Jared Mees ends season on top at the Cycle Gear American Flat Track Finals presented by Indian Motorcycle
Brandon Price wins the battle, Kolby Carlile wins the war to take first AFT Singles title
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PERRIS, Calif. (October 7, 2017) – Grand National Champion Jared Mees put an exclamation point on his epic 2017 American Flat Track season with one last flawless performance at the Cycle Gear American Flat Track Finals presented by Indian Motorcycle.
In an AFT Twins presented by Vance & Hines Main Event that perfectly encapsulated the season as a whole, Mees once again made it apparent that he was simply in a class of his own. With a packed house at the SoCal State Fair cheering him on, Mees put the No. 9 Indian Motorcycle Rogers Racing Scout FTR750 at the front from the start and relentlessly built up an unassailable advantage from there.
Before easing up late as he sailed toward victory around the Perris Auto Speedway's clay Half-Mile, Mees had assembled more than three seconds of padding while the remainder of his would-be rivals waged battle over second in a freight train that stretched 10 riders deep.
The final numbers confirm that Mees' 2017 campaign was of historic excellence. His season finale win saw Mees establish the new single-season podium record, surpassing the previous mark held jointly by American Flat Track icons Scott Parker and Ricky Graham. Mees ended the year with 17 top threes in 18 attempts, but perhaps even more impressive than the sheer number was the manner in which those podiums were tallied; 10 came as victories, six were runner-ups, and just one was a third.
"I just had a phenomenal night," Mees said. "The Indian Motorcycle Scout was really good, like it's been all year long. It was a solid day to end a solid, solid year. I don't know what else to say -- it's fantastic… It was a record-breaking, career year for me. I'm happy to have the Indian Motorcycle guys on my side.
"I've got to thank my whole team. We opened the season with a win at Daytona and closed the year with a win here. I've got to give it all to the whole Indian Motorcycle team."
As Mees said, he was in fact joined in his celebration of domination by Indian Motorcycle. The Indian Wrecking Crew combined to earn 14 of 18 wins and locked down six podium sweeps.
The four victories beyond Mees' 10 were obtained by 2017 championship-runner up Bryan Smith. Additionally, Brad Baker held on to third place in the title fight to sweep the championship top three for Indian despite Baker missing the final two rounds due to injury.
Jeffrey Carver Jr. completed his storming late-season charge with an impressive second-place finish on Saturday night. Carver took full advantage when Briar Bauman attempted to overtake Johnny Lewis for the second deep into the race. Both Bauman and Lewis lost momentum as a result of their clash, and Carver was perfectly positioned to pick up the pieces.
Once through, Carver quickly separated from the pack and actually made up significant ground on the cruising Mees. That result ultimately allowed him to also edge Bauman for the final spot in the championship top five.
After the race, Carver said, "My XR750 was working great. It's great to be up here again and chase down the champ like that. We had a really good battle out there. It was really intense for me and Briar because we were only one point apart. We both knew we had to beat each other to get up into the top five. It feels amazing to get my first top five in the championship. We'll roll on with a lot of good momentum for next year."
The final spot on the box wasn't decided until the final corner of the final lap of the final race of the year. On an evening in which fellow superstar road racers Toni Elias and Hayden Gillim made their presence felt on the undercard, JD Beach shone the brightest of the trio.
Beach executed a last-gasp strike on Stevie Bonsey to steal away third as the two took the checkered flag.
Beach said, "I screwed up my start. I started in second. I took off and got nervous and shifted down to first and then back up to third. I was all over the place. Still, I was running in sixth and thought that wasn't too bad for my first national in a while. Then the guys got to battling, and I was fifth and then I was fourth, and Bonsey was right there in the last turn for third. I felt bad, but the door was open and I just had to go for it."
Although Bonsey came just shy of the podium, it was a good result for the Californian who made his big return to American Flat Track after being sidelined for nearly a year and a half with injury.
Sammy Halbert finished fifth to score his 12th top five of the year and secure his fourth-ranked standing in the championship.
Similar to Mees in AFT Twins action, Kolby Carlile came through with a performance that neatly summed up his season as a whole.
Reliably fast, supremely consistent, and clutch to the end, Carlile notched up an eighth podium finish of 2017 in the season finale to put the finishing touches on his successful 2017 AFT Singles championship bid.
Despite coming into the finale with a healthy points lead, Carlile took a bit of a chance by wheeling out an all-new 2018 Yamaha YZ450F for the event. He promptly guided it to a maiden third-place result and then dressed it with a new number one plate.
