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.
Ryan Wells leads the GNC2 class heading into Charlotte with 141 points in the standings and he has been dominant all season long. Wells is being chased in the standings by Dalton Gauthier, who has accumulated just 102 points.
Gauthier, Jamison Minor, Tristan Avery and company will need to step up their games quickly if any one of the young riders wants to give Wells a real run for the GNC2 championship.
Event Entertainment Extravaganza
The CHDDA Charlotte Half-Mile will take place Saturday, July 30 at The Dirt Track at Charlotte which is located in the Charlotte Motor Speedway complex. As with every AMA Pro Flat Track event, the CHDDA Charlotte Half-Mile will feature a full night of racing by the world's fastest dirt track motorcycle racers in the premier Harley-Davidson GNC1 presented by Vance & Hines class and the rising stars of the sport in the GNC2 class. To complement the intense on-track racing action, fans will be treated to a wealth of off-track entertainment.
The party starts on Friday, July 29. The Carolina Harley-Davidson Dealers Association (CHDDA) will have demo rides available at The Dirt Track at Charlotte from 10 a.m. - 4 p.m., followed by a Kickoff Party at Motorcycles of Charlotte from 5 p.m. - 8 p.m.
Come early on Saturday, July 30, because there is plenty to do before bikes take to the track. Keeping the vibe alive for the weekend, the CHDDA will continue with demo rides from 10 a.m. - 4 p.m. The American Flat Tracker Clothing Co., a lifestyle brand debuting at the CHDDA Charlotte Half-Mile, will begin selling merchandise at 11 a.m. from multiple locations throughout the venue. At 2 p.m., gates to the grandstands, Fan Zone and Kids Zone open to provide the whole family with entertainment options, including a wide variety of vendor displays, food trucks, live music, stunt shows and much more.
Bikes will first take to the track for practice and qualifying at 3 p.m., giving fans their first glimpse of what's to come. With practice and qualifying wrapped up, opening ceremonies will set the stage for the night at 6:00 p.m., followed by Heat races at 6:30 p.m. The green flag will drop for the GNC2 main event at 8:40 p.m. and the GNC1 main event is slated for a 9:15 p.m. start time.
After the final checkered flag flies, fans are invited to join the stars of the sport at the official Charlotte Half-Mile After Party, hosted by Twin Peaks Restaurant in Concord, N.C.
For tickets (prices start at $29) and more information regarding the CHDDA Charlotte Half-Mile, fans are encouraged to visit http://www.charlottemotorspeedway.com/ama_pro_flat_track_charlotte_half_mile/.
Watch Live on FansChoice.tv
Fans that aren't able to make the trip to Charlotte this weekend are invited to follow all of the live action on FansChoice.tv which will broadcast the entire Charlotte Half-Mile in high definition at www.fanschoice.tv/watch-live/ama/flat-track.
Coverage will begin with practice and qualifying at 3:00 p.m. ET (1:00 p.m. PT). The Charlotte Half-Mile Pre-Race Show will take place at 5:00 p.m. ET (2:00 p.m. PT), followed by Opening Ceremonies at 6:00 p.m. ET (3:00 p.m. PT) and Heat Races immediately afterwards at 6:30 p.m. ET (3:30 p.m. PT). The GNC2 class will grid up for their Main Event at 8:40 p.m. ET (5:40 p.m. PT) followed by the 18 fastest flat track motorcycle racers in the world at 9:15 p.m. ET (6:15 p.m. PT).
For fans that would like to follow via social media, the official hashtag for the Charlotte Half-Mile is #CharlotteHM. Follow Charlotte Half-Mile on Twitter at @CLTHalfMile and Instagram at @charlottehalfmile.