Dallas Daniels earned a pair of wins at the Progressive AFT season-opening double-header in Daytona. After finishing in first in the Daytona Short Track I on Thursday, Estenson Racing Yamaha’s Daniels did it again on Saturday, pulling ahead of Indian-mounted Jarod Vanderkooi late in the race. Vanderkooi held on to second, and Davis Fisher finished in third.
At the season finale round in 2022, Daniels dropped out of title contention after a late-race crash. This year, with two wins in hand after the first weekend, he’s already off to a strong start. Meanwhile, title defender Jared Mees never made it to the podium. However, Mees, who has yet to triumph at Daytona, has proven that he doesn’t need a win at Daytona to come out on top of the points chase in the end.
The next round is scheduled for March 25 at Senoia Raceway in Senoia, Georgia. Read the press release below for more info about the races at Daytona and how to watch upcoming rounds.
Daytona Beach, Fla. (March 11, 2023) – Dallas Daniels (No. 32 Estenson Racing Yamaha MT-07 DT) kicked off his 2023 Progressive American Flat Track championship campaign in near-perfect fashion, completing the second half of the season-opening double win with another sensational ride in Saturday night’s Daytona Short Track II presented by Daytona Dodge at the Flat Track at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Florida.
Daniels was already a legitimate title contender as a rookie a year ago. Early indications suggest he’s that much stronger now with a year’s Mission SuperTwins presented by S&S Cycle experience under his belt.
The Estenson Racing Yamaha ace got away off the line in third, running in close quarters behind early leader Jarod Vanderkooi (No. 20 JMC Motorsports/Fairway Ford Indian FTR750) and Jared Mees (No. 1 Indian Motorcycle/Rogers Racing/SDI Racing FTR750), with Thursday runner-up Brandon Robinson (No. 44 Mission Roof Systems Indian FTR750) right in his tracks.
Robinson made an early exit from the fight for the win, getting into the airfence and losing several positions in the process. Daniels slipped up the inside of Mees a little less than three minutes into the ten-minute-plus-two-lap Main to take over second, just as Davis Fisher (No. 67 Rackley Racing/Bob Lanphere’s BMC Racing Indian FTR750) closed in to make it a four-rider fight at the front again.
Daniels then spent the next four minutes stalking Vanderkooi, looking up the inside and around outside, while generally applying the sort of pressure that might just open a door straight through. He finally found the gap he was looking for with 3:30 minutes remaining on the clock, striking up the inside as the leaders encountered a wave of lapped riders.
Daniels met little resistance once into the lead, stretching out an advantage that finalized as a 2.069-second margin of victory in the end.
“It was tough – Jarod was running a really good race,” Daniels said. “He was being patient – he was really easy on the throttle and wasn’t making any mistakes. I had to search. I wanted to sit there for a little bit. After I got off the line, I was all right with where I was, and I was paying attention to everything. I wanted to stalk him for a while, but then it was time to go.
“A double at Daytona is crazy. It’s unbelievable. A big thanks to the whole Estenson Monster Energy Yamaha team. We had a great year last year, and to start off the year with two wins in Daytona is insane.”
Related: 2023 Progressive AFT Broadcast Schedule Announced
Shortly after Daniels took over the lead, Fisher slashed his way past Mees to complete the “new guard” podium line-up in third, joining winner Daniels and second-placed Vanderkooi.
Reigning champ Mees came away with his second fourth of the double-opener – a marked upgrade over how his prospects may have looked earlier in the week. Meanwhile, Daniels’ teammate, JD Beach (No. 95 Estenson Racing Yamaha MT-07 DT), logged a second fifth.
Robinson recovered well enough from his early drama to finish in sixth, one spot ahead of Briar Bauman (No. 3 Parts Plus/Jacob Companies KTM 890 Duke), who was forced to claw his way up to seventh from outside the top ten.
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Four-time Daytona ST winner Sammy Halbert (No. 69 Martin Trucking/Castrol Yamaha MT-07), privateer Kayl Kolkman (No 98 B&L Plumbing/Rod Lake Yamaha MT-07), and Royal Enfield factory man Johnny Lewis (No. 10 Moto Anatomy X Powered by Royal Enfield 650) completed the top ten.
Parts Unlimited AFT Singles presented by KICKER
Defending Parts Unlimited AFT Singles presented by KICKER Kody Kopp (No. 1 Red Bull KTM Factory Racing 450 SX-F) doubled up in Daytona, delivering a second dose of domination on Saturday night.
Clearly in a class of his own at the venue, Kopp pulled off another sweep, repeating his Thursday trick of topping practice, qualifying, his Heat, the Al Lamb’s Dallas Honda Challenge, and most importantly, the Main Event.
Kopp successfully weaved his way through the opening lap chaos to secure the lead three turns into the race. And while Chase Saathoff (No. 88 American Honda/Mission Foods CRF450R) did everything in his power to cling onto Kopp’s rear wheel, a little more than a minute in, the race for victory was effectively over.
Kopp ultimately worked his advantage up to over five seconds before taking a drama-free checkered flag.
“It’s just two for 18,” Kopp said. “We’ve got 16 more rounds, so there’s a lot more work to do. You can’t judge a season off two races at a track that really suits my style. I grew up riding a lot of indoors in the Pacific Northwest, and this was kinda like that. Thanks to my whole Red Bull KTM crew – this is a dream way to start the season for sure.”
After losing touch with the leader, Saathoff was gradually reeled in by ’22 championship runner-up Dalton Gauthier (No. 79 D&D Racing/Certified KTM 450 SX-F), who first had to fight his way past Trent Lowe (No. 48 American Honda/Mission Foods CRF450R) and Justin Jones (No. 91 NRC Racing/Elder Trucking KTM 450 SX-F) to slide into third.
Gauthier and Saathoff then swapped the second spot back and forth, squaring one another up in quick succession before the charging Gauthier finally stole the position away for good.
Saathoff held on for the final spot on the box by a scant 0.084 seconds despite having to fend off a late challenge from new Turner Honda teammate Lowe.
Kopp’s teammate, Max Whale (No. 18 Red Bull KTM Factory Racing 450 SX-F), battled past the impressive Jones to complete the top five.
The world’s premier dirt track motorcycle racing series makes its first-ever trip to Senoia Raceway in Senoia, Georgia, for the inaugural Yamaha Senoia Short Track on Saturday, March 25. Click here to secure your tickets today.
For those that can’t catch the live action from the circuit, FansChoice.tv is the live streaming home of Progressive AFT. Sign up now and catch every second of on-track action starting with Practice & Qualifying and ending with the Victory Podium at the end of the night here.
FOX Sports coverage, featuring in-depth features and thrilling onboard cameras, will premiere on FS1 from the Daytona Short Track I on March 18 at 10:30 a.m. ET (7:30 a.m. PT) and Daytona Short Track II on March 19 at 12:30 p.m. ET (9:30 a.m. PT).
For more information on Progressive AFT visit AFT’s website.