Jared Mees claimed his third consecutive Grand National Championship at the 2023 Progressive AFT double-header finale Springfield Mile I & II over Labor Day weekend, making it a total of nine Grand National Championships of his career. Mees now equals Scott Parker for most Grand National Championships of all time.
“It’s what you wake up for every day,” said Mees. “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.”
Heading into the weekend, Indian Motorcycle’s Jard Mees led Estenson Racing’s Dallas Daniels by only one point. In the first race, Mees outraced his former teammate Briar Bauman to the checkered flag by 0.340 second, widening his points gap to Daniels who finished in fifth place, while Brandon Robinson finished a distant third. That gave Mees a comfortable 11-point advantage over his season-long rival heading into Sunday’s season finale.
“It was the most technical Springfield Mile I’ve ever raced,” Mees said after claiming his ninth victory of the year. There wasn’t much grip out there, and you really had to let the motorcycle hook up.“
In Springfield Mile II, Mees was just edged for the win by Briar Bauman who took the checkered flag with a 0.075-second margin of victory, with Davis Fisher rounding out the podium just 0.24 second ahead of Daniels, thwarting the Yamaha rider from what would have been his 16th podium finish of the year.
The 2023 Progressive AFT season ended with Mees holding 388 points, Daniels with 372, Beach with 301, Bauman with 299, and Fisher with 257.
Congratulations to Jared Mees and Indian Motorcycle for a historic Progressive AFT season and yet another Grand National Championship! For more information about the Springfield Mile I & II double-header finale, read the press releases below.
Progressive AFT Springfield Mile I
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (September 2, 2023) – Reigning Grand National Champion Jared Mees (No. 1 Indian Motorcycle/Rogers Racing/SDI Racing FTR750) took a huge step toward yet another premier-class crown with a triumphant performance in the Mission Springfield Mile I presented by Drag Specialties.
While fans of Progressive AFT, sanctioned by AMA Pro Racing, flocked to the Illinois State Fairgrounds in Springfield, Illinois, in anticipation of a showdown for Mission SuperTwins presented by S&S Cycle supremacy featuring Mees and challenger Dallas Daniels (No. 32 Estenson Racing Yamaha MT-07 DT), Saturday’s contest instead delivered a flashback to Grand National Championships past.
As it was, Mees was pushed to the checkered flag by long-time rival Briar Bauman (No. 3 Parts Plus/Jacob Companies KTM 790 Duke) after the two shook free from a six-rider pack to decide the race between them. The factory Indian star dug in with two laps remaining and ripped open a late 0.340-second margin as he moved that much closer to completing another successful title defense.
Brandon Robinson (No. 44 Mission Roof Systems Indian FTR750) finished third after coming on strong in the early going, running around the outside of Daniels, JD Beach (No. 95 Estenson Racing Yamaha MT-07 DT), Bauman, and Mees in quick succession to briefly claim the lead three minutes into the race.
Robinson then ran in close formation with Mees and Bauman before fading to a distant third over the final five minutes, ultimately surviving a last-gasp assault from Beach to claim final place on the podium.
Meanwhile, for the first – and least opportune – time this season, Daniels simply lacked podium pace. He did what he could to cling on to the lead group but was dropped from contention by the race’s halfway point. From there forward, it became all about damage limitation, which he managed by fending off Davis Fisher (No. 67 Rackley Racing/Bob Lanphere’s BMC Racing Indian FTR750) for fifth position.
Even so, what had been a one-point championship deficit is now 11 (367-356). As Mees holds the tiebreaker, that means even if Daniels turns his fortunes around overnight and wins on Sunday, Mees needs only finish sixth or better to add yet another championship trophy to his already expansive collection.
While nothing is guaranteed, that seems like a relatively modest task for the winner of six of the last Springfield Miles.
After claiming his ninth victory of the year, Mees said, “It was the most technical Springfield Mile I’ve ever raced. There wasn’t much grip out there, and you really had to let the motorcycle hook up. If you got just a little bit excited you buzzed it up. Honestly, it’s probably the very first Springfield Mile that you were better off leading the race because you could be timid, and if the guy behind you wanted to wick it up, it would spin up.
“I’ve got a phenomenal team, and we’re working really hard to get this thing done… It feels really good, but there’s one more tomorrow. Anything can happen, and we’ve got to bring it.”
Ben Lowe (No. 25 Rackley Racing/Mission Foods Indian FTR750) finished seventh just ahead of KTM-mounted Jarod Vanderkooi (No. 20 Wally Brown Racing/JMC Motorsports KTM 790 Duke), while Henry Wiles (No. 17 BriggsAuto.com/Martin Trucking Indian FTR750) and Johnny Lewis (No. 10 Moto Anatomy X Powered by Royal Enfield 650) completed the top ten.
Parts Unlimited AFT Singles presented by KICKER
Kody Kopp (No. 1 Red Bull KTM Factory Racing 450 SX-F) had every opportunity to cruise around to a safe fifth, which is all he needed to do to successfully defend his Parts Unlimited AFT Singles presented by KICKER title. Instead, he orchestrated a breathtaking 0.010-second victory to lock down the #1 plate for the second consecutive year in supreme style.
