PHOENIX — American Flat Track held its first Mile of the season on Saturday afternoon, and it was only natural that the rider ranked first in the 2018 AFT Twins presented by Vance & Hines standings took center stage.
While the big Miles have made their legend over the years as ultra-tight drafting duels waged at triple digit speeds and measured by centimeters at the checkered flag, the Law Tigers Arizona Mile presented by Buddy Stubbs Harley-Davidson at Turf Paradise instead served as further testament to the current state of supremacy owned by reigning Grand National Champion Jared Mees (No. 1 Indian Motorcycle Rogers Racing SDI Scout FTR750).
The AFT Twins Main Event was expected to take shape as yet another strategic, too-close-to-call affair at the front, similar to last year’s Arizona Mile. Mees immediately extinguished those hopes as he stormed to the front at the start.
By the time his fellow Indian Wrecking Crewman Brad Baker (No. 6 Indian Motorcycle Racing backed by Allstate Scout FTR750) had worked his way into the runner-up position, Mees already had more than a second’s worth of padding. A handful of laps later and that gap was stretched out to more than three seconds.
A concerted late-race push by Baker, combined with lapped traffic and a conservative finish on Mees’ part, made things at least appear a bit less certain at the end. Still, the champ managed to cruise to the checkered flag with 0.937 seconds in hand.
After the race, Mees said, “It was a long day, honestly. No offense, but I’m glad it’s over. The track was pretty treacherous out there. Hats off to the whole AFT crew for trying their hardest to give us the best they could. There were some delays with track prep, and I just applaud them for throwing the best they could at this racetrack and giving us the best, safest track possible.
“In the Main Event I got a good start and was just able to run my own race. We got into some lappers at the end, and I thought for some reason maybe the tires were going away because it seemed we were slipping and sliding a bit more. So I just kind of paced myself there and was able to bring it on home for another victory.”
That victory served as yet another reminder of the rarified air in which Mees has placed himself thanks to this historic run of form; his 34th career AFT Twins victory moves him out of a tie with Kenny Roberts for seventh all-time and into a tie for sixth with Bubba Shobert.
Runner-up Baker was another three-plus seconds clear of a tremendous scrap for the final spot on the box contested by Henry Wiles (No. 17 Wilco Racing/Willy Built/Bandit Industries Indian Scout FTR750) and Briar Bauman (No. 14 Zanotti Racing Kawasaki Ninja 650).
Works Harley-Davidson ace Brandon Robinson (No. 44 Harley-Davidson Factory Flat Track Team XG750R) rounded out the top five.
Five races into the season and Mees has yet to get beat in a straight fight. Even with a DQ negating an apparent Atlanta Short Track victory, Mees leaves Phoenix with 100 points to his name, 25 up on second-ranked Wiles (75), with Bauman third at 72.
The AFT Singles class continued to deliver the goods with a wild pack battle for victory at Turf Paradise. The win was ultimately taken by Kevin Stollings (No. 99 Roof Systems Honda CRF450R) over Dan Bromley (No. 62 KTM North America/Bromley Motorsports 450 SX-F) by a mere 0.057 seconds.
In doing so, Stollings joined Bromley, Brandon Price (No. 92 Parkinson Brothers Racing/DPC Racing Honda CRF450R), Ryan Wells (No. 94 RMR/Al Lamb’s Dallas Honda CRF450), and Morgen Mischler (No. 69 Cycle Craft Yamaha/Rohde’s Sales & Service Yamaha YZ450F) to become the class’ fifth different winner in as many races this season.
Stollings said, “The track was a little iffy here and there, but there were good parts. My strategy was to just keep my line, avoid all the bumps I could, stay smooth and catch the draft if I could. Luckily I was out front and got a good drive. Glad I was able to get it, and they couldn’t get past me at the line. It was pretty fun – it was real close.”
Price – who controlled the race as much as any rider could manage during such a back-and-forth affair – was shuffled down to third at the stripe.
Jesse Janisch (No. 132 Roof Systems/West Bend Harley-Davidson-backed Yamaha YZ450F) and Cory Texter (No. 65 CTR/Law Tigers Honda CRF450R) finished the race in fourth and fifth, respectively.