X Games Flat Track: Sammy Halbert Strikes Gold in Minneapolis

Halbert shows up the Indian Wrecking Crew to take his first X Games win.

X Games Flat Track 2017
The start gate at X Games is something American Flat Track regulars don’t see everyday.Photo: Andrea Wilson

With a break in the busy American Flat Track schedule, the sport's stars headed to the Minneapolis, Minnesota for the biggest stage in extreme sports – the X Games. Although it was Indian Motorcycle's home turf, Sammy Halbert stole the show on his Estenson Racing Harley-Davidson XR750 and took Gold in the 3rd Annual Harley-Davidson Flat Track race.

Halbert hit the ground running on the short track built in the parking lot outside of the Mall of America. He led practice, qualifying and won his Heat. So it was safe bet to say that it would be Halbert’s night. But Indian Motorcycle/Rogers Racing’s Jared Mees had other ideas. The four-time Grand National Champion took the hole shot and led the race early. In the end, Halbert was not to be denied the win, something he had come so close to many times this year in American Flat Track, but fell short; usually to Mees.

X Games Flat Track 2017
Sammy Halbert was perfect at this year’s X Games Harley-Davidson Flat Track race.Photo: Andrea Wilson

Although the XR750 may have some years on it, it’s still a formidable weapon on a slick track. And Halbert used its strengths and his experience to his advantage.

“Right from when we unloaded, the Estenson Racing bike was so good,” Halbert said. “All I had to do was just nurse it around them corners, hit my marks and then gas it down the straights. Eventually I was able to roll up along the outside of him (Mees) in the middle of the turn and then square him up and get underneath coming off and take the lead. I wasn’t going to give it back.”

X Games Flat Track 2017
American Flat Track’s NBCSN color commentator Larry Pegram traded the booth for the race track at the X Games.Photo: Andrea Wilson

Privateer Jeffrey Carver, Jr. on the Carver’s BBQ Harley-Davidson XR750 carried his momentum in American Flat Track to the X Games and impressed many with a silver-medal performance. Unfortunately for Carver, all that hard work went pear-shaped with a flat front tire and the Illinois native had to limp his bike across the finish line in fourth.

That promoted Mees and Indian Motorcycle Racing backed by All State’s Brad Baker to second and third, respectively. Both Indian riders felt bad for Carver’s bad luck, but perhaps no one more than Mees who saw his X Games gold slip through his fingers at the inaugural race in Austin, Texas in 2015.

“I got a good start and was just kind of like holding my own and honestly was a third-place guy tonight,” Mees said. “It’s unfortunate what happened to Jeffrey Carver. He was silver all the way and we were bronze. He had some unfortunately luck. I had the same thing happen when I was leading it. I could feel his pain.”

X Games Flat Track 2017
Pegram’s fellow dirt track turned road racer James Rispoli took a break from the British Superbike Series to race flat track.Photo: Andrea Wilson

As for Baker, he had a split-second thought of easing up to allow Carver the position until his racer instincts kicked in.

“I feel incredibly bad for Jeff (Carver),” Baker said. “To get a flat front tire out of all things, and on the last lap to miss out on a podium spot, it’s just terrible for him. When I was coming up on him, I barely got by. I was just like, ‘I don’t deserve this. He does. Should I shut off?’ But I had people breathing down my neck. Nobody else would do that for me. I turned around and went and talked to him. We’ve all been there, done that. It’s part of the deal.”

X Games Flat Track 2017
Brandon Robinson (44) and Ryan Wells (94) get ready to lay down some quick times in practice.Photo: Andrea Wilson
X Games Flat Track 2017
2015 X Games winner/defending Grand National Champion Bryan Smith searches for the right set up.Photo: Andrea Wilson
X Games Flat Track 2017
Jeffrey Carver, Jr. was on it at the X Games and had a sure Silver medal before a technical issue.Photo: Andrea Wilson
X Games Flat Track 2017
Halbert (69) dominated his Heat race.Photo: Andrea Wilson
X Games Flat Track 2017
While Halbert looked to be the man to beat, Brad Baker (6) was right on his heels most of the event. Baker also won his Heat race, but an error on the start in the Main put him out of contention.Photo: Andrea Wilson
X Games Flat Track 2017
Whoa Nelly… Davis Fisher (67) with the save! Fisher managed to avoid collecting Jarod Vanderkooi but later went down in the next corner.Photo: Andrea Wilson
X Games Flat Track 2017
Jared Mees (9) got off to a good start in the Main, but Halbert (69) was unbeatable Thursday night.Photo: Andrea Wilson
X Games Flat Track 2017
It may not be the Grand National Championship, but every athlete loves scoring that X Games Gold.Photo: Andrea Wilson