2018 American Flat Track Season Begins Thursday with the DAYTONA TT
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (March 13, 2018) – Following months of build-up, the 2018 American Flat Track season opener is at last just days away with the impending arrival of Thursday, March 15's Bigger, Better, and Faster Harley-Davidson TT presented by Russ Brown Motorcycle Attorneys at DAYTONA.
The questions this year, and at Daytona specifically, are huge: One: How will Harley-Davidson race after its inaugural season on the XG750R, and is the XG750R on the road to fulfilling the legacy of the flat track-dominating XR750? Two: Can the Indian Motorcycle factory team – and reigning Grand National Champion Jared Mees – repeat, both at Daytona and during the season? Three: Will this year's crew of well-funded and super-fast privateers give the factories a run for their money? And four: Can AFT Singles phenoms like 2017 runner-up Brandon Price, newly minted Husqvarna Motorcycles rider Shayna Texter, and a load of ultra-quick young guns displace Kolby 'The Flying Tomato' Carlile and his consistency?
In just a couple of days, we will know.
The offseason is where a racer's foundation is laid. It's where mechanical and mental preparation is completed, where optimism reigns, and where expectations and ambitions run unchecked. Now all that is put to the test and ultimately replaced by the cold, harsh reality of race results. Everyone's got a plan until they get bunched up in Turn 1.
Indian Motorcycle may have had things its way last season, but that's prompted the long-dominant Harley-Davidson Factory Flat Track Team to shake things up. The iconic team has overhauled its rider line-up while further intensifying its development program to unleash the full potential of the XG750R.
H-D's new-look trio includes one holdover, one title-contender in waiting, and one youngster ready to blossom.
The lone returning rider on the squad is Brandon Robinson (No. 44 Harley-Davidson Factory Flat Track Team XG750R), who was the highest-placed Harley-Davidson pilot last year. He earned a seventh-place title ranking on the strength of three top fives. Robinson's a proven race winner, and he's eager to climb back atop the podium as soon as possible.
Joining him in 2018 will be the gifted Sammy Halbert (No. 69 Harley-Davidson Factory Flat Track Team XG750R). Halbert was arguably the sharpest thorn in the side of the Indian-mounted riders last year, pushing them for race wins and ultimately finishing fourth the championship. He scooped up five podiums, including three runner-ups, last year, while adding an X Games Gold Medal on the side. Backed by the might of the Harley-Davidson Factory squad, Halbert could be well primed to take that next step forward.
Rounding out the Harley-Davidson continent is rising star Jarod Vanderkooi (No. 20 Harley-Davidson Factory Flat Track Team XG750R). The 2015 Rookie of the Year has finished inside the championship top ten the last two years running and logged a pair of top five race results in '17. Thursday's DAYTONA TT will mark Vanderkooi's final race as a teenager, underlining just how much room he has yet to grow.
The rider by which all others will be measured this year, of course, is reigning Grand National Champion Jared Mees (No. 1 Indian Motorcycle Rogers Racing Sidi Scout FTR750). Mees was the dominant force in 2017, assembling an historic season in which he logged truly ridiculous numbers — 10 wins, 16 top-twos, and 17 podiums in 18 events.
A threat to win in any conditions or on any type of course, Mees comes into the DAYTONA TT with not only the #1 plate on his Scout FTR750 but the title of defending race winner. No matter how heavily revised the circuit, Mees will be widely viewed as the man to beat when the lights are shining down Thursday night at Daytona International Speedway.
Also cast in an odds-on favorite role to contend at the front are Mees' fellow members of the Indian Wrecking Crew, Bryan Smith (No. 4 Indian Motorcycle Racing backed by Allstate Scout FTR750) and Brad Baker (No. 6 Indian Motorcycle Racing backed by Allstate Scout FTR750).
The 'Crew lived up to its billing and then some in '17, finishing 1-2-3 in the final AFT Twins championship rankings while racking up 14 of 18 race wins and 37 and 54 podiums with a full six podium sweeps along the way. That level of group excellence won't do anything to satisfy either Smith or Baker, however, as both riders are motivated to significantly improve upon solid seasons in order to topple Mees from the top of the pecking order.
