SHAKOPEE, Minn. – American Flat Track crowned Briar Bauman the AFT Twins presented by Vance & Hines champion following Saturday evening’s wild and tense Indian Motorcycle Minnesota Mile presented by Law Tigers at Canterbury Park.
Even though multi-time reigning champion Jared Mees did all that he could by winning his seventh AFT Twins main event of the season in runaway fashion, both he and Bauman were well aware all Bauman needed to do to lock up the crown was finish on the podium – something he’d already accomplished 14 times in 16 attempts this season.
While he ultimately made it 15 to clinch the title, Bauman’s crowning achievement did not come without drama or adversity.
The first of Bauman’s obstacles came early, as he was involved in a high-speed crash in the early stages of the main event that also involved his brother, Bronson Bauman, MobileView Rookie of the Year Brandon Price, Stephen Vanderkuur and Sammy Halbert.
Bauman’s crew worked frantically during the stoppage to repair his heavily damaged machine, beating the odds and getting it back out for the restart. However, as a result of his crash, his path to the podium would have to begin from the back row as opposed to the front.
Immediately following the restart, a second red flag was issued due to another two-rider crash. The local curfew forced a 10-lap reduction in the main event for the third and final restart, which meant Bauman would only have 15 laps to feel out his rebuilt machine, master the tricky racing conditions, and fight his way forward past the world’s best dirt track racers.
Nevertheless, he did so with gusto, owning a bold, high line which he used to claw his way up to the fight for second that was being waged by Bryan Smith and Jeffrey Carver Jr.
In one final breathtaking moment, Bauman and Smith came together exiting turn four for the final time. That clash allowed Smith to just beat him to the line for second, but in the end, third was good enough for Bauman to realize his lifelong ambitions.
“I don’t know if I can put words on this right now,” an emotional Bauman said. “I’ve dreamed of this my whole life. I used to have posters of Bryan and Jared hanging in my room growing up. And to win it… I can’t even put it into words. I don’t even know what else to say.”
Mees showed his class by taking Bauman on his victory lap.
“My goal was to win these last two races,” Mees said. “Being 35 points down, it was really going to take some extremely bad luck for Briar – which almost happened to him. But he has a phenomenal team and they worked endlessly to get that bike put back together and back up front. I knew once he re-entered the race he was going to get third. Hats off to him and his team, and huge hats off to Indian Motorcycle for clinching their third championship.
“It’s hard to lose that No. 1 plate, especially after the domination we’ve had the last two years. But it went to the best guy this year, and I’m looking forward to next year to get it back.”
Carver – who scooped three holeshots on the night – finished fourth with Henry Wiles completing the top five.
Following 15 thrilling laps of Roof Systems AFT Singles presented by Russ Brown Motorcycle Attorneys action, Mikey Rush edged Ryan Wells by .004 seconds for victory at the checkered flag.
Rush didn’t appear headed toward a photo finish on Saturday night when he opened up a 0.799-second lead on the opening lap. That only seemed even more obvious when he stretched that advantage out to more than 1.2 seconds a pair of laps later.
However, ‘16 class champ Wells located a fast line that he used to successfully track Rush down, setting the stage for an incredible test of courage and tactics to determine the win between the two.
Wells looked to be exactly where he wanted to be on the final lap, lining Rush up for a drafting maneuver on the final straight. However, when he attempted to execute it, he managed to pull up alongside Rush but no further – running out of steam just a couple inches short of what he needed to beat his adversary to the stripe.
The narrow victory was Rush’s third win of the season and a satisfying consolation prize on the night he was officially eliminated from contention for the ’19 Roof Systems AFT Singles crown.
“Ryan showed me a killer line, and I stuck with it after he got by me,” Rush said. “I made it work, and I knew my Honda was on point tonight — it runs like a champ. Big thanks to the whole team and everyone who supports us.”
Championship leader Dalton Gauthier moved a big step closer to winning that title by finishing in fourth, one position behind rookie standout Dallas Daniels.
Kolby Carlile made certain the AFT Production Twins championship fight would go down to the season finale with a clutch performance to score his second victory of the season.
Chad Cose threatened to escape at the start, but Carlile put his head down and extracted the most from an evolving high line to systematically reel in Cose. On lap eight, Carlile finally drafted up alongside and dove up the inside of his quarry to snatch away the lead.
Cose attempted to return the favor a lap later but couldn’t quite make it stick. From there, he found himself on the back foot, as the two leaders’ battle stretched them more than a full straightaway out in front of the rest of the field.
Carlile shook free at the end to claim the checkered flag with a 2.195-second margin of victory. Cose had nearly seven seconds on third as their intense battle for the win pushed the two more than a full straightaway out in front of the remainder of the field.