The Home-field Advantage: Estenson Racing's Arizona Super TT Triumph

Deep into Saturday night’s Law Tigers Arizona Super TT presented by RideNow Powersports Main Event, AFT Twins presented by Vance & Hines championship leader Briar Bauman appeared well on his way to shifting one critical American Flat Track narrative while cementing another.

The factory Indian pilot had been exceptionally strong all day at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park -- just as he had been all season. Alone out in front, Bauman had an iron grip on the race. A second runaway victory in the season’s opening four races would go a long way toward certifying the legitimacy of his challenge to Grand National Champion Jared Mees’ crown while further bolstering the Indian Wrecking crew’s undisputed domination of the sport.

That is, until Estenson Racing’s JD Beach disputed it. Riding on the crest of a wave of history, Beach ran Bauman down, rushed by him like a flood, and stormed to the checkered flag.

The amazing comeback lopped off a number of achievements in one fell swoop, including Beach’s first-career premier class victory, the first-ever win for the Estenson Racing Yamaha MT-07 DT, and the first Grand National win for a Yamaha twin in nearly four decades.

Best of all, it all went down at Estenson Racing’s home round.

Estenson’s Director of Racing Operations Tommy Hayden said, “To do it here in the hometown of (team owner) Tim Estenson and where the shop is based, and have it come down to the end like that... I don't think you could have scripted it any better.”

Team Owner Tim Estenson shares a special podium moment with Beach for first AFT Twins victory. 

(Photo credit Estenson Racing/Andrea Wilson)

Estenson said, “On Friday, we had some people asking my predictions about how we'd do in my hometown. I didn't want to say the wrong thing and jinx us, but at the same time, I felt really good about it. JD Beach, Jake Johnson, and Kolby Carlile are all fantastic TT riders. I had high hopes.

“And then with five to go, I thought, 'This is great, we're going to be able to put a Yamaha on the podium in second place in my hometown.' But JD was not to be denied -- he was going to run him down and the bike was working really well. JD just made it happen.

“To be able to have my family there, and have some friends in town, and have it be JD's first premier class Grand National win... it was absolutely wonderful.”

For Beach, it was quite literally an accomplishment a lifetime in the making.

“It definitely feels really good,” he said. “This is something I've been wanting for a long time now -- probably since I was four years old. It’s also really cool to do for Yamaha; they have really helped me a lot of the last several years. And it's extra cool because the last time that they won on a twin (Peoria TT, 1981), Scott Pearson was also running the #95.”

Hayden and Beach share similar racing backgrounds and intertwined histories, positioning Hayden well to appreciate Beach’s struggles and successes. He said, “It was great to see JD do it. I'm a big believer in JD and his ability. He just puts so much into it. He's a professional. In my new position with the team, I see all the time and effort the guys in the shop put in. To know your rider is doing the same thing, it’s just a good feeling all the way around.”

While JD stole the spotlight, it was a massive homecoming night for Estenson Racing overall. Jake Johnson, who guided the Estenson Racing Yamaha MT-07 DT to its first breakthrough by scoring a podium at the season-opening DAYTONA TT, made it two Yamahas in the top five.

Additionally, Ryan Wells finally got his Roof Systems AFT Singles presented by Russ Brown Motorcycle Attorneys season on track with an impressive ride to the podium of his own.

Without prompting, both Hayden and Beach noted how important the Yamaha brand is to Tim Estenson and just how driven he is to make the marque a force in AFT racing.

Hayden said, “This win is great for the sport in general. It's been dominated by Indian as of late and by Harley for many years before that. To have another brand at the front is always good. Tim has a very strong passion for Yamaha, and I know it meant a lot to him.”

Beach added, “It’s why he started this whole thing -- to win on the Yamaha brand. It's a brand that he's loved since he was a kid.”

It took a mammoth effort to get to this point -- an effort that was not without considerable challenges, and one that is not without considerable challenges still ahead.

Last season, Estenson Racing scored its maiden AFT Twins victory at the Buffalo Chip TT. However, it was, in a way, bittersweet. In order to get that debut win, the team had to join ‘em to beat ‘em, swapping to an Indian FTR750 after enduring a difficult start to the year on their Yamaha FZ-07-based flat tracker.

Estenson said, “We had a lot of trouble at the beginning of last year, and that goes back to the winter before that. What I thought was going to work, didn't. Instead of trying to do R&D at the Nationals, I had the capability to bring in some Indians, and I allowed Jake to race those. He felt really comfortable on them, and I didn't want the rider to get too down. I knew it would be a good uplift for him. The Indian is an incredible motorcycle. They created a great motor and a great bike, and I was proud to run it.

“But at the same time, my racing background was always with Yamaha, and my family was always tied to the Yamaha brand with our shop. I felt that I owed it to really stick to that. I felt better creating and working on that product.

“And I felt it was better for AFT too. We talk a lot about it -- AFT is on such a strong run right now. It's such a great product to watch on TV and such a family-friendly program to attend in person. But if we come out and we just see one brand win... In the past it was Harley and more recently it’s been Indian... I wanted to be able to do something to help change that.

“When last year ended, I said, 'The Indians are going away. We're committed to the Yamaha. And heaven forbid, I'm going to do everything possible to make it work.’ And we’re going to continue to do that.”

With that decision have come some development pains. And beyond the premier-class difficulties, bad luck had stung the squad in AFT Singles competition early this season.

Widely expected to compete for a second undercard crown, Wells’ ‘19 season has been up and down to date.

“Mainly down,” he corrected.

“It had been depressing. I had felt great on the bike, but we didn't have the results. To finally put one together, get the whole day done, and finally be on the box -- it was huge.

Wells on his best ride of 2019 and rocketing toward a P3 finish. 
(Photo credit Estenson Racing/Andrea Wilson)

“When people start doing bad, it's tense around the entire pit, not just for the rider. Mechanics and everyone -- we've just been a little down. Saturday’s results were pretty awesome for the entire team. It rekindled some faith. It makes for a much better work environment, that's for sure.

“We all give so much to do well. I've worked harder than I've ever worked. I moved down here to Phoenix to train my hardest all winter long. For the results to be what they were, you start to wonder what the point was. It's good to see it pay off, and I think we all felt that way.”

Estenson said, “For me personally, it's been roughly two-and-a-half years working on this project with some wonderful people, fighting to get the (MT-07 DT) to work. A lot of the folks with the Indian crew came over and congratulated us after our win. They were truly happy to see it happen.

Beach expertly moving forward in the Main Event of Saturday's Arizona Super TT. 
(Photo credit Estenson Racing/Andrea Wilson)

“I couldn't be more pleased with everyone on my team. They work so well together, and they truly made it happen. It sounds like a line everyone says all the time, but we did really work so hard over the winter. And we still have a long way to go -- we're aware of that. But I'm looking forward to keep pushing this forward.”

Reflecting on his role in a landmark result, Estenson said, “I had a part in bringing this to the front. For me, it's super special. It's like a point in history that we've changed. Hopefully, we continue to make progress and this happens more often. But even if it doesn't, it's still a special thing that took place that will be a part of the sport's history forever.

“My hope is, quite frankly, this win will drive some of the other brands to work at it as well. We've just proven a production street motor can beat a purpose-built factory flat track bike. If we continue to do that, I think the other people will say, 'Hey, we can do it too.'”