52) will be more than a family when they arrive at Charlotte, they are now teammates as well. Cory is joining Richie Morris Racing as a second rider, a move that will take the pressure off of Cory who has been running his own team all season and will allow him to focus on riding and developing the team’s in-house built chassis.