Smith registered four wins and nine podiums during last season's campaign but lost some momentum down the stretch. He'll be eager to reclaim that #1 plate, and demonstrated his ability to hustle a big twin around a TT course with a second-place run in last year's DAYTONA TT.
Baker is probably even more likely than Smith to come out swinging. Despite leading the most laps in multiple races and coming painfully close to race wins with regularity in '17, Baker has yet to take the checkered flag first aboard his Scout FTR750. The sooner he can get that out of the way in '18, the sooner he can start orchestrating a realistic title push.
Beyond the leading factory outfits, there's no shortage of potential contenders to be found with the entirety last year's AFT Twins top ten returning to the fray in 2018.
Outside of those already mentioned, perhaps the rider to keep the closest eye on is Jeffrey Carver Jr. (No. 23 Roof-Systems/Indian of Metro Milwaukee Scout FTR750). Battling the factory-backed superstars in '17, privateer Carver not only earned a top-five championship placement, he also scored three podiums, including a victory and a runner-up result in the season's final two races. Looking to capitalize on that momentum, Carver has decided the best way to beat 'em is to join 'em, adding an Indian Scout FTR750 to his program in 2018.
Sixth-ranked Briar Bauman (No. 14 Zanotti Racing Kawasaki Ninja 650) enjoyed a breakout '17 of his own with two race wins serving as twin highlights. Of particular note is that one those wins came at the Buffalo Chip TT, suggesting that Bauman could be in line to serve up another upset at the DAYTONA TT.
Davis Fisher (No. 67 Bob Lanphere Beaverton Motorcycles Kawasaki Ninja 650) was a fixture inside the top ten last year while occasionally flashing top-five potential. To be there in the end, you've got to be there, period, and Fisher has a knack for positioning himself to take full advantage when chaos inevitably strikes.
And then there's "King Henry." Henry Wiles (No. 17 DPC Racing Kawasaki Ninja 650) is the most accomplished TT master in AFT history with an astonishing 18 triumphs in the discipline to his credit. He finished on the box at the DAYTONA TT a year ago and comes into the season opener as one of the key favorites to contend for victory.
A pair of multi-time champions finished outside last year's top ten but should not be overlooked this season as they adapt to new surroundings. Former GNC champ Jake Johnson (No. 5 Estenson Racing Yamaha FZ-07) moves to the powerful Estenson Racing outfit for this season and happens to be one of the more skilled TT combatants in the paddock. Johnson logged a podium in last year's Buffalo Chip TT, was en route to do the same at the Peoria TT before encountering mechanical problems, and ended up fourth in the DAYTONA TT.
Meanwhile, Johnson's former teammate, Kenny Coolbeth (No. 2 Nila Racing, Columbia Avionic Indian Scout FTR750), is looking to re-establish himself as a regular at the front of the pack. Already a legend in the sport, Coolbeth is among the racers trying his hand aboard a private Scout FTR750 in '18 with an eye on displacing the factory Indian Wrecking Crew.
And keep an eye out for the wild cards. While neither JD Beach (No. 95 G&G Racing/Rickdiculous Racing/Team95 Yamaha FZ-07) nor Johnny Lewis (No. 10 Richie Morris Racing Kawasaki Ninja 650) will be logging a full AFT Twins season, they merit careful attention whenever they make an appearance. Both are supremely talented and versatile riders who can run up front whenever they throw a leg over a motorcycle, no matter the variables.
Multi-time national road racing champion Beach owns several AFT Singles victories and finished third in last year's AFT Twins finale. His combo skill set makes him especially dangerous on TT courses. The same can be said of former DAYTONA Short Track winner Lewis, whose extensive Supermoto background is directly applicable to TTs.
Finally, there are a couple of notable class rookies graduating from AFT Singles competition in 2018: Parker Norris (No. 122 Roy Webber/Digitrace Kawasaki Ninja 650), who won last year's undercard race at the Lima Half-Mile, and Wyatt Anderson (No. 120 Waters Autobody Racing, D&D Powersports Yamaha FZ-07), who was the best qualifier, lap leader, and race runner-up in AFT Singles competition at the 2017 DAYTONA TT.
