Over the last three years in American Flat Track competition, the undisputed Champ has been defined by one Jared Mees, while a younger and gifted challenger has emerged in Briar Bauman.
Despite finishing second to Bauman during the 2019 season, it would be hard to pick anyone other than Mees as the favorite to win the 2020 AFT SuperTwins Championship. Before the AFT era began (pre 2017) Mees had 20 wins and three championships in 13 seasons. Since AFT took over the professional dirt track reins, Mees has amassed 28 wins and two titles in just three years.
Additionally, a change in racing venues for 2020 will favor Mees. Out is the Arizona TT, and in is the return of the Oklahoma City Mile, where Mees has dominated with three wins in the three years AFT raced there. At 34, Mees is past his prime as a rider but at his peak in racecraft and physical conditioning.
Bauman, considered by many as the best motorcycle rider in AFT, has blossomed since switching to Indian. Bauman has proven his versatility with wins on Short Tracks, TTs and Half-Miles, and running near the front with Mees on the Mile tracks more regularly. When he starts taking the occasional win from Mees on the Miles, we will have witnessed the official changing of the guard.
With regard to that machinery switch, Bauman has racked up seven wins in 25 starts since ditching the Kawasaki. That’s impressive compared to his three wins in seven and a half years previously. Turning 25 in July, Bauman is just entering his prime as a rider. How he fares as a racer will depend on how he counters Mees’ experiential advantages.
Although they’re at very different points on their career-path trajectories, both possess uncanny similarities in their preparation for success and in their personal lives. Professionally, the obvious is their representation for Indian, Mees on the Craig Rogers Racing/Kenny Tolbert-prepared machines, and Bauman on the S&S Factory run effort. Both teams, and the way they operate, have proven successful.
The AFT era began with a switch to twin-cylinder machines at all types of tracks. Riding the 320-pound, 100-horse twins at all rounds has placed a premium on physical conditioning for an entire generation of racers who grew up riding 230-pound, 450cc, 65-horse MX-based singles. Mees, who has a winter home in Florida, and Bauman, who’s been bunking there since the first week of January, have each enrolled in Florida’s Baker Factory, run by legendary trainer-to-the-Supercross-stars Aldon Baker. The two are reportedly pushing each other hard, both of them understanding that there is no better sparring partner than another recent champion and your current competition.
On a personal level, both have significant others who are very familiar with the grind that comes with racing motorcycles professionally. Mees is married to the former “Fast Lady of Flat Track” Nicole Cheza Mees. Bauman was recently engaged to the current “Fast Lady of Flat Track” and perennial crowd favorite, AFT Singles competitor Shayna Texter. Having a spouse or future spouse who has walked in a steel shoe like you do is an advantage away from the track. In Bauman’s case, having a fiancée on track, usually in the race right before his own, will provide him with up to date track knowledge.
Both Mees and Bauman are proven winners in this new era. They are as prepared as racers can be, on and off the track. They are on proven machines, prepared by proven teams. So it would be difficult to imagine anyone else as the 2020 American Flat Track SuperTwins Champion.
The cool thing about any kind of racing is that racers and teams can tick off all the boxes in their preparation, and do all the work necessary, professionally and personally, to be successful. But when the bell rings, or in this case the light flashes green, all bets are off. Let the racing begin!
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