While Carlile came up a bit short in his efforts to take the checkered flag in any of the AFT Singles Main Events this season, he won the ultimate prize that he and all of his rivals chased after all year long.
"This isn't going to sink in for a while," an emotional Carlile said. "This is really special. Other riders have won the championship without winning a race in the past too, and the cards didn't come up right for me to get a win this year. But I'm going to win next year, that's for sure."
The race itself went to Brandon Price. Price suffered off the stripe but kept his head and systematically worked his way up through the field. With just a few laps remaining, Price finally overtook a motivated Ben Lowe (No. 20 Bruce Lowe Excavating Honda CRF450R) for the lead.
Price proved untouchable once in first and locked down his third victory of the season. That moved him ahead of Saturday fifth-place finisher Shayna Texter to end the season as the AFT Singles championship runner-up.
Price said, "It was a crazy race. I came off the line like sixth and really had to work for it. Every couple laps I'd pick up somebody and make a pass. I rode a smart, clean race."
Flat Track’s best head to Southern California for the Cycle Gear American Flat Track Finals presented by Indian Motorcycle
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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (October 4, 2017) – After a three-year absence, American Flat Track returns to Southern California to cap off an action-packed 2017 season at the Cycle Gear American Flat Track Finals presented by Indian Motorcycle in Perris, Calif. on October 7.
With the last race of the year up for grabs, 2017 AFT Twins presented by Vance & Hines Champion Jared Mees looks to add to his already landmark season with win number 10. There’s no resting on his laurels for the newly-crowned champ. Mees wants to end the season how he started it – standing on the top step of the box for Indian Motorcycle.
“It’s been a great season,” Mees said. “I’m looking forward to the last race of the year in Perris and hoping to finish out strong.”
You don't have to look far for another rider looking for a “W;” just across the tent to fellow Indian Wrecking Crew rider Bryan Smith. Mees’ rival has the most wins of any other rider at four, but it’s been awhile since the 2016 champ has won and Smith wants the last word in 2017.
Completing the Indian Wrecking Crew is Jarod Vanderkooi. With permission from his RMR team and sponsors, the young Vanderkooi got the opportunity to ride the factory Indian Scout FTR750 while full-time rider Brad Baker is on the mend from a training injury.
The rider with momentum on his side is Jeffrey Carver Jr. Carver made a big statement at the penultimate round in Texas, taking a dominant win over Mees and scoring the first win of the year for Harley-Davidson.
Lying in wait to close out the season with another win for Harley-Davidson is the factory trio of Kenny Coolbeth, Jr., Brandon Robinson and Jake Johnson.
Getting one last chance to take a win this year is Sammy Halbert. The season finale could very well play host to another Halbert vs. Mees fight for the finish, and Halbert would like to find redemption for some of those narrow losses and bring Yamaha a win.
There’s another challenger looking to win one for Yamaha in their back yard – JD Beach. Now that it’s the offseason, the 2015 MotoAmerica Supersport Champion is strapping on a steel shoe and returning to his flat track roots to race a Twin for the first time since 2013.
Returning for another shot at the top step of the podium is Johnny Lewis. At the previous outing, Lewis not only made history as the first rider to race a customer Indian FTR750 in American Flat Track competition, he put it on the box.
Meanwhile in the AFT Singles class it’s a fight to the finish for the crown. Kolby Carlile is in the driver’s seat with a 24-point lead over Shayna Texter. The “Flying Tomato” needs just two points to be named 2017 AFT Singles Champion and in spite of the pressure, Carlile is focused on getting the job done.
“Going into the weekend, I know it is a huge one for my career, but I don't feel any added pressure,” Carlile said. “I'm going into it like I would any other race and I’m going to push hard for the race win. Luckily my strategy throughout the season has paid off so far and we will see what happens come Saturday night. I've had so many changes in my program this year I am grateful to be where I am right now with the Estenson Racing Team.”
As for Texter, her strategy is simple – she has to win: “My goal is same as it is at every other race and that's to go out and get on top of the box.”
Although he’s mathematically out of the running, Brandon Price wants to end the season on a high note to make up for the tough weekend in Texas.
As in the Twins class, there are road racers coming out of the woodwork for the finale. Returning for one last go in 2017 is Hayden Gillim. So far, Gillim is undefeated this season in his part-time American Flat Track ventures, scoring a pair of wins on the TT tracks. The “Man in a Van with a Plan” would like nothing more than to steal the show once again at the finals.
