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Tuesday 5 September 2023


Mees and Kopp Win 2023 AFT Championships

Following his win in the Springfield Mile I (September 2), Jared Mees (No. 1 Indian Motorcycle/Rogers Racing/SDI Racing FTR750) strengthened his case for consideration as the greatest AFT rider in history in finishing second - behind Briar Bauman (No. 3 Parts Plus/Jacob Companies KTM 790 Duke) - to secure a third consecutive and ninth total Grand National Championship in the (September 3) season-ending Mission Springfield Mile II presented by Drag Specialties at the Illinois State Fairgrounds in Springfield, Illinois.

Mission SuperTwins presented by S&S Cycle

Two-time champ Briar Bauman edged his great rival to the season's final checkered flag by 0.075 seconds - the pair having slipped free first from title challenger Dallas Daniels (No. 32 Estenson Racing Yamaha MT-07 DT), and then Brandon Robinson (No. 44 Mission Roof Systems Indian FTR750) - to settle into a two-rider duel for the contest's second half. 

The back-and-forth affair remained in question right up to that last charge to the stripe where Bauman earned his first-career Springfield Mile victory and Mees added to his legend. While the season belonged to Mees, Bauman's stunning finale served as an enticing sneak preview of what could be in store for the series in 2024.

Mission SuperTwins race results

Despite having been pitched up against multiple generations of dirt track titans over the past two decades - from Chris Carr to Kenny Coolbeth to Jake Johnson to Brad Baker to Bryan Smith to Bauman and now Daniels - Mees has stacked up a résumé that stands alongside any previously assembled in the 70-year history of the championship. 

The factory Indian superstar now boasts an incredible nine Grand National Championships (2009, 2012, 2014, 2015, 2017, 2018, 2021, 2022 and 2023), equaling the great Scott Parker for most all-time.

Mees said, "It's what you wake up for every day. It's what you train for. Hats off to Scottie Parker -that's the guy that keeps me going. He kept me going year after year, race after race. He's still the best in my book, and it's an honor to match something that he did."

Mission SuperTwins standings

The same way, a tenth victory would have been a fitting conclusion to Mees' season, a 16th podium would have been a natural way to end Daniels' remarkable sophomore campaign. Of course, the racing gods aren't often supporters of such contrivances, and thus Davis Fisher (No. 67 Rackley Racing/Bob Lanphere's BMC Racing Indian FTR750) earned the last step on the podium by 0.024 seconds ahead of Daniels in fourth, with Robinson and Beach just behind in fifth and sixth, respectively.

Fisher's second top three of the season allowed him to secure a spot in the championship top five (257) behind Mees (388), Daniels (372), Beach (301) and Bauman (299), and end the year as the top independent Indian.

Daniels, meanwhile, completes 2023 with a five-win, 15-podium runner-up season, and now armed with plenty of motivation and hard-earned experience, heading into 2024.

Bronson Bauman (No. 37 Fastrack Racing/2 Wheelz KTM 790 Duke) finished seventh, with Ben Lowe (No. 25 Rackley Racing/Mission Foods Indian FTR750), Henry Wiles (No. 17 Trucking Indian FTR750), and Jarod Vanderkooi (No. 20 JMC Motorsports/Fairway Ford Indian FTR750) completing the finale top ten.

This meant a win and three riders in the top-10 in total for the KTM 790 Duke, with five Indian FTR750 riders and two on the Yamaha MT-07.

Parts Unlimited AFT Singles presented by KICKER

Even though Kody Kopp (No. 1 Red Bull KTM Factory Racing 450 SX-F) locked up a repeat Parts Unlimited AFT Singles presented by KICKER crown a day early, the class did not lack for drama in its final outing of the year.

Nine riders ran in contention for victory for the full ten laps and two minutes of the epic finale, running five wide and swapping positions all the while.

Parts Unlimited AFT Singles race results

As unpredictable as it was, throughout it all, the top three positions were dominated by the 2023 "usual suspects" - Kopp, Tom Drane (No. 59 Estenson Racing Yamaha YZ450F) and Chase Saathoff (No. 88 American Honda/Mission Foods CRF450R).

Drane took the white flag in the lead, with Kopp on his rear wheel. But before any Saturday flashbacks could fully materialize, Saathoff blew past Kopp and dove under his Aussie rival, entering Turn 3 for the final time.

The Honda ace leapt out of Turn 4 with his maiden victory in his sights, but his ascension to Progressive AFT winner status was cruelly delayed once again when Drane powered ahead to steal the win at the line by 0.043 seconds.

The victory was Drane's fourth of the season and more than enough to leapfrog his teammate and Sunday fourth-place finisher Trevor Brunner (No. 21 Estenson Racing Yamaha YZ450F) for second position in the final standings.

Parts Unlimited AFT Singles standings

The near miss was Saathoff's ninth podium of the season and his sixth runner-up. Meanwhile, two-time champion Kopp finished third to round out his incredible eight-win season with an 11th podium.

Morgen Mischler (No. 13 American Honda/Mission Foods CRF450R), Trent Lowe (No. 48 American Honda/Mission Foods CRF450R), Declan Bender (No. 216 Killer Bee Racing/Luczak Racing KTM 450 SX-F), and James Ott (No. 19 1st Impressions Race Team/Husqvarna Racing FC450) finished fractions of a second back in fifth through eighth, respectively.

Kopp's teammate, Max Whale (No. 18 Red Bull KTM Factory Racing 450 SX-F), crossed the stripe as the final rider in the lead pack, registering a ninth-place result despite finishing only 0.637 seconds off the victory. The result was still stout enough to hold onto a championship top-five ranking, however, with an ultimate class order of Kopp (351), Drane (310), Brunner (305), Saathoff (291) and Whale (266).