CONCORD, N.C. — Last year on the final lap of the AMA Pro Flat Track event at The Dirt Track at Charlotte, Jared Mees watched a victory slip away in an instant.
Mees had marched up through the field and was right behind race leader Bryan Smith as the pair passed the white flag, but seconds later the engine in Mees’ Harley-Davidson expired and he could only watch as Smith cruised to the checkered flag.
“Last year was a little unfortunate. We were making our way through the pack and approaching the leader, which was Bryan Smith,” Mees recalled. “We came across the white flag running second and then I had a motor break.
“We had a red flag earlier in the race and the thing was making quite a bit of noise, so I knew it was only a matter of time that the thing was going to break. We ran the thing after the restart for probably 11 laps and it just couldn’t make it one more lap. That’s just the way it is and the way it works.”
On Saturday Mees returns to The Dirt Track at Charlotte for the CHDDA Charlotte Half-Mile hoping to put last year’s bad luck behind him.
“It’s hard to say if the track owes me one. I would love to go there and win Charlotte after what happened last year,” Mees said. “We’re definitely going to be gunning for the win like we always are and trying to redeem ourselves.”
Saturday’s event marks the second-straight year the AMA Pro Flat Track tour has visited Charlotte, but many forget the series was a staple during the Dirt Track’s early years. The series raced there three times during the early 2000s, with Kevin Varnes winning the last Flat Track race held at the four-tenths-mile track in 2002 prior to the series’ return in 2015.
Mees, a three-time AMA Grand National champion in the GNC1 class, said that he is hoping the track will be prepared like it was back in the early 2000s as he felt it created much better racing conditions for fans and the riders.
“Charlotte can be the coolest track on the circuit if it’s prepped the right way,” Mees said. “Unfortunately we’re getting on the track a little earlier than I think we should (on track action begins at 3 p.m. Saturday), but hopefully they have a good chemical and a good baseline as far as what they want to do for track prep and stuff.
“That track way back in the day when we ran it in the early 2000s, you could ride from the inside edge all the way to the hay bales and you’d have just so much consistent traction around there and that would make it really, really racy,” Mees said. “Last year I felt like it was a complete opposite of that. It was very dry, very slippery and very one line around the bottom until the main event. It was that way until the main event because it took the sun to go down for the moisture to come way up.”
Ironically, much like he was during the 2015 event at Charlotte, Mees enters Saturday’s race pursing Smith. The difference is that instead of chasing Smith during a race, Mees is chasing Smith in the AMA Pro Flat Track standings. Smith leads Mees, the defending series champion, by 13 points entering Saturday’s race.
Mees blamed an engine failure at the race in Sacramento, Calif., for putting him behind Smith in the standings. Still, Mees said he’d much rather the one doing the chasing than the one doing the leading.
“To catch him we can’t have any more breaks. I feel the reason why we’re 13 points behind him, well I know the reason why we’re 13 points down, is because we had a break in Sacramento,” Mees said. “That was a place where he won and we got one point for making the main event. We had a very unfortunate day there and I think that is really what is holding us back from being in the points hunt right now.
“The good thing is it is a lot easier to chase down the championship then it is to try and hold it all year long. I definitely know from experience that it’s tough. You definitely don’t want to lose that because it’s tough. Unfortunately for me I’m not leading it, but fortunately for me I feel like we just go chase it and run it down.”
Right now Mees is focused on Saturday’s race at Charlotte, an event he says he is looking forward to because of the racing culture that surrounds the region.
“I’m always looking forward to going to Charlotte. It’s a great venue, a great place and a great facility,” Mees said. “It has lots of history there of racing, not just Flat Track racing. I always look forward to going over to that part of the country and showcasing our sport.”