SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – Jared Mees continued his march toward the AFT Twins presented by Vance & Hines crown in Sunday’s epic Harley-Davidson Springfield Mile II.
It was win that may go down as Mees’ signature victory in a season which has been lined with them.
The grandstands at the Illinois State Fairgrounds were packed once again as American Flat Track turned out in huge numbers to find out how the highly-anticipated rematch between rivals Mees and Bryan Smith would play out. When the series last visited the venue back in May, the reigning champ was in full control. On that day, the flat track faithful witnessed the “Master of the Mile” work his magic to perfection, upping Smith’s win streak to four with a trademark 0.005 of a second victory over Mees.
Mees returned motivated to demonstrate just how completely the tables had turned since that defeat. Smith has yet to win since his Springfield Mile I triumph, while Mees has assembled an imposing championship advantage on the strength of five wins during that same span.
On Sunday, the two were joined at the front in a six-rider, three- and four-wide melee by Brad Baker, Sammy Halbert, Briar Bauman and Jeffrey Carver Jr.
The prospect of a six-way shootout to the end was shot down on lap 17 of 25. A red flag was displayed due to an incident involving Kenny Coolbeth, who had fought his way up from 13th to seventh to lead the second group.
When racing resumed, it quickly took shape as a four-way fight for victory involving Mees, Smith, Baker, and Halbert.
Mees took the white flag to open the final lap down in third. He then stormed up the inside of Baker entering turn one, and then went the other way heading into three. He powered alongside Smith around the outside as they negotiated turns three and four, and slotted just in front of him in the decisive sprint to the checkered flag.
Mees hit the stripe .021 of a second ahead of Smith. Baker narrowly edged Halbert to claim third another .051 seconds back to secure the Indian Wrecking Crew’s sixth podium sweep of the season.
The victory stands as Mees’ eighth on the season, upping his career mark to 30 to move equal with Bart Markel for 10th on the all-time list. Additionally, Mees now boasts a 46-point championship advantage (317 to Smith’s 271) with three races remaining. That means Mees could clinch the title two races early by claiming his ninth victory on the season at next weekend’s Harley-Davidson Williams Grove Half-Mile presented by Appalachian Harley-Davidson.
“It feels so good to get this win. In the springtime, I got nipped at the line ever so slightly. My guys really gave me a good, strong motorcycle that was so hooked up,” said Mees. ‘After practice, I thought this really could be my day, but I’ve felt that before and Bryan has always outsmarted me at the line… If there was one race I wanted to pull off this year after the first half of the year, it was the Springfield Mile II on Labor Day weekend.”
“It was a fun race – I’d have much rather won though. Hats off to Jared,” said Smith. “He just got around me in the last corner and outsmarted me a little bit. The track was totally different than in the spring; you didn’t have to play chess so much as checkers and make moves quick. Unfortunately, I came up a little bit short, but nonetheless, it’s awesome to see the Indian boys battle for every spot on the podium again.”
Brandon Robinson made the most of the second chance provided by the red flag, outdueling early contenders Bauman and Carver to complete the top five.