PEORIA, Ill. – Briar Bauman took another big step toward claiming the 2019 AFT Twins presented by Vance & Hines championship by winning Saturday’s 73rd Law Tigers Peoria TT presented by Country Saloon.
The victory was Bauman’s fourth triumph of the American Flat Track season. It also happened to be the first time any rider other than Henry Wiles had stood atop the premier-class podium in the Peoria TT going back to 2003.
Wiles, who had assembled a truly remarkable 14-race Peoria TT win streak coming into this year’s event, was forced to watch from the fences after undergoing surgery for an injury suffered less than two weeks ago at the Black Hills Half-Mile.
With Wiles out of the running, the race quickly took shape as a battle of brothers. Briar and younger brother Bronson Bauman appeared to be on a collision course in turn one of the opening lap around the Peoria Motorcycle Club’s five-eighths-mile TT track.
While they both made it through cleanly, that feeling of an imminent collision wouldn’t go away for the next 10 or so laps. The two went back and forth up front, ripping the lead away from one another multiple times before Briar finally muscled his way back into first in turn four on lap nine. Bronson again looked to counter, but Briar strung together a few perfect corners to stretch open a small gap. He’d go on to build that advantage up to just over a second before first encountering lapped traffic on lap 13 of 25.
That padding allowed him to be aggressive as he cut his way forward, eventually lapping all the way up to eighth position and backing down to a 2.967-second margin of victory at the checkered flag.
“I was trying to just be as smooth as possible and not hit any of these holes and get too out of shape,” Bauman said. “It’s a bittersweet win… What could have happened between Henry and I? He owns this place, and I give a lot of respect to him. You don’t do something like that without being the greatest guy to ever race here. Hopefully next year we’re both healthy, and we can give the crowd a show.”
Bronson cruised to second, taking the position with nearly five seconds in hand on third place.
It was a different story for the final spot on the box, however. A titanic final lap showdown ultimately saw J.D. Beach storm past both Robert Pearson and defending champion Jared Mees in a desperate lunge to the stripe.
Beach had spent nearly the entire race looking for a way around Mees for third before Pearson closed in and displaced him to fifth with a lap-and-a-half remaining. Illinois-native Pearson also attempted to get the better of Mees in a final corner attempt at a home-state podium, but Beach was perfectly positioned to take advantage of their clash.
It was a costly double demotion for Mees, who ran in third from the Main Event’s start until the final meters. As a result, he now trails Bauman by 38 points with five races in which to make up the deficit.
In the Roof Systems AFT Singles class, 16-year-old phenomenon Dallas Daniels earned his maiden American Flat Track victory, obliterating a Roof Systems AFT Singles presented by Russ Brown Motorcycle Attorneys field stacked with TT superstars in Saturday’s 15-lap Main Event.
Daniels got away in fifth but wasted no time in slashing his way through the decorated pack. He drove up the inside of three-time Peoria TT winner Jesse Janisch for third on lap two, providing an early demonstration of just how serious the youngster’s challenge would be on this day.
Pre-race favorite Janisch responded the next time around, but Daniels immediately criss-crossed him and also overhauled offroad legend Ryan Sipes in one epic maneuver to take control of second.
Daniels then proceeded to run down reigning class champion Dan Bromley and dive up the inside of him the next time into turn four to take the lead on lap four.
Daniels raced off into the distance from that point forward, ultimately sealing his first AFT win in the same season he also claimed his first MotoAmerica victory.
“The track was pretty treacherous and slick today, so it was really tough,” Daniels said. “I was just trying to find certain lines, and I think I found a few before the rest of the guys did. My bike was just working so good – it was perfect. I love my team and everything they’ve done for me, and also all the people who have helped get me to this point even before this year. I’ve been dreaming of this my whole life, and to do it so soon… We’re just going to keep going.”
Bromley held on for a solid second, which, when factored in with the sixth-place finish of Dalton Gauthier, sees the two riders sit equal atop the points chase with four races remaining to decide the AFT Singles crown.
Janisch was heading in the wrong direction midway through the Main, being passed by both James Rispoli and Jacob Lehmann.
Despite sitting fifth with just a couple short laps remaining, Janisch dug deep. He fought his way back past 2014 Peoria TT winner Lehmann, and then snuck past Rispoli — who was nursing a flat tire the last two laps — by a scant 0.003 seconds at the checkered to steal away the final spot on the podium.
Rispoli was forced to accept fourth, followed by Lehmann in fifth.