LEXINGTON, Ky. — Any fleeting hopes that surfaced at last week’s Springfield Mile suggesting that reigning Grand National champion Jared Mees might be vulnerable were promptly quashed Saturday at the Indian Motorcycle Red Mile presented by Indian Motorcycle of Lexington.
Mees rode as if he were eager to immediately reconstruct his aura of invincibility aboard the No. 1 Indian Motorcycle Rogers Racing SDI Scout FTR750. Saturday’s performance went a long way toward doing just that, serving as a strong reminder of what the last calendar year of American Flat Track racing has looked like.
On a night in which an exceptionally narrow groove repeatedly saw riders make one costly mistake after another, Mees was a marvel of technical proficiency. While the rest of the field was forced to gamble on risky passing maneuvers that could just as easily backfire and result in the loss of ten positions as they could gain them one, Mees simply powered away out front.
Teammate Bryan Smith (No. 4 Indian Motorcycle Racing backed by Allstate Scout FTR750) was the only rider who could keep Mees in his sights for even as long as a complete lap, as the duo broke the challenge of the remainder of the field right from the start. Smith’s own pursuit slowly and steadily unraveled too, as the inch-perfect Mees slipped away.
Smith was given a second chance to keep pace with Mees when a red flag forced a restart following 10 of 25 miles, but the result was identical the second time around as well.
Dating back to Mees’ victory in the series’ inaugural trip to the Red Mile one year ago, the defending AFT Twins presented by Vance & Hines champion has notched 14 victories in the last 20 events.
After the Red Mile, he said, “On a track like this, it was so technical and so important to carry good corner speed on entry and through the corner and not bust the groove. If you got off that groove, you were a sitting duck and going backwards quick. But I kinda grew up on this stuff, and I guess out of all the racetracks we race, this is my specialty.
“It was good. We were in a really good starting position, we were able to come off the line well, and just put in the laps. The bike worked phenomenally as it has all year. Hats off to my entire team. I don’t know what to say. We’re having a great season, and we’re making it happen week-in and week-out.”
While Mees (and runner-up Smith) successfully avoided drama on a circuit that practically demanded it, the rest of the field did not. The scrapping and resultant emotions down the order were heated as hard passes were the norm from third on back.
Brad Baker (No. 6 Indian Motorcycle Racing backed by Allstate Scout FTR750) held down the position for much of the second half of the race until Henry Wiles (No. 17 Bandit Industries/Wilco Racing/Willy Built Indian Scout FTR750) stole the spot on the penultimate lap. Baker responded, however, and locked down third at the flag by a meager 0.008 seconds.
While Indian Motorcycle has arguably been even more dominant in 2018 than in 2017 thanks to a powerful privateer contingent, tonight’s result was the first time this season the Indian Wrecking Crew pulled off the podium sweep they made so commonplace a season ago.
Last year’s Red Mile runner-up Sammy Halbert (No. 69 Harley-Davidson Factory Flat Track Team XG750R) earned his best result since joining the works Harley-Davidson effort with a fifth, finishing just 0.086 seconds ahead of a charging Chad Cose (No. 49 Indian Motorcycle of Oklahoma City Scout FTR750).
Halbert’s teammate Brandon Robinson (No. 44 Harley-Davidson Factory Flat Track Team XG750R) took seventh. Springfield Mile I winner Jeffrey Carver Jr. (No. 23 Roof-Systems/Indian of Metro Milwaukee Scout FTR750), newly-Indian mounted Jake Johnson (No. 5 Estenson Racing Indian Scout FTR750), and Kenny Coolbeth Jr. (No. 2 Nila Racing, Columbia Avionics Indian Scout FTR750) rounded out the top ten.
Reigning AFT Singles champion Kolby Carlile (No. 1 Estenson Racing Yamaha YZ450F) out-dueled last year’s Red Mile dominator, Kevin Stollings (No. 99 Roof Systems Honda CRF450R), and the class’ all-time winningest rider, Shayna Texter (No. 52 ST52 JCS Racing Husqvarna FC 450), to claim victory in an instant undercard classic.
I’ve got to give it up to Shayna and Kevin,” Carlile said after his second win of the season. “We kept it clean, and it was a great battle; the fans loved it I’m sure. It came down to the wire… Coming off of (Turn) 4, I didn’t think I was going to win. I was hoping one of these two would pass me down the backstretch, but they were a little smarter than me, passing up the frontstretch. But it worked out. I can’t thank my team enough. Hopefully we’re back up here soon.”