A stacked AFT Singles field returns to square off in 2018. That field includes not only the defending series champion, but eight different race winners who combined to account for 13 of 18 victories. Far from a top-heavy entry list, the Singles class boasts remarkable depth; consider that eight wins last year came from riders who finished outside the championship top five.
Kolby Carlile (No. 1 Estenson Racing Yamaha YZ450F) carries the #1 plate into the opener, but even he'd admit he's got some unfinished business to accomplish. Carlile won the championship in '17 thanks to incredible adaptability, consistency, and versatility. He was a frontrunner no matter the venue and of particularly fleet form at the TT tracks. That said, none of his 13 top-fives or eight podium results resulted in a race victory. Carlile has been chomping at the bit all offseason to get another swing at a win. If he can just get that out of the way in Daytona, that could set the stage for a string of victories and a powerful title defense.
Brandon Price (No. 92 Parkinson Brothers Racing/DPC Racing Honda CRF450R) will look to go one better than last year's runner-up title result. Price scored a pair of wins among his five victories, despite swapping bikes midseason.
Third-ranked Shayna Texter (No. 52 ST52 Husqvarna FC 450) had a feast-or-famine 2017. No one could compare to her five victories, and she was the category's elite racer on oval tracks. However, her struggles at TT tracks ultimately cost her the title, as she fell 27 points short of Carlile, picking up zero points at the four TTs. She's shaking up her effort in 2018, launching her own program on Husqvarna equipment.
Fourth-ranked Ben Lowe (No. 20 Bruce Lowe Excavating Kawasaki KX450F) and fifth-ranked Kevin Stollings (No. 99 Roof Systems Honda CRF450R) also return. Lowe was steady and solid, while Stollings was more mercurial but lightning quick. Both have the potential to do even better in 2018.
TT experts Jesse Janisch (No. 132 Roof Systems/West Bend Harley-Davidson-backed Yamaha YZ450F) and Dan Bromley (No. 62 Big Momma & Daddy Deep Pockets Racing KTM 450 SX-F) should be solidly in the mix Thursday night. Janisch dominated last year's Peoria TT, finished second at the Springfield TT, took third at the Buffalo Chip, and ended up fourth at the DAYTONA TT. Meanwhile, Bromley took 10th in the AFT Singles title fight despite running a limited program. He's a frontrunner whenever he turns up. Last year, he was victorious at the Springfield TT and finished no lower than sixth in any race in which he took the checkered flag.
Of course, history tells us to keep an eye out for guest riders at TTs – particularly visiting roadrace stars. Last season, Hayden Gillim proved utterly dominant in his two TT appearances. While Gillim won't be racing the DAYTONA TT, that role of spoiler could be played by the likes of MotoAmerica Superbike star Jake Lewis (No. 185 Team M4 Suzuki RMZ 450), British Supersport ace James Rispoli (No. 143 RMR/Al Lamb's Dallas Honda CRF450R), or any of several other one-off contenders.
American Flat Track will kick off its highly-anticipated 2018 season with the Bigger, Better, and Faster Harley-Davidson TT presented by Russ Brown Motorcycle Attorneys at DAYTONA under the lights inside the fabled trioval at Daytona International Speedway on Thursday, March 15, 2018. Tickets start at just $30 and are available for purchase now at DaytonaInternationalSpeedway.com or by calling 1-800-PITSHOP.
Shayna Texter and Husqvarna Motorcycles Team Up for 2018 AFT Singles Season
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (March 9, 2018) - American Flat Track star Shayna Texter, who won five races in 2017, will team with legendary marque Husqvarna Motorcycles in the AFT Singles division for the 2018 season.
"I'm thrilled to be part of the Husqvarna Motorcycles family, and to be riding such a proven motorcycle," said Texter. "I'm out to win the AFT Singles championship this season, for sure, but also to showcase the legendary Husqvarna brand and have a blast racing motorcycles along the way. It's a really special and exciting opportunity for me."
Texter will ride the No. 52 Husqvarna FC 450 for her own team in 2018, with support from a factory that's quickly become a dominant player in AMA Supercross and Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross competition with the same machine.
