Mees Victorious in Historic AFT SuperTwins Opener
Whale and Varnes also winners of the thrilling Volusia Half-Mile I presented by
Russ Brown Motorcycle Attorneys.
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (July 17, 2020) – Jared Mees (No. 9 Indian Motorcycle/Progressive Insurance FTR750) etched his name in the American Flat Track record books yet again, scoring a signature victory in the first-ever Main Event of the AFT SuperTwins presented by Vance & Hines era in Friday evening’s Volusia Half-Mile I presented by Russ Brown Motorcycle Attorneys.
It was a dream result for Mees at Volusia Speedway Park in Barberville, Florida, after previously translating season-opening wins in Florida into Grand National Championships in both 2017 and 2018.
The race’s decisive action took place in the opening minute. Mees and Jeffrey Carver Jr. (No. 23 Happy Trails Racing FTR750) clashed over the lead early, with Carver falling in an incident that brought out the red flag. Mees simply powered away at the restart and dominated from that point on. He controlled the race from the front while keeping an eye on the clock as the premier class broke in its new 12-minute + two lap Main Event format.
“It was pretty solid,” Mees said. “Me and Carver came together and the track was so slick, we tapped a little bit and he went down, unfortunately. Off the restart, I just ran my own race. The bike was so phenomenal; we made a few clicks just before the race and it paid off huge for us.”
The scrap for the remainder of the podium was considerably less predictable. Halbert jumped from fourth to second at the restart, with Brandon Robinson (No. 44 HCRR Racing/Ben Evans Racing Indian FTR750), Briar Bauman (No. 1 Indian Motorcycle/Progressive Insurance FTR750), Brandon Price (No. 92 Roof Systems of Dallas, Texas Indian FTR750), and Bronson Bauman (No. 37 Indian Motorcycle/Progressive Insurance FTR750) in close contention.
Reigning AFT SuperTwins Champion Briar Bauman ducked up the inside of Robinson at half-distance to take control of third. Robinson was then immediately pounced on by both Price and the second Bauman as well. Robinson managed to counter and reclaim fourth in short order, but the rapid string of overtakes allowed Halbert and Briar Bauman to shake free of what had been a five-rider pack to that point.
Halbert appeared in line for a runner-up result, only to have it stolen away from him on the final lap. Bauman slashed by up the inside with just a corner remaining to the checkered flag to minimize the damage done by Mees’ triumph.
The race result was just the first of 18 destined to determine the 2020 AFT SuperTwins Championship, but it was an important one nonetheless for Mees after surrendering the title to Bauman last season.
“I had some momentum at the end of the year,” Mees said. “I knew going into Minnesota last year, the #1 plate was probably coming off because Briar rode so well. He deserved it. The best man won. But I was hungry through the offseason and I want it back.”
Bronson Bauman ultimately edged Price and Robinson to take fourth as Indian FTR750s swept the top six positions.
Seventh, however, went to the talented rookie Dalton Gauthier (No. 79 Harley-Davidson/Vance & Hines XG750R Rev X), whose impressive AFT SuperTwins debut hinted at even stronger results in the near future.
He was followed by factory H-D teammate Jarod Vanderkooi (No. 20 Harley-Davidson/Vance & Hines XG750R Rev X), with Davis Fisher (No. 67 BriggsAuto.com Indian FTR750) and JD Beach (No. 95 Estenson Racing Yamaha MT-07 DT) rounding out the top ten.
AFT Singles presented by Russ Brown Motorcycle Attorneys
Rising star Max Whale (No. 18 Coondoo Cattle Co./Australian Road Services Kawasaki KX450F) came away with the first victory of his American Flat Track career following a tense multi-rider shootout in 2020’s AFT Singles presented by Russ Brown Motorcycle Attorneys opener.
The Australian ace established himself as the race favorite heading into the Main Event, but he had to work for it after getting a less-than-perfect start. That forced him to muscle his way past some of the sport’s most experienced riders, which he accomplished with seeming ease while still early in the race.
Whale never relinquished the lead once he had seized it. However, he still felt the pressure applied from close behind throughout, only eeking out a small gap in the contest’s final stages. Prior to his late escape, the battle for the win was a six-rider affair, with three former premier class standouts all looking to unlock a way past Whale and the win.
“I don’t think I could have got any better of a start to the year than this,” Whale said. “I’m pumped — I can’t believe it. I had a bit of an ordinary start and came from about fourth or fifth. It felt like that race went forever! I could just feel the boys breathing down my neck the whole time. I just tried to keep smooth, consistent laps. I knew if I made one mistake, I would be buried in the pack.”
