LIMA — With a nickname like ‘Slammin,’ Sammy Halbert has a lot to live up to.
Halbert has been able to overcome numerous obstacles throughout his 10-year American Motorcycle Association career. Entering Saturday, Halbert was trying to become just the third three-peat winner of the Ohio Grand National Championship Lima Half-Mile at the Allen County Fairgrounds.
Chris Carr and Scotty Parker are the only other racers who were able to accomplish that feat.
“It would be really special (winning three years in a row),” Halbert said. “I definitely have high expectations after winning the past two years. It puts a little added pressure on. I’m looking to tie the record and then improve on that next year. I feel good about my chances.”
Halbert will have to wait an extra day, as the Ohio Grand National Championship was postponed Saturday because of rain. The races will be held tonight at the Allen County Fairgrounds.
Just like he did in 2012, Halbert is coming back from another serious injury.
“This season started off a little rough because I tore my ACL a couple weeks before the opener in Daytona,” Halbert said. “I missed the opening two rounds with the ACL surgery. I came back just 12 weeks after surgery and was able to win in Stockton, California. That was pretty cool to come back and win that since it still wasn’t 100 percent.”
In 2012, Halbert won a narrow race over Henry Wiles in Lima just one month after a serious accident.
“It was on Memorial Day weekend (2012) at the Springfield Mile, I was involved in a nasty crash,” Halbert said. “It was at the start of the race, I was on the outside second row, when two riders tangled in front of me. I tried to avoid them and somebody took me out from behind and crashed on top of me. I actually ran into an air fence and tore my right labrum.”
Winning in Lima last year after going through that was an accomplishment in itself.
“Last year was an awesome race,” Halbert said. “I pretty much had the race in the bag but then we had a restart with about five laps to go. I knew Henry was coming so I charged as hard as I could those last few laps. He was able to catch me but I was able to pass him in the last turn of the last lap to get the win.”
Halbert remembers just how tired he was after winning last year.
“It was a really special race,” Halbert said. “I rode my butt off and was totally exhausted after that race. I was just coming off an injury back then too, I hadn’t rode for like a month before then. I wasn’t in great racing shape but I rode as hard as I could.”
The 2009 AMA Pro Grand National champion always enjoys coming to Lima due to the unique track.
“This track is really special, we call it a cushion track,” Halbert said. “Most of the tracks we race on are clay and are hard based. The dirt all stays together on those but here we rooster tail out here and get sideways. It gives us a lot of challenges, you have a lot more bumps and you don’t have clear vision out of your helmet, it’s a challenge that I enjoy. I think it’s a rider’s track because the bike setup is so critical and you just have to ride like an animal.”