"Husqvarna Motorcycles believes strongly in supporting the female riding movement," said Jenna Parker, Husqvarna Motorcycles Marketing Manager. "This is an ideal match for us. Shayna is not only a ferocious competitor and a proven winner, but she also displays great character and humility. We're delighted to be working with her."
In 2017, Texter's five race wins, which were more than any other AFT Singles rider last season, gave her the lead in all-time class wins at 11. Along with her two wins in Basic Twins in 2013, Texter's race-win tally is an impressive 13.
"American Flat Track is growing fast and in many exciting directions," said Michael Lock, CEO of American Flat Track. "Having Husqvarna Motorcycles competing in our AFT Singles class and partnering with one of our top competitors is great news for Shayna Texter and also for the entire sport. We are grateful to Husqvarna Motorcycles for their vote of confidence in AFT, and we are all looking forward with great anticipation to see the evolution of their project during the 2018 season."
The 2018 AFT season will begin on March 15 at Daytona International Speedway, as American Flat Track returns to a one-of-a-kind race course built on the famous tri-oval at the "World Center of Racing." This year's Harley-Davidson TT presented by Russ Brown Motorcycle Attorneys at DAYTONA will see faster and more furious racing action thanks to a fresh track redesign featuring wider corners, a faster straightaway and a 150-foot jump section. General Admission tickets start at just $30 and are on sale now. Get yours today by visiting Daytona International Speedway's website at www.daytonainternationalspeedway.com or by calling 1-800-PITSHOP.
Robbie "Bugs" Pearson to run Indian Scout FTR750 for 2018 American Flat Track season
Joining former GNC Crew Chief & Tuner Rick Canode of RJ Performance – Pearson will debut his Scout FTR750 at the season opener in Daytona on March 15
MINNEAPOLIS (February 21, 2018) – Robbie "Bugs" Pearson has joined forces with former GNC Crew Chief and Tuner Rick Canode of RJ Performance – making the privateer the latest to turn to Indian Motorcycle Racing's Championship-winning Scout FTR750. The FTR750 captured the attention of privateers last season, as Indian Motorcycle Racing won the 2017 American Flat Track Manufacturer's Championship and saw its factory Wrecking Crew sweep the 2017 standings.
Pearson will pilot the RJ Performance Indian Scout FTR750 at most rounds this season, beginning with the season opener, the Daytona TT on March 15. Pearson has been a professional flat track racer for more than 10 years. In 2017, he suffered an injury at the opener that kept him sidelined for most of the season.
"Everyone in the sport got a chance to see what the Indian Scout FTR750 can do, and I can truly say I've never been this excited to start a season," said Pearson. "In all my years racing professionally, never have I seen bike that's as race-ready as the Scout FTR750. I'm excited to start the season and hoping to go out and compete with the best of them."
A powersports dealership in Ottumwa, IA, RJ Performance was established in 1982 by Canode. Since then, Canode has tuned for a number of professional racers, including his son, former National #39 Matt Burton.
"The whole team at RJ Performance is very excited that we can actually race a product that we sell," said Canode, RJ Performance President. "We're fortunate to get a rider with Robbie's experience and speed on the track. We relish the underdog role and the task before us."
Indian Motorcycle Racing has committed more than $350,000 in contingency incentives, including $25,000 for a Championship, $5,000 for first-place wins, $4,000 for second-place, $3,000 for third-place finishes, and payouts for up to 10th-place finishers.
"It's great to see Indian Motorcycle's engineering and technical strength in the hands of privateers," said Gary Gray, Vice President – Racing, Service & Technology for Indian Motorcycle. "It's pretty amazing that you can go out to an Indian Motorcycle dealer, buy an FTR750, and put it on the podium as Johnny Lewis did last season."
Harley-Davidson Introduces 2018 Factory AFT Flat Track Team
Milwaukee, Wisconsin (Janurary 25, 2018) – The Harley-Davidson® Factory Flat Track Racing Team will combine veteran savvy with youthful potential in a three-rider effort contesting the 2018 American Flat Track (AFT) Twin series. Returning rider Brandon Robinson will be joined by seasoned pro Sammy Halbert and rising star Jared Vanderkooi on the Harley Factory squad for the coming season.
