The Progressive AFT championship came to a nail-biting close on October 9, with Indian Motorcycle teammates Jared Mees and reigning champ Briar Bauman battling to determine who would take the title. They were separated by just 4 points heading into the finale at the Charlotte Half-Mile.
Briar Bauman put in a worthy title fight with Mees in the beginning of the main event, holding a narrow lead until his bike got loose in a wet section that put him in contact with a hay bale and caused a body-slamming crash. Rider Sammy Halbert hit Bauman’s unattended bike, resulting in a spectacular accident that put “Slammin’” Sammy in the hospital. Bauman was able to limp to the pits and take the race restart on his backup bike.
But Bauman’s courage couldn’t overcome his physical injuries, so he had to retire from the race not long after the restart. That left the championship door wide open for Mees, but “Jammer” didn’t play it safe and instead banged bars with JD Beach, Jarod Vanderkooi, and Davis Fisher to duke it out for victory.
Fisher ultimately took the win, finishing 0.114 second ahead of Mees. Third went to Beach, and Vanderkooi settled into fourth. It was an exciting end to the Progressive AFT season, and Mees left with the 2021 championship to go with his Grand National titles in 2012, ’14, ’15, ’17, and 2018, as well as the 2009 and 2011 GNC1 Twins championships.
It was a tough year for Mees, as he had to recover from a mid-season knee injury that cost him crucial points in the championship chase, but he battled back to win five of the last seven races.
“The famous saying is you win ’em any way you can,” Mees commented after the race. “I hand it to Briar. He’s definitely one of the toughest competitors – if not the toughest competitor – I’ve ever dealt with. Man, he made me step up my game these past few years.”
In AFT Production Twins racing, Corey Texter had already been crowned with the title heading into Charlotte, but the championship runner-up honor was still to be decided. Chad Cose led early but faded during the race, while Jesse Janisch rode his Harley-Davidson XG750R to the win. Dan Bromley’s third-place finish wasn’t enough to lift him in points over Cose, who finished the race in seventh. Texter finished in fifth.
In the AFT Singles class, Dallas Daniels earned the title with a sixth-place finish, while Max Whale took championship runner-up honors with the race win.
Read AFT’s press release below to get its take on what went down at Charlotte.
CONCORD, N.C. (October 10, 2021) – An epic Progressive American Flat Track season finale was all but guaranteed with the Mission SuperTwins presented by S&S Cycle title on the line. Even still, the Honda Charlotte Half-Mile at the Dirt Track at Charlotte Motor Speedway in Concord, N.C., proved more dramatic than anyone could have possibly foreseen.
After the checkered flag dropped and a season’s worth of points were stacked up, the legendary Jared Mees (No. 9 Indian Motorcycle/Progressive Insurance FTR750) completed his two-year climb to reclaim the Grand National Championship.
Following 15-and-one-half rounds, a titanic Grand National Championship fight took a fateful turn in the blink of an eye. Two-time defending Mission SuperTwins presented by S&S Cycle king Briar Bauman (No. 1 Indian Motorcycle/Progressive Insurance FTR750) shook free from an early dogfight with Mees to stretch out several bike lengths at the front. The two title contenders would spend the next several minutes in a game of cat-and-mouse, with Bauman managing a gap of just under a second despite Mees’ desperate attempt to eat away at the advantage.
If Bauman held that lead to the checkered flag, he was set to become just the sixth rider in history to win three consecutive Grand National Championships. But that dream became a nightmare when he got loose in the wet section and his machine stood up underneath him.
After nearly pulling off a miraculous save, Bauman ultimately clipped a hay bale and was sent over the bars. His bike then skittered directly into the path of podium contender Sammy Halbert (No. 69 Coolbeth-Nila Racing Indian FTR750), who had nowhere to go and was sent high into the air in a dramatic crash.
After some time, Bauman was able to return to his feet while Halbert was unfortunately unable to continue the race and was transported to be evaluated for injury.
Further proving his worthiness as a champion, Bauman mounted his back-up machine and lined up at the back of the grid for the restart with five minutes plus two laps remaining to decide the title. Unfortunately, his battered body was unable to match his bravery, and after a short stint, Bauman was forced to retire into the pits.
While the title was effectively decided at that point, the race was not. JD Beach (No. 95 Estenson Racing Yamaha MT-07 DT) stepped forward to provide Mees a fierce fight for the win. As the time ticked away, the two were slowly reeled in by Davis Fisher (No. 67 BMC Racing/Dick Wall 60 Indian FTR750) and Jarod Vanderkooi (No. 20 Mission Roof Systems Indian FTR750), who turned it into a four-way scrap as the clock hit 0:00.
With two to go, Beach took his shot, which was skillfully brushed away by Mees.
Fisher, however, took advantage of their tussle, slipping under Beach and then lining up Mees in the year’s final corner. He got underneath the champion-to-be and powered past him as they sprinted to the checkered flag.
The paddock erupted as Fisher hit the stripe 0.114 seconds ahead of Mees to claim his maiden premier class victory. Beach held on for third, followed by Vanderkooi and Brandon Robinson (No. 44 Mission Roof Systems Indian FTR750) to complete the top five.
Fisher said, “Oh man, it was a fight. All season long was a grind, just to stay fit and keep working on the bikes all week long. It feels so good. I even had thoughts to not even come to Charlotte this year. We loaded up the van and left the trailer at home and made the trip. This morning my sponsor said he was glad we came and asked me if I was glad too. I said, ‘I don’t know — I’ll tell you tonight!’ It feels so good. I’ve got 41 hours to think about it on the way home.”