Chad Cose (No. 49 Wally Brown Racing/American Suzuki RM-Z450) ultimately finished second, taking the checkers just over a second off the win. He was followed home by Henry Wiles (No. 17 RMR Honda/Honda Talon CRF450R), who kicked off his AFT Singles career with a promising podium debut.
2019 series runner-up Mikey Rush (No. 14 Estenson Racing Yamaha YZ450F) narrowly held on for fourth after swapping the position back and forth with Tanner Dean (No. 38 1st Impressions Race Team Honda CRF450R).
A number of the sport’s brightest young talents followed just behind; Brandon Kitchen (No. 105 Donley Excavating/TCD Suspension KTM 450 SX-F), Trevor Brunner (No. 211 Demske Racing/KMA Racing Honda CRF450R), and James Ott (No. 19 Media Home Inc./Pro-Tech Systems KTM 450 SX-F) came home in sixth, seventh, and eighth, respectively, finishing just ahead of the class’ all-time winningest rider, Shayna Texter (No. 52 Red Bull KTM Factory Racing 450 SX-F), who opened her championship campaign in ninth.
AFT Production Twins
The AFT Production Twins class set the bar sky high for the 2020 American Flat Track season in the year’s very first Main Event. 2019 championship class runner-up Ryan Varnes (No. 68 RVR/RoyBuilt Don’s Kawasaki Ninja 650) scooped the win in hugely entertaining fashion, storming around the outside of race-long leader James Rispoli (No. 43 Latus Motors Racing Harley-Davidson XG750R) in the contest’s final corner to steal away the checkered flag.
Rispoli blasted off the line at the start, taking the holeshot and then opening an early advantage. The decorated roadracer then looked to run out the clock at the front in hopes of notching up his first national dirt track win in over a decade.
Varnes had his head down in pursuit throughout, reeling Rispoli into striking distance with just over a minute remaining on the timer. His first attempt to grab the advantage failed, however, as Rispoli foiled Varnes’ attempt to slide up the inside by holding firm on the line, the two making contact in the process.
Varnes lost ground in the melee but regrouped and set up his brilliant around-the-outside pass at the last possible opportunity with his rival anticipating another inside maneuver.
“There was a little contact,” Varnes admitted. “I figured I had to get aggressive out there in that Main Event. James rode a solid race the whole time and didn’t really leave any openings for me. I kind of just made my opportunity that one lap and he was able to hold me off and come back around. On that last lap, I had a run around the outside and thought, ‘I’m just going to go for it.’ I had to. I didn’t want to come in second, especially at the season opener. It was great. I can’t thank my team enough.”
Reigning AFT Production Twins champion Cory Texter (No. 1 G&G Racing/Roof Systems Yamaha MT-07) kicked off his title defense with a solid performance, rounding out the podium in third.
Texter tangled early with yet another multi-time national champion roadracer who’s returned to dirt track in Danny Eslick (No. 64 Scott Powersports/R&D Machine Kawasaki Ninja 650). After temporarily losing third to Eslick, Texter clawed his way back through and put in a mid-race charge to narrow the gap to the front, securing the final spot on the box in the process.
Eslick held on for fourth, just 0.152 seconds ahead of Ben Lowe (No. 25 Roof Systems of Dallas/Bruce Lowe Excavating Yamaha MT-07), with Nick Armstrong (No. 60 Lessley Brothers Racing, Competitive SheetMetal Yamaha MT-07) another 0.274 seconds back in sixth.
Catch the feature broadcasts of the Volusia Half-Mile I & Volusia Half-Mile II presented by Russ Brown Motorcycle Attorneys, which will air back-to-back on NBCSN on Thursday, July 23, starting at 11:30 p.m. ET/8:30 p.m. PT. The broadcasts will include exclusive features, cutting-edge aerial drone and onboard footage, and the expert commentary of AFT legend Chris Carr.
American Flat Track immediately returns to action to complete the season-opening doubleheader weekend at Volusia Speedway Park on Saturday evening. The race day will again be live-streamed via TrackPass on NBC Sports Gold. Opening practice is slated to get underway at 3:00 p.m. ET/12:00 p.m. PT, with the Main Event line-up kicking off following the Opening Ceremonies, which will begin at 8:00 p.m. ET/5:00 p.m. PT. Tickets are available at https://store.americanflattrack.com/ebooking/ticket/view/id/3137/.
