DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Following 15 rounds of Progressive American Flat Track action, Briar Bauman successfully completed his bid to repeat as AFT SuperTwins presented by Vance & Hines champion in Saturday evening’s Progressive AFT Finale at Daytona II.
Even with an extended pandemic-imposed pause, the highly anticipated 2020 showdown between Bauman and multi-time series king Jared Mees proved more than worth the wait.
The momentum swung back and forth on a nearly weekend-by-weekend basis, leaving both superstars still in control of their destiny heading into this weekend’s Daytona finale.
Bauman seized control of the title fight with a clutch runner-up finish on Friday, which seemingly made the final task before him relatively easy by his standards.
All he needed to do at Daytona Int’l Speedway on Saturday night was score an eighth-place finish to cap off a title defense that saw him rack up six wins, four seconds, three thirds, and one seventh along the way.
However, the level of difficulty was ratcheted up significantly due to weather; rainy conditions forced multiple delays in the program, the Semis were cancelled, and the AFT SuperTwins presented by Vance & Hines Main was pushed to the front of the pack once conditions allowed to ensure the season’s premier-class champ was crowned before the night was out.
The changes and unpredictability of the day could have easily thrown an admittedly stressed Bauman out of his rhythm.
Instead he responded like a champion. Starting on the front row with Mees as a result of their qualifying performance, Bauman got away in third and glued himself to the rear wheel of his championship rival.
Meanwhile, Brandon Robinson proved invincible around the Short Track at Daytona for a second consecutive night. He assumed the lead on lap one and held the position through the checkered flag.
Mees did well to keep Robinson in his sights, clinging on in hopes of a win that would give him the best possible shot at the championship should Bauman make a critical mistake.
Jeffrey Carver Jr. ran in fourth deep into the contest, holding back a racy Sammy Halbert for a solid five minutes. Unable to find an opening, Halbert finally made one; he pushed up the inside of Carver to take over fourth, knocking his rival back to seventh in the process.
Halbert then reeled in the leaders, arriving within striking distance of Bauman and a potential podium finish just as the race entered its final two laps. Bauman saw what was happening and understood full well what could happen.
Rather than risk getting similarly bumped down the order and out of the points lead, Bauman allowed Halbert by and then cruised to a title-clinching fourth-place finish.
After claiming his eighth-career victory, Robinson said, “This is amazing. Through the ups and downs we’ve had this season to come out of here with the Daytona double – there’s nothing better. This is insane. We’re going to be able to go into this offseason and get healthy and come out swinging in 2021. I’m ecstatic.”
“Obviously, things went really, really well,” back-to-back champ Bauman added. “I was able to do what we came for and what we set out to do all season for Jess Garcia and the whole Garcia family – win the championship. Jess was with me every step of the way. It means a lot to me to be able to fulfill what I showed up to do. He was one of my best friends. It’s just an honor to win for him, Indian Motorcycle, Progressive Insurance, and everyone else behind the team.”
In other action, Henry Wiles demonstrated once again why he’s widely considered one of the greatest Short Track riders in the history of the sport, holding off Max Whale and Trent Lowe to win an abbreviated AFT Singles presented by Russ Brown Motorcycle Attorneys Main Event.
Shortened to just four minutes plus two laps due to the numerous weather delays, Wiles shot out to the lead from the start, and protected the groove from there.
Whale sought any way past Wiles but simply could not find one. Lowe closed in as well, but the experienced ST master ahead of them refused to give way.
Despite losing to Wiles on the night, Whale’s runner-up result was enough to beat him for second in their championship fight (215-208).
Mikey Rush set the fastest lap of the race en route to fourth with Andrew Luker completing the top five just behind.
2020 AFT Singles champ Dallas Daniels was forced to start from Row 4 with no Semi to improve his starting position. He made up a couple positions to end his title-winning season with a run to ninth.
Sandwiched between his opening round failure to qualify for the Main and his ninth-placed finale, Daniels packed in a remarkable eighth wins, nine podiums and twelve top fives.
Reigning AFT Production Twins champion Cory Texter made the absolute most of his last chance to run the No. 1 plate before handing it over to the newly-crowned James Rispoli, logging a blowout victory in the final race of the Progressive American Flat Track season.
Rispoli crashed and found himself trapped under his motorcycle after coming together with Friday-winner Johnny Lewis in the race’s opening corner. That incident brought out a red flag and moved Rispoli from row one to the back of the field.
Texter ripped into the lead off the line at the restart and proceeded to assemble a massive advantage en route to his fourth triumph of a hard-fought yet ultimately unsuccessful title defense.