The team was announced to the Harley-Davidson dealer network during meetings held today in Nashville.
The Harley-Davidson Factory Team will engage in flat track battles aboard all-new Harley-Davidson XG750R competition motorcycles on the 19-race AFT Twins series and at the Harley-Davidson Flat Track Racing event at ESPN's X Games Minneapolis. The racing season opens during Daytona Bike Week at the March 15 AFT Daytona TT on a new, enlarged course constructed inside Daytona International Speedway.
"American Flat Track has new energy behind the sport and fans responded. They're heading to the track to see the action live and tuning in from around the globe to the catch the racing broadcasts," said Scott Beck, Harley-Davidson Director of Marketing.
"Harley-Davidson made an investment to help build AFT and we are excited to see this growth in a truly all-American motorsport."
Entering its 65th consecutive season, American Flat Track is the most historic form of American motorcycle racing. Preparing for what promises to be one of the most competitive flat-track seasons ever, Harley-Davidson and its Factory Team partner, Vance & Hines Motorsports, devoted this off-season to extracting more performance from the team's Harley XG750R race bikes.
The XG750R flat tracker used by the Factory Team is powered by a race-modified, liquid-cooled, fuel-injected 750cc Revolution X™ V-Twin engine, an engine originally engineered for the Harley-Davidson Street® 750, a motorcycle built for maximum urban maneuverability with rebellious Dark Custom™ attitude. The race-modified Revolution X engine and a racing frame for the XG750R were developed in collaboration with Vance & Hines Motorsports. The XG750R flat tracker motorcycle is not a production model.
The Revolution X engine was designed and engineered at the Willie G. Davidson Product Development Center in Wauwatosa, Wis. The 750cc XG Revolution X V-Twin engine is for sale through Harley-Davidson dealers today and can be modified for racing use by aspiring dealers and privateers.
Sammy Halbert (National #69)
Sammy Halbert brings his veteran experience to the Harley-Davidson Factory Flat Track Racing Team in 2018. Since his first pro season in 2006, Halbert has won 13 times in Grand National competition. Always a tenacious competitor, he placed third in the Twins championship chase in 2015, scored four wins and finished second in the championship in 2012. He had four wins and a third-place finish, in 2011. Halbert was named AMA "Ricky Graham Rookie of the Year" in 2006 and won his first Grand National race at the 2007 Castle Rock TT. Racing for Estenson Logistics in 2017, Halbert placed fourth in AFT Twins points with five podium results and 14 top-10 finishes. Halbert is 30 years old and lives in Graham, Wash.
Brandon Robinson (National #44)
Brandon Robinson returns for his second season with the Harley-Davidson Factory Flat Track Racing Team. In 2017, Robinson delivered consistent results with nine top-10 finishes and ended the season in seventh place in AFT Twins. Robinson had a break-out season in 2013 with seven top-five finishes and three victories, including a sweep of both Twins races on the Springfield Mile. In 2016, Robinson earned his fourth career victory with a win on the Lima half-mile, notched two additional podium results and finished third in GNC1 points. In 2008, Robinson was the AMA Basic Twins class champion. Robinson is 27 years old and lives in Oxford, Pa.
Jarod Vanderkooi (National #20)
Jarod Vanderkooi (VAN-der-koy) has been a rising star on the AFT circuit since winning the 2015 "GNC1 Rookie of the Year" Award after scoring four top-10 finishes and placing 12th in the points. The 2014 GNC2 Twins champion, Vanderkooi won his first pro event on the Springfield Mile, his first of two victories at Springfield that season. In 2016, he finished 10th in the standings and scored three top-five finishes. Vanderkooi posted eight top-10 results and finished the 2017 AFT Twins season in ninth place as a member of the Richie Morris Racing Team. Vanderkooi is 20 years old and lives in Mount Gilead, Ohio.
