DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Jared Mees etched his name in the American Flat Track record books yet again, scoring a signature victory in the first main event of the AFT SuperTwins presented by Vance & Hines era in Friday evening’s Volusia Half-Mile I presented by Russ Brown Motorcycle Attorneys.
It was a dream result for Mees at Volusia Speedway Park in Barberville, Fla., after previously translating season-opening wins in Florida into Grand National Championships in both 2017 and 2018.
The race’s decisive action took place in the opening minute. Mees and Jeffrey Carver Jr. clashed over the lead early, with Carver falling in an incident that brought out the red flag. Mees simply powered away at the restart and dominated from that point on. He controlled the race from the front while keeping an eye on the clock as the premier class broke in its new 12-minute + two lap main event format.
“It was pretty solid,” Mees said. “Me and Carver came together and the track was so slick, we tapped a little bit and he went down, unfortunately. Off the restart, I just ran my own race. The bike was so phenomenal; we made a few clicks just before the race and it paid off huge for us.”
The scrap for the remainder of the podium was considerably less predictable. Halbert jumped from fourth to second at the restart, with Brandon Robinson, Briar Bauman, Brandon Price and Bronson Bauman in close contention.
Reigning AFT SuperTwins champion Briar Bauman ducked up the inside of Robinson at half-distance to take control of third. Robinson was then immediately pounced on by both Price and the second Bauman as well. Robinson managed to counter and reclaim fourth in short order, but the rapid string of overtakes allowed Halbert and Briar Bauman to shake free of what had been a five-rider pack to that point.
Halbert appeared in line for a runner-up result, only to have it stolen away from him on the final lap. Bauman slashed by up the inside with just a corner remaining to the checkered flag to minimize the damage done by Mees’ triumph.
The race result was just the first of 18 destined to determine the AFT SuperTwins Championship, but it was an important one nonetheless for Mees after surrendering the title to Bauman last season.
“I had some momentum at the end of the year,” Mees said. “I knew going into Minnesota last year, the No. 1 plate was probably coming off because Briar rode so well. He deserved it. The best man won. But I was hungry through the offseason and I want it back.”
Bronson Bauman ultimately edged Price and Robinson to take fourth as Indian FTR750s swept the top six positions.
Seventh, however, went to the talented rookie Dalton Gauthier, whose impressive AFT SuperTwins debut hinted at even stronger results in the near future.
He was followed by factory H-D teammate Jarod Vanderkooi, with Davis Fisher and J.D. Beach rounding out the top-10.
In other action, rising star Max Whale came away with the first victory of his American Flat Track career following a tense multi-rider shootout in the AFT Singles presented by Russ Brown Motorcycle Attorneys opener.
The Australian ace established himself as the race favorite heading into the main event, but he had to work for it after getting a less-than-perfect start. That forced him to muscle his way past some of the sport’s most experienced riders, which he accomplished with seeming ease while still early in the race.
Whale never relinquished the lead once he had seized it. However, he still felt the pressure applied from close behind throughout, only eeking out a small gap in the contest’s final stages. Prior to his late escape, the battle for the win was a six-rider affair, with three former premier class standouts all looking to unlock a way past Whale and the win.
“I don’t think I could have got any better of a start to the year than this,” Whale said. “I’m pumped — I can’t believe it. I had a bit of an ordinary start and came from about fourth or fifth. It felt like that race went forever! I could just feel the boys breathing down my neck the whole time. I just tried to keep smooth, consistent laps. I knew if I made one mistake, I would be buried in the pack.”
Chad Cose ultimately finished second, taking the checkers more than a second off the win. He was followed home by Henry Wiles, who kicked off his AFT Singles career with a promising podium debut.
Mikey Rush narrowly held on for fourth after swapping the position back and forth with Tanner Dean.
Ryan Varnes scooped the win in the AFT Production Twins class, storming around the outside of race-long leader James Rispoli in the contest’s final corner to steal away the checkered flag.
Rispoli blasted off the line at the start, taking the holeshot and then opening an early advantage. The decorated roadracer then looked to run out the clock at the front in hopes of notching up his first national dirt track win in over a decade.
Varnes had his head down in pursuit throughout, reeling Rispoli into striking distance with just over a minute remaining on the timer. His first attempt to grab the advantage failed, however, as Rispoli foiled Varnes’ attempt to slide up the inside by holding firm on the line, the two making contact in the process.
Varnes lost ground in the melee but regrouped and set up his brilliant around-the-outside pass at the last possible opportunity with his rival anticipating another inside maneuver.
“There was a little contact,” Varnes admitted. “I figured I had to get aggressive out there in that main event. James rode a solid race the whole time and didn’t really leave any openings for me. I kind of just made my opportunity that one lap and he was able to hold me off and come back around. On that last lap, I had a run around the outside and thought, ‘I’m just going to go for it.’ I had to. I didn’t want to come in second, especially at the season opener. It was great. I can’t thank my team enough.”
Reigning AFT Production Twins champion Cory Texter kicked off his title defense with a solid performance, rounding out the podium in third.