Lima Half-Mile victory at the Allen County Fairgrounds in Lima, Ohio, was the former Grand National Champion’s first of the 2015 AMA Pro Flat Track Season.
Baker crossed the finish line before all of his rival Harley-Davidson GNC1 presented by Vance & Hines competitors and has now finished inside the top five in three consecutive main events in the premier class.
Baker’s dominance on Sunday didn’t just come in the main event, as he checked out during his heat race and also earned the Dash for Cash victory. The Dryad, Wash., product now sits fourth in the Harley-Davidson GNC1 presented by Vance & Hines point standings and it’s looking more and more like he’s in his 2013 championship form.
Baker currently leads the Sunoco “Go the Distance Award” battle with 142.41 miles ridden so far in 2015. The $15,000 point fund will be disbursed to the riders that complete the furthest distance in their respective classes.
Kenny Coolbeth, Jr.’s luck was just the opposite of Baker’s. The No. 2 Zanotti Racing Harley-Davidson competitor never found his groove and suffered mechanical woes on Sunday, as he failed to qualify for the GNC1 main event. After opting to use his provisional start card to enter the main, Coolbeth was still unable to get it going and the three-time GNC1 champion settled for a 17th place finish.
Coolbeth dropped from first to third in the standings following his Lima Half-Mile effort, and the Morris, Conn., native will be looking for a bounce-back performance this weekend at the Du Quoin Mile.
“I go to every race to do the best I can,” said a disappointed Coolbeth. “Today was the best that I could do. Du Quoin is unique, it’s going to be tough there too, but we’ll be ready.”
Though he finished off the podium for only the second time in five rounds this season, Jared Mees left Ohio with the GNC1 points lead after finishing fourth in the main event aboard his No. 1 Las Vegas Harley-Davidson machine.
“It feels good to come away with the points lead, but I always like staying on the box,” said Mees. “I’m a little disappointed because I felt like we had a good chance of being there at the end of the race, but the lines really changed and Briar (Bauman) got me at the end. This track is hit or miss for me. Sometimes I come here and I’m fast and a threat to win and sometimes I come here and I’m average. Overall it was positive for us to come away with the points lead, though.”
After winning the Lima Half-Mile in 2011 and 2012, Sammy Halbert rode the No. 7 Briggs Auto Harley-Davidson to second place on Sunday to complete his best performance so far this season. Halbert has now landed inside the top ten in every main event in 2015, and his consistency has him sitting second in the points after five rounds.
Briar Bauman, pilot of the No. 14 Hart Racing Kawasaki, placed third at Lima for his best performance of 2015. The Salinas, Calif., native now sits seventh in the standings.
Jeffrey Carver was another young rider who impressed on Sunday, as he rode the No. 23 Don’s Kawasaki machine to fifth place at Lima and boosted himself into a tie for 10th in the standings.
Carver was the recipient of the MotoBatt Hard Charger Award, as he worked his way through the field after starting from 15th on the grid.
“I’m really happy with fifth,” said Carver. “After having to go to a semi, I just wanted to put it in the main and win the MotoBatt Hard Charger Award and that’s what I did. That was the goal, to get into the top six from starting on the third row. We did the same thing last round at Sacramento, when it was me, Coolbeth and Smith all tied for the award but Smith got up there and was able to win it. It was nice to have two weekends in a row being able to charge from the back and compete for the award.”
There wasn’t a rider who carried more momentum than Bryan Smith did entering the weekend. However, coming off two straight wins, Smith wasn’t quite able to match the speed of the other top riders on the pea-gravel surface and finished eighth at Lima. As a result, the No. 42 Crosley Radio Kawasaki pilot dropped to sixth in the standings.
No. 44 Latus Motorsports Triumph competitor Brandon Robinson finished ninth at Lima and now sits fifth in the standings.
After five rounds of action, No. 77 Parkinson Brother’s Racing Kawasaki rider Kyle Johnson leads No. 17F Don’s Kawasaki pilot Jarod Vanderkooi in the 2015 Saddlemen Rookie of the Year chase by a single point. The $5,000 year-end award will go to the eligible rookie rider who earns the most points in the Harley-Davidson GNC1 presented by Vance & Hines class.
Harley-Davidson GNC1 presented by Vance & Hines Lima Half-Mile top five results
1. Brad Baker (Harley-Davidson)
2. Sammy Halbert (Kawasaki)
3. Briar Bauman (Kawasaki)
4. Jared Mees (Harley-Davidson)
5. Jeffrey Carver Jr., (Kawasaki)
6. Henry Wiles (Harley-Davidson)
7. Robert Pearson (KTM)
8. Bryan Smith (Kawasaki)
9. Brandon Robinson (Triumph)
10. Stevie Bonsey (Harley-Davidson)
Harley-Davidson GNC1 presented by Vance & Hines top five in points after Round 5
1. Jared Mees (77)
2. Sammy Halbert (74)
3. Kenny Coolbeth (69)
4. Brad Baker (69)
5. Brandon Robinson (66)
6. Bryan Smith (63)
7. Briar Bauman (49)
8. Henry Wiles (42)
9. Robert Pearson (42)
10. Stevie Bonsey (41)