The Harley-Davidson Flat Track Racing Team is proudly partnered with Vance & Hines Motorsports
American Flat Track Announces 2018 Schedule
Bigger, Better, Faster DAYTONA TT kicks off season; Finale to be held in the New York City Metro
Photo Credit: Brian J. Nelson/AMA Pro Racing. Click photo to access additional high res galleries for editorial use.
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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Nov. 21, 2017) – American Flat Track has announced its 18-race calendar for the 2018 season, which begins with the DAYTONA TT at Daytona International Speedway on Thursday, March 15, 2018, and finishes up just a stone’s throw from downtown New York City. The Meadowlands Mile, an incredible new event to be held on the mile-long horse track at the famed Meadowlands Racing & Entertainment facility in East Rutherford, New Jersey, wraps up the season on October 6.
America’s original extreme sport enters its 66th consecutive year of competition in 2018, and the championship will once again launch during DAYTONA Bike Week, but this time on a bigger, better and faster DAYTONA TT circuit built inside the legendary tri-oval at the World Center of Racing. Seven-time Grand National Champion Chris Carr has redesigned the track to better showcase the speed and ferocity of pro flat track competition.
Comprised of eight Mile races, five Half-Miles, three TTs, and two Short Track events, the 2018 series features two new venues – the mile track at New Jersey’s Meadowlands Racing & Entertainment and the short track at Weedsport Speedway in Weedsport, New York – and one location returning to the calendar, the mile track at Canterbury Park in Shakopee, Minnesota. Both the Minnesota Mile and Meadowlands Mile will take place at high-end horse-racing facilities with modern amenities, while Weedsport Speedway, situated between Rochester and Syracuse, New York, recently received significant upgrades and is now hailed as one of the country’s finest dirt speedways.
American Flat Track enters its second year of broadcast coverage on NBCSN and fifth year of live streaming coverage on FansChoice.tv. The American Flat Track series concluded 2017 with record-breaking TV and live streaming numbers that resulted in the largest viewing audience in the storied history of the sport. An enhanced broadcast package, featuring improved coverage and exciting new broadcast airdates, is planned for 2018 and will be announced in the coming months.
Tickets for the 2018 running of the DAYTONA TT are now on sale and going fast. To reserve your seats at the World Center of Racing for the biggest spectacle of DAYTONA Bike Week, visit Daytona International Speedway’s website http://www.daytonainternationalspeedway.com or call 1-800-PITSHOP.
Complete 2018 American Flat Track Schedule:
March 15: DAYTONA TT – Daytona International Speedway, Daytona Beach, Florida
April 7: Atlanta Short Track – Dixie Speedway, Woodstock, Georgia
April 28: Texas Half-Mile – Texas Motor Speedway, Fort Worth, Texas
May 5: Calistoga Half-Mile – Calistoga Speedway, Calistoga, California
May 12: Arizona Mile – Turf Paradise, Phoenix, Arizona
May 19: Sacramento Mile – Cal Expo, Sacramento, California
May 27*: Springfield Mile I – Illinois State Fairgrounds, Springfield, Illinois
June 2: Red Mile – Red Mile, Lexington, Kentucky
June 16: OKC Mile – Remington Park, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
June 30: Lima Half-Mile – Allen County Fairgrounds, Lima, Ohio
July 7: New York Short Track – Weedsport Speedway, Weedsport, New York
August 5: Buffalo Chip TT – Buffalo Chip Campgrounds, Sturgis, South Dakota
August 7: Black Hills Half-Mile – Black Hills Speedway, Rapid City, South Dakota
August 18: Peoria TT – Peoria Motorcycle Club, Peoria, Illinois
September 2*: Springfield Mile II – Illinois State Fairgrounds, Springfield, Illinois
September 8: Williams Grove Half-Mile – Williams Grove Speedway, Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania
September 29: Minnesota Mile – Canterbury Park, Shakopee, Minnesota
October 6: Meadowlands Mile – Meadowlands Racing & Entertainment, East Rutherford, New Jersey
*Note: As in 2017, AFT Singles will race a TT at the Illinois State Fairgrounds in conjunction with Springfield Mile I on May 26 and a Short Track during the Labor Day Weekend as part of the Springfield Mile II event on September 1.
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
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
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
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
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
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
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.