Kopp ran third for much of the race, tucked in close behind a back-and-forth dogfight waged by fellow prodigies Tom Drane (No. 59 Estenson Racing Yamaha YZ450F) and Chase Saathoff (No. 88 American Honda/Mission Foods CRF450R).
The reigning champ began to slot into second here and there as the minutes ticked away. With two minutes to go, the race bunched up to a six-rider affair as second-ranked Trevor Brunner (No. 21 Estenson Racing Yamaha YZ450F), rookie ace Declan Bender (No. 216 Killer Bee Racing/Luczak Racing KTM 450 SX-F), and veteran pilot Morgen Mischler (No. 13 American Honda/Mission Foods CRF450R) all closed to within striking distance.
But even in close quarters, the battle for victory still looked to be decided between Drane and Saathoff. Drane led to open the final lap, Saathoff powered by as they navigated Turn 2, and Drane dove back into the lead entering 3. But right there was Kopp in the shadow of the Australian, perfectly positioned to pounce as they sprinted to the line.
Kopp pulled out of the draft and nudged ahead by inches at the last possible moment. The 0.01-second victory saw the factory Red Bull KTM star simultaneously become just the category’s second two-time champion, earn his first-career Mile triumph, and match Dallas Daniels’ class single-season victory record with his eighth win on the year.
“I don’t even know what to say,” said Kopp. “It’s no secret that the KTM team was struggling on the Miles this year, but we’ve got some guys in our corner that don’t give up. The guys on the team want to win as badly as I do, and they built us a heck of a runner this weekend. Second championship… I’m speechless. It’s insane.”
Drane came away with his ninth podium in his last 11 attempts in second, while Saathoff will carry his pursuit of a maiden victory over to Sunday after finishing third, just 0.092 seconds off the Saturday win.
Brunner and Mischler rounded out the top five, finishing just ahead of Bender, who made a huge push for Rookie of the Year honors by finishing sixth, less than seven-tenths back of Kopp in first.
While Kopp has now clinched the crown with 333 points, the fight for second is yet to be decided. Brunner stands a mere four points ahead of his Estenson Racing teammate Drane (289-285) for the honor, while Saathoff holds an outside shot himself at 270.
Progressive AFT Springfield Mile II
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (September 3, 2023) – Jared Mees (No. 1 Indian Motorcycle/Rogers Racing/SDI Racing FTR750) strengthened his case for consideration as the greatest rider in the history of Progressive American Flat Track, sanctioned by AMA Pro Racing, securing a third consecutive Grand National Championship in Sunday’s season-ending Mission Springfield Mile II presented by Drag Specialties at the Illinois State Fairgrounds in Springfield, Illinois.
Mees’ hopes of ending his spectacular 2023 atop the podium were foiled, however, by two-time Mission SuperTwins presented by S&S Cycle champ Briar Bauman (No. 3 Parts Plus/Jacob Companies KTM 790 Duke), who edged his great rival to the season’s final checkered flag by 0.075 seconds.
Bauman and Mees 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.
Bauman said, “The team had a never-quit attitude. It’s always different when you’re in a position to wrap up a championship, which Jared was, so he might have been doing things a little bit different, but nonetheless, it’s a win to me. Life has been a little bit different recently. We lost my mom eight months ago and she hasn’t missed a race in five years. Lima kind of snuck up on me – I was surprised we won – but today when I came across the checkered flag, the emotions rolled out of me.”
Despite having been pit 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.
“So many people contributed to this. I’m a little lost for words for once. I had a really good feeling we were going to get it – we were really fast all weekend long. I wanted to try to win that last one. But I went into that last lap and when Briar ran up underneath me, I was like, ‘Dude, I’m bringing it home.’ I just followed him right off the corner and he brought me to the line, and that was good enough for me. We’re going to let this one soak in.”
Some five seconds back, Daniels tracked down Robinson while simultaneously being reeled in by JD Beach (No. 95 Estenson Racing Yamaha MT-07 DT) and Davis Fisher (No. 67 Rackley Racing/Bob Lanphere’s BMC Racing Indian FTR750). From there a four-rider fight for third was waged to the end.
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 Fisher earned the last step on the podium by 0.024 seconds ahead of Daniels 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 on Sunday, with Ben Lowe (No. 25 Rackley Racing/Mission Foods Indian FTR750), Henry Wiles (No. 17 BriggsAuto.com/Martin Trucking Indian FTR750), and Jarod Vanderkooi (No. 20 JMC Motorsports/Fairway Ford Indian FTR750) completing the finale top ten.
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.
As unpredictable as it was, throughout it all the top three positions were dominated by the 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.
Drane said, “This means a lot to do it here, at Springfield, with some Aussie fans out there. My career pretty much started at this track. I can’t thank my whole team enough for all their effort to get us here.”
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).
Next Up for Progressive AFT
For those that didn’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 from the entire season, which is available to watch on demand.
FOX Sports coverage of Mission Springfield Mile I & II presented by Drag Specialties featuring in-depth features and thrilling onboard cameras, will premiere back-to-back on FS1 on Sunday, September 10, starting at 10:00 a.m. ET (7:00 a.m. PT).
For more information, visit the Progressive AFT website.