Fans can keep up-to-date with American Flat Track on Facebook (@American Flat Track), Twitter (@AmericanFlatTrk) and Instagram (@AmericanFlatTrack). AFT mobile apps are available for iPhone on the App Store and for Android at Google Play. For more information on American Flat Track visit www.americanflattrack.com.
More, from a press release issued by Yamaha:
Beach and Rush Attack as 2020 American Flat Track Season Kicks Off
The Estenson Racing team rebounded to score some solid results Friday night at the American Flat Track season opener at Volusia Speedway Park in Barberville, Florida. During a long and at one point, red-flagged AFT SuperTwins Main Event, JD Beach rode strong to finish 10th, while teammate Kolby Carlile finished 15th. AFT Singles rider Mikey Rush started his tenure with the team just off the podium in fourth. Dallas Daniels put in a great effort all day, but had trouble in his Semi and did not make the transfer to the Main.
Hot weather and slick track conditions made for a challenging day at the series season opener. The team struggled in qualifying on both sides of the tent, but they put their heads together to make some gains. The AFT SuperTwins Main Event experienced a delayed start after some moisture was discovered on the back straight of the track during the sighting laps. When racing got underway, Beach got a decent start from the fourth row and was in 12th before the red flag came out. The field formed a staggered start and got back underway with the Kentucky rider comfortably in eighth. He held good lap times, but ultimately gave up a few spots to finish 10th when the checkered flag flew.
New to the class and the deep field, Carlile had his work cut out for him starting from the back row on a track that was very difficult to make a pass. He kept pressing on, and was eventually able to finish 15th for the night.
On the AFT Singles side of the tent, Rush found himself starting well from the second row aboard his Yamaha YZ450F and was in the thick of the battle with the lead pack. He made a final charge on the last lap, but was just 0.04 seconds behind third.
Unfortunately Daniels’ night ended early in the Semi. The 17-year-old got jammed up at the start and in trying to make his way forward went off the groove a couple times, and found himself just outside of that final transfer position.
The riders get another go on the Volusia Half-Mile on Saturday, July 18 for Round 2 of the season in Barberville, Florida.
Tommy Hayden – Estenson Racing Team Manager
“I am happy to get one race under our belt. To finally get on the track after a long off season and see where we’d end up. The results aren’t what we hoped for but at the end of the day we learned a lot. I do feel like we should be a little stronger tomorrow night. I like this doubleheader format for that reason. You get more of a chance to try some stuff and learn some stuff. We’ll see what we can do when we line up tomorrow.”
JD Beach – Estenson Racing AFT SuperTwins
“We started out the day struggling a little bit. We thought we had something good on Thursday during our test, but the track was different today. Wind and other factors changed things and I think we lost sight of our bike setup trying to chase the track. After the Semi, we went back to what we ran yesterday for the Main Event and it actually worked really well. The first 15-20 laps it worked really well. It was a good race for us, finding that set up. It was the longest race we had run – I think it was around 37 laps – so we learned a lot about the setup. I think we are starting off way better than last year. We will see what we can do tomorrow.”
Kolby Carlile – Estenson Racing AFT SuperTwins
“I learned a lot. The track changed a lot. This is the first time we were on a track with calcium, and it was different from what we had yesterday, so we were chasing that a lot. We hurt ourselves pretty bad in the Semi and didn’t set ourselves up at all for the Main with track position. We made some changes, but I got stuck behind a few riders and it was probably the toughest track to pass on all year. If I would have gotten by, I think I could have made up some time. We’ll have to work better not put ourselves at the back to start.”
Mikey Rush – Estenson Racing AFT Singles
“We struggled a little bit on setup earlier in the day, but made some great decisions before the Main Event. I didn’t get a great start, but overall a decent start from the second row. I felt like I made a lot of passes and I’m so glad the series went to a timed race versus laps. That helped me out a bunch. I tried to put in smooth laps throughout the race. It was tough to pass so I was happy to be one of the few riders to make some passes. I almost had third at the line but we’ll take fourth. We have such a great crew behind us, I know we can be up there.”
Dallas Daniels – Estenson Racing AFT Singles
“We started the day with a bad qualifying session. I had a good start in the Semi but ran into the back of a few guys. The changes we made took a few laps to get used to but then I made a silly mistake and fell back to 10th. I was coming back but then made the same mistake again. Not really much to say about today other than it was a bad day. I have an awesome team behind me so it’s nothing other than myself that needs to improve. I know last year there were guys that won championships that missed races so I know it can happen, but we made it really hard on ourselves. The glory of these new doubleheaders is that it gives us another chance to go after a podium tomorrow.”