Sammy Halbert (below) announced he was organising his first race as a promoter, while continuing to race in American Flat Track. We caught up with him to find out about his Spring Fling, at Travelers Rest Speedway, South Carolina, on 8-10 April.
SIDEBURN: Is this the first race you've ever been involved with the promotion of? If so, why is now the right time?
Sammy Halbert: Yes it is, I've been interested for a while but haven't found the right opportunity until now. I've been friends with the track owners Eddie Ray and Jessica Patterson for a long time and finally the timing was good for us.
Quite a few of your peers are organising races, has that always been the case, that riders who are moving towards retirement start promoting, or is it because there's a gap in the market for more events?
I'm no historian but I can think of quite a few former racers who turned to promoting events. Gene Romero, Eddie Mulder, Mickey Fay are a few from the West Coast that come to mind. I think it can be a natural transition. As racers we have to manage a lot, so we already have most the connections and skills needed to step into this role.
Why did you choose that track, and what can you tell us about the track, Travelers Rest Speedway (above)?
One of the reasons I chose this track is because it's a nice big car track, right around the same time of year the AFT series will be racing those style of tracks. So for any teams looking to test themselves it will be a great opportunity, and for the amateurs to see how the pros do it, and race on the same track as some of the top riders in the sport.
Why is your date the ideal one?
It's three weekends after the Dallas AFT race and two weeks before the next AFT race in Missouri, so it gives teams time to regroup from the start of the season, have a chance to get some quality race testing in, make some money and still have a weekend off before the next AFT round.
What can you tell us about the programme and the classes?
We will run an open practice session Friday evening and then have a party to follow at a nearby restaurant / bar.
Saturday will be more of a spectator friendly 'Pro Show' with about ten classes total and Sunday we will have a full program for the Pros and Amateurs with 15 classes. Each day will have two classes for pro riders. Pro Singles for the single cylinder bikes and Open Pro for twins and singles. It's a 3/8 mile oval so it can be a toss up between twins and singles.
What's that area of the country like when it comes to attracting fans?
I was at the first flat track event they put on at this track in 2018 in the spring and the spectator parking lot was packed, it was wild, I was really surprised. They hold regular car races at this track and their fans have turned out to support the bikes in the past.
You have Mission foods and Roof Systems on board. Without those two companies it seems that US flat track might be struggling for sponsors at the moment, or is that too simplistic? Can you tell why you think they're such big supporters of dirt track?
In my experience flat track has always kind of been that way with a few major players supporting a lot of it. Right now we have more pro teams with salaries than when I turned pro in 2004. At the same time, yes if it wasn't for Roof Systems, Mission Foods and some of the other major players like Estenson and Vance & Hines things would be a lot harder.
What are you hoping to get out of the event?
My goal is to provide value by creating a great event for riders and spectators, while also providing value to the event sponsors and my personal sponsors.
Tell new fans about Jethro and the memorial race you have lined up.
My older brother Jethro passed away from a racing accident in 2015, after his passing I switched to his number 69 in his memory, and we're going to honour him at this event with The Jethro Halbert Memorial Dash for Cash and the winner will get a Jethro themed trophy along with the prize money donated by Roof Systems.
Is there one thing you think the Spring Fling can do better, or something new you are offering, compared to other races that are taking place this year?
I think the main thing for me is to use my efforts to improve upon the events they've had here in the past.
Jared and Nichole Mees are promoting the biggest races, out of the current crop of races turned promoters, can you see yourself promoting AFT/GNC races in the future?
I'm gonna start here and see if this is a path I want to continue on. Stay tuned!
The last time we saw you race, you had a heck of a crash (Sammy in mid-air, above), how are you recovering, physically and mentally?
It's been quite the journey for me, mentally and physically. I've definitely had to question if racing is worth it anymore and what I want to do going forward. I finally got out of my walking boot just a week ago so now I can finally ramp up the rehab and rebuilding process. I'm stoked for that and to be outside doing all the fun things I enjoy soon!
Do you have plans to race in 2022?
Yes, I will be changing it up, as much as I'd like to continue chasing the #1 plate, after that crash the scenario has changed for me, so I will be racing select AFT events in the premier class and other select events with a focus on having fun and creating content to promote my partners.
For more visit trspeedwaysc.com
Photos: Travelers Rest Speedway/ AFT