Making his debut in American Flat Track is fellow road racer and Yoshimura Suzuki rider – Toni Elias. The 2010 Moto 2 World Champion/2017 MotoAmerica Superbike Champion turned heads at last year’s Superprestigio, finishing second behind five-time World Champion Marc Marquez and ahead of 2013 American Flat Track premier-class champion Brad Baker. It will be a learning curve for the Spaniard on a bigger track and on a different surface, but Elias is very much looking forward to the challenge.
American Flat Track makes its long-awaited return to the Keystone State for the Harley-Davidson Williams Grove Half-Mile
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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (September 6, 2017) – Following a near quarter-century absence, American Flat Track returns to Mechanicsburg, Pa. for the Harley-Davidson Williams Grove Half-Mile on Saturday, September 9.
It not only marks a long-awaited return to the Keystone State – one of the sport’s biggest hotbeds for talent – but also has the potential to serve as an early coronation.
With only Larry Pegram's victory at Williams Grove Speedway back in 1994 to go by, there is effectively no recent history at the venue to point to in hopes of predicting this weekend's AFT Twins. As such, there should be no overlooking Harley-Davidson's talented trio, Kenny Coolbeth, Jr., Brandon Robinson and Jake Johnson.
Veteran Coolbeth actually raced in the series' only previous trip to Williams Grove Speedway in 1994, and calls upon a wealth of experience that has carried him to 23 Half-Mile victories over the years. But both Robinson and Johnson are further spurred on by the rare opportunity to race in front of their home-state fans. Especially Robinson, who was born an hour away from the Half-Mile clay track.
“I've never had a National so close to home before,” Robinson said. “So I'm really looking forward to racing in front of my home crowd to try and put in a solid result for H-D and myself.”
That said, there is an overwhelming amount of recent history compiled this season that suggests Jared Mees will be mighty tough to beat.
The Pennsylvania native rolls into Mechanicsburg in position to lock down his fourth overall championship in the premier class in front of the home crowd. The surging Mees has won more than half of the races this season (eight of 15) – including the last three Half-Miles in succession. One more victory this weekend would increase his championship advantage to an unassailable 52 points, erasing any mathematical possibility of another rider topping him over the season's final two events.
“All I need to do is go there and win the race. A lot easier said than done, right?” Mees said about clinching the championship early. “I’m going to have a lot of family and friends there that are going to come out and watch. It’s only an hour from my home, where I was born and raised. Under the circumstances that I’m under I think it’ll be a great moment if I can go out there and capture the win. That’s our goal.”
The only one standing in the way of that goal is rival Bryan Smith. The defending champ is the only rider still within reach of Mees heading into the final three-race stretch. Smith looks to be rediscovering his early-season form with a pair of runner-up results in his last three outings. However, it's likely he'll need to score his fifth victory of the season at Williams Grove Speedway in order to keep his hopes of repeating as champion alive entering the season's penultimate round later this month.
While they are no longer in championship contention, third-ranked Brad Baker and fourth-ranked Sammy Halbert are highly motivated by their respective quests to claim an AFT Twins race win this season before the year is out.
Fifth-ranked Briar Bauman has won this season, not once, but twice. A third victory this weekend is certainly not out of the question, especially considering his dominant performance at this year's Lima Half-Mile.
The AFT Singles championship fight comes into the Harley-Davidson Williams Grove Half-Mile with three riders battling for the crown and separated by only nine points.
While their contrasting strengths and weaknesses have defined the season in large part, the Half-Miles have proven to be the battlegrounds on which title leader Kolby Carlile, second-ranked Brandon Price and third-placed Shayna Texter have found themselves on the most level ground.
In the season's five prior Half-Miles, Carlile has taken two podiums and was cruelly robbed of a potential win by a mechanical DNF. Price, meanwhile, racked up two wins and a runner-up at those same races, while Pennsylvania-native Texter logged a win and two second places herself.
With the title fight so close and with so few races remaining, every single position could prove pivotal in the final championship tally. Adding more fuel to the fire, Texter will have extra motivation to top the podium in front of the home crowd, her first ever National race in Pa.
Making things all the more interesting is the great potential for spoilers to emerge and split the title contenders up in the order -- or even come from seemingly nowhere to snatch away the victory, the way Parker Norris did at the Lima Half-Mile or how Tanner Dean did at the Calistoga Half-Mile earlier this season.
On-track action at Williams Grove Speedway begins on Saturday, September 9, with practice sessions commencing at 11:00 a.m. ET and Opening Ceremonies at 2:00 p.m. ET.