Future Hall of Famer Mees now boasts the ’12, ‘14, ‘15, ’17, ’18, and ‘21 Grand National Championships, along with the 2009 and 2011 GNC1 Twins Championships and the 2012 GNC1 Singles Championship. He said, “I hand it to Briar. He’s definitely one of the toughest competitors — if not the toughest competitor — I’ve ever dealt with.
“The famous saying is you win ‘em any way you can. I don’t know… the hype isn’t there at this very second… but to win these things you have to cross the finish line. Man, he made me step up my game these past few years — there’s no doubt about that. He’s one tough competitor. We had a little ‘bro-out’ moment back there, and I told him, ‘Hey, you’re gonna heal up and the battle will resume next year.’”
The AFT Singles finale played out about as tensely as possible considering the situation at hand, but in the end, Dallas Daniels (No. 1 Estenson Racing Yamaha YZ450F) did exactly what he needed to in order to become the class’ first-ever back-to-back champion.
With a 20-point gap separating Daniels from second-ranked Max Whale (No. 18 Red Bull KTM Factory Racing 450 SX-FFE), the only way Daniels wouldn’t hold onto the #1 plate was if Whale won and Daniels finished lower than 13th.
While that seemed like an unlikely prospect in theory, it felt a whole lot more realistic once the rubber actually hit the dirt. As the deciding race took shape, Whale put himself up front in an intense battle with Kody Kopp (No. 143 Smartop/Jones Honda/Latus Motors CRF450R) while Daniels cautiously circulated down in 12th on a tricky course that repeatedly demonstrated the capacity to catch riders out without notice.
Adding to the tension, the race was red-flagged late following a Morgen Mischler (No. 13 Mission Roof Systems KTM 450 SX-F) crash. That forced Daniels to navigate the close quarters of a restart, but he actually made up ground in the process, getting away well to slot into a safe sixth.
Whale did all he could, slashing past Kopp to claim his class-leading fifth win of the year. Just behind, Trent Lowe (No. 48 WBR/Suzuki Motor of America RM-Z450) pulled off a spectacular late strike to ace Honda teammates Cole Zabala (No. 51 American Honda/Progressive Insurance CRF450R) and Trevor Brunner (No. 21 American Honda/Progressive Insurance CRF450R) in order to pick up his first podium of ‘21 in his very final attempt.
And then came Daniels, who rolled across the line in sixth to successfully complete his championship defense.
An emotional Daniels fought back the tears as he said, “This championship has been tough — a lot of ups and downs this season. I can’t thank my team enough. It’s been a hard season and these guys stuck behind me. To make history like this is awesome. It was tough tonight because the track was treacherous. It just means the world to me.”
Race winner and championship runner-up Whale said, “It’s really satisfying. You’re only as good as your last race. You know, it’s awesome to get the win, and I’m super pumped. The team and I worked so hard today. But I’m also bummed because I really wanted to win the championship this year. But that’s how it goes really — it’s motorcycle racing. Congrats to the whole Estenson team and Dallas — he rode great all year.”
AFT Production Twins presented by Vance & Hines
The late-season transition of Jesse Janisch (No. 96 Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson XG750R) from the couch to AFT Production Twins presented by Vance & Hines podium contention ended on the top step of the box.
Once regarded primarily as a 450cc TT ace, Janisch proved he more than belonged on a twin after being drafted to sub for the injured Dalton Gauthier (No. 79 D&D Cycles/Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson XG750R). With finishes of second, third, third, and fourth to his name in limited duty, Janisch put the cherry on top with a narrow victory in the finale over Ben Lowe (No. 25 Vance & Hines/Mission Roof Systems Harley-Davidson XG750R).
Janisch said, “It’s insane, right? I didn’t expect it. Honestly, I don’t think anyone really expected it. It’s such an honor to get a chance with such a prestigious team. Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson, they’ve got the XG750R working amazingly. Like I’ve said before, I think it’s the best bike in the class. And to just get the opportunity is unreal.”
With the class crown already decided in favor of Cory Texter (No. 65 G&G Racing/Yamaha Racing MT-07), Chad Cose (No. 49 Vance & Hines/Ranger/Roof Systems Harley-Davidson XG750R) and Dan Bromley (No. 62 Memphis Shades/Vinson Construction Yamaha MT-07) came into Charlotte set to decide the championship runner-up between them.
Cose was the race’s early leader and Bromley joined Cose, Janisch, and Lowe in a mid-race tilt for first place. Cose ultimately faded to seventh while Bromley rounded out the podium, but the differential still wasn’t quite enough for Bromley to catch Cose for runner-up honors.
Johnny Lewis (No. 10 Moto Anatomy X Powered by Royal Enfield Twins FT) hustled the Royal Enfield to fourth. Meanwhile, class champ Texter added one final top five to a championship-winning season that tallied up seven wins, 11 podiums, and 13 top-fives in 16 races.
The Honda Charlotte Half-Mile will premiere on NBCSN Saturday, October 16, starting at 7:00 p.m. ET/4:00 p.m. PT. It will re-air on Friday, October 22, at 6:00 p.m. ET/3:00 p.m. PT.
For more information, please visit http://www.americanflattrack.com.