AMA Pro Vance & Hines XR1200 Series Recap
While few expected anything other than the AMA Pro Vance & Hines XR1200 Series Championship shootout coming down to the last corner of the last lap on the 2012 season, no one saw this result coming.
What had been scheduled as a nine-lap final, was reduced to what was effectively a winner-take-all five lap dash for $25,000 between title rivals Michael Barnes and Tyler O'Hara when Ray Delaney crashed and brought out the red flag at mid-distance.
KLR Group/Spyke's/Vesrah runner Barnes and Bartel's Harley-Davidson's O'Hara immediately put themselves into a one-on-one duel at the front again following the restart, setting the stage for an epic conclusion to the XR Showdown.
With just two points separating the two in the title fight, whichever man beat the other to the checkered flag was destined to be named the champion... or so it seemed.
Barnes ran in front the bulk of the contest, but O'Hara pressured him heavily on the final lap, diving past on more than one occasion only to see the experienced Barnes' retaliate with a counterattack.
The two drove onto the final straight in the last desperate drive to the stripe nearly side-by-side. However, O'Hara then shocked officials, competitors, and spectators alike when he reached over and grabbed onto Barnes upper arm, and seemingly robbed his rival of momentum while aiding his own.
The maneuver worked -- on track anyway -- as O'Hara sailed past for the apparent victory. However, the move was immediately deemed illegal and Barnes was credited with the victory and his first-career individual AMA Pro title in more than two decades of trying.
The title did not come easily. Barnes raced for three teams throughout the season, finally finding a home when he hooked up with Kyle Wyman's KLR Group/Spyke's/Vesrah outfit.
Barnes said, "There was a lot of pressure going into this last one, and I felt I had a little edge throughout all the sessions this weekend on Tyler. But you can never count that guy out, especially on the last lap, last turn. He made a little mistake and went into Turn 3 wide (on the last lap) and I had a good five or six bike-length gap that he slowly reeled in. He didn't get me in 13 so I pretty much thought I had it right there. But I saw him come up the inside and I matched him coming off the last corner. He grabbed my arm and did the old dirt track pass maneuver on me.
"I just started flipping out in my head because I knew it was wrong. I felt that with him coming on the inside, I had the drive on the outside with the higher line, carrying more speed. I'm sorry that he decided to do that because it affected him gravely in this race.
"But aside from that, I'm just so stoked that I won this championship and this race. I can't say enough for Kyle Wyman in giving me this opportunity and this bike -- something equal to his... I'm proud to be on this team and I'm glad to have the support from everybody. I can't say thanks enough to everybody that helped me get here. It's been a long, long fight to get a singles championship. I'm pretty proud of it."
The race concluded with a checkered red flag due to an incident in the fight for the podium behind Barnes and O'Hara. O'Hara was dropped to the final man on the lead lap, leaving him 11th in the race and dropping him down to third in the final XR Showdown standings.
In his defense, O'Hara explained, "Barney was coming over and I just had to let him know I was there. I grabbed him with my arm and that was it."
Besides the primary beneficiary of O'Hara's penalty was Suburban Harley-Davidson's Benny Carlson. Carlson was elevated from fourth to third in the race, and third to second in the Showdown.
Carlson was involved in the fight for third (which became second), but decided to sit back and wait for the pieces to fall into place when he saw Teterboro Rams' Shane Narbonne and Rossiter's Harley-Davidson's Michael Corbino clash multiple times on the final lap.
Corbino ultimately crashed out due to contact in the battle, bringing out the red flag, while NJMP winner Narbonne took second.
Narbonne said, "The race was pretty good. The first start I was like sixth, which was right where I wanted to be. Once the red flag came out, I just prepared for another good start. The second start I was right with the guys and it was a battle to the end. With two laps to go they started pulling away a little bit and I reeled them back in. Me and Corbino went bar-to-bar and we got tangled up. I hope he's all right. Carlson came in on the last turn and we were side-by-side and I had the advantage and just took it home from there."
"I realized I was eight points down so I really wanted to win, but I wasn't willing to thrown it down and possibly lose a top-two spot throughout the deal," Carlson said. "We ran good. I got great starts. I felt good, the bike felt good. I just rode a little bit tight. Shane and Corbino kind of handled me there a little bit. I couldn't believe what I was seeing. I could have sworn Shane was up on the curb when he cleaned out Corbino. I was just thinking to make sure I got through it because they hit twice prior -- they had banged bars and almost went down. I wanted to chill back there because I thought they were going to take each other out and sure enough one of them went down. We ended third and with the incident with O'Hara, I guess hitting 'Barney's' arm, it was a good result to end the year and we finished second in the championship. From a 13th place finisher at Daytona to second in the championship, I can say enough for Suburban Harley-Davidson and all my sponsors."
Corbino was credited with fourth while Ruthless Racing's David Estok completed the top five.
Long-time AMA Pro star Jake Holden impressed by claiming pole on the MOB Racing Harley-Davidson, but crashed on the opening lap of the race.
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