PERRIS, Calif. – Grand National Champion Jared Mees put an exclamation point on his epic American Flat Track season with one last flawless performance at the Cycle Gear American Flat Track Finals presented by Indian Motorcycle on Saturday night.
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.
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, J.D. 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.
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 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 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.
“It was a crazy race,” said Price. “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.”