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Tuesday 4 July 2023

Progressive American Flat Track

Mees Outlasts Bauman, Equals Parker at West Virginia Half-Mile

Jared Mees (No. 1 Indian Motorcycle/Rogers Racing/SDI Racing FTR750) delivered a "performance for the ages" in the All Seasons Powersports West Virginia Half-Mile (July 1, 2023), in what proved to be a memorable return for Progressive American Flat Track to Mineral Wells, West Virginia, after nearly two decades away.

Mission SuperTwins presented by S&S Cycle

Mees arrived at the West Virginia Motor Speedway for the first time since 2006 with an opportunity to match fellow legend Scott Parker's mark for most Half-Mile wins in the long history of the Grand National Championship.

To do so he was going to have to overcome the combined challenge of title leader Dallas Daniels (No. 32 Estenson Racing Yamaha MT-07 DT), Lima Half-Mile conqueror Briar Bauman (No. 3 Parts Plus/Jacob Companies KTM 790 Duke), and Mission #2Fast2Tasty Challenge winner Davis Fisher (No. 67 Rackley Racing/Bob Lanphere's BMC Racing Indian FTR750), after the four went bar-to-bar minutes earlier in the four-lap dash for cash.

The potential adversaries whittled down almost immediately, however, as Fisher wheelied away his prime starting slot from pole and dropped to sixth. Meanwhile, Daniels was only one position further up the order and slotted in behind fellow Yamaha runners JD Beach (No. 95 Estenson Racing Yamaha MT-07 DT) and Dan Bromley (No. 62 HRP Racing/Memphis Shades/Mike Vinson/Corbin Yamaha MT-07).

Mission AFT SuperTwins
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That left just Briar Bauman alone to prevent Mees from escaping at the front. The Rick Ware Racing hero did well to demonstrate his recent success was down to more than simply capitalizing on a series of racetracks well suited to his bike's strengths, tracking the factory Indian ace down to show him a wheel at half-distance.

However, Mees' relentless excellence ultimately won the day, allowing him to stretch open some breathing space late. In the end, he secured his record-tying 35th-career HM win with a 0.609-second margin of victory with Bauman second, Daniels maintaining his perfect top-three run in third, with JD Beach forth and Fisher fifth ahead of Dan Bromley (MT-07), Vanderkooi (FTR750), Johnny Lewis (Royal Enfield 650) and Henry Wiles (FTR750) in tenths spot.

There were four Indians and four Yamaha MT-07s in the top-10, plus one Royal Enfield and one KTM 790 Duke. 

Parts Unlimited AFT Singles presented by KICKER

Defending class champion Kody Kopp (No. 1 Red Bull KTM Factory Racing 450 SX-F) once again showcased his Half-Mile mastery by scoring the seventh victory of his young career at the distance and, like the prior weekend's win, this one did not come easily.

From the start, Kopp was embroiled in an evolving melee with Trevor Brunner (No. 21 Estenson Racing Yamaha YZ450F) and James Ott (No. 19 1st Impressions Race Team/Husqvarna Racing FC450). With multiple race lines working, the three moved up and down the track as they exploited their preferred angles of attack while looking for any possible edge over one another.

Brunner pushed into the lead at mid-distance and held a half-second advantage at one point. However, the KTM star put his head down, reeled the Estenson Racing pilot back in, and kept up the momentum once he stormed past on the high line, taking the win over Brunner by 0.612 of a second - his first podium since the season opener. 

Parts Unlimited AFT Singles
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He was followed by Ott, who faded slightly late en route to his third top three of the season, with Trent Lowe (No. 48 American Honda/Mission Foods CRF450R) fourth and Turner Racing Honda teammate Chase Saathoff (No. 88 American Honda/Mission Foods CRF450R) fifth.

Max Whale (KTM 450 SX-F) took sixth, with Tom Drane (Yamaha YZ450F in seventh, Chad Cose (Huqvarna FC450) in eighth, Dalton Gauthier (KTM 450 SX-F) ninth and Jared Lowe (Honda CRF450R) tenths. There were three KTMs in the top-10 (five if you count the two Husqvarna FC450 badged KTMs) three Hondas and two Yamahas.

Kopp left West Virginia with five wins so far to his name in 2023 and a commanding lead in his title defense, ahead of Whale in second with Brunner and Saathoff tied for third spot.

Next Up: The third of a four-race run of Half-Miles follows, with the Orange County Half-Mile at Middletown, NY. On July 8 an inaugural AFT visit to the Bridgeport Speedway at Swedesboro, NJ two weeks after that on July 22 (Round 13) for the final Half-Mile of the season. 

July 30 will then see the series head to Illinois for the Peoria TT (Round 14). That was due to be the first of what would have been three consecutive TT races, but the annual trip to South Dakota at Sturgis Rally time will see a Black Hills Half-Mile at Black Hills Speedway replacing the originally planned Buffalo Chip TT on Sunday, August 6. The final TT of the year will wrap up the West Coast race program at Castle Rock, Washington State on August 12, with the season then reaching its crescendo with the two Springfield Mile races on September 2 and 3 (Rounds 17 and 18).