Sacramento Mile: A Turning Point for Kolby Carlile?

You might think that being the reigning AFT Singles title holder and scoring two DNFs, an eighth, a sixth and a fourth so far in the 2018 season would be a compelling reason to yank out large clumps of your flaming, tomato-red hair.

But for Kolby ‘The Flying Tomato’ Carlile, the 20-year-old who didn’t win a race last season on his way to the 2017 AFT Singles title and a guy who’s been in a bit of a slump so far this season, Life Before Sacramento wasn’t that big of a deal.

“I wasn’t worried,” KC told us after his dramatic Sacramento Mile win on Saturday night. “It’s a long season, and a lot of stuff is gonna happen – to me, and to the other riders. Bad luck hits everyone, and good luck, too.”

Whether it’s good luck or simply some old-fashioned persistence, some of the good stuff seems to have visited Carlile’s crew on Friday evening in the dyno room of a local bike shop just 24 hours before the Sacramento Mile.

“We’d been doing a lot of testing with the new Yamaha 450,” Carlile told us, “and I was getting a bit burned out being there. My own history with dynos hasn’t always been pretty, so I wasn’t expecting much. I told my guys, ‘I’m off to the airport to pick up a friend; do what you gotta do.’ So imagine my surprise when I come back that evening and everyone is all smiles! The mood in the room was great…they’d found a combination that worked, so all the time and effort was worth it.”

That feeling continued into Saturday and the first practice and qualifying sessions, where Carlile felt immediately better about his chances, and his season.

“I knew right away we’d be in the hunt,” Carlile told us. “The YZ450F felt stronger, and things just felt really right. We ended up fastest in qualifying, I won my Heat over Ryan [Wells] and Cory [Texter], won my Semi over Kevin [Stollings], and felt really confident going into the Main.”

Kolby Carlile (1) qualified fastest at Sacramento, won his Heat and Semi, and kept himself in contention in the Main until he made his dramatic, last-lap move for the win.

In the Main event, which turned into a blazing, six-rider battle right to the finish line, Carlile completed his perfect evening, drafting from the middle of the pack and nipping points leader Brandon Price and second-in-points Dan Bromley at the line.

“I knew I could control that race,” Carlile said afterward. “I raised the tempo early, and Ryan [Wells] stuck with me. When we were all dicing, I knew I had the power, knew I had the bike to beat, knew the YZ450F was strong. I knew that if I could be near the front on the last lap, I’d be in the hunt for the win. And that’s just how it happened.

Track conditions at Sacramento were ideal, and Carlile made the most of them all afternoon and evening.

“It’s early, of course. Lots of racing yet to come. I’m eighth or ninth in points, I think [eighth, officially -Ed.]. It’s funny, but I’m not all that worried about the championship. I mean, I’m gonna try to win it again, but for me, this year is more about wins. I want a lot of wins this year, want to know what it feels like to win, again and again. So I’m gonna hang it out a bit more, be more aggressive and not worry about being Mr. Consistency. I want to be a top-level AFT Twins racer. That’s my goal. I want to be a rider like Jared Mees, a guy who dominates. I watch Mees every chance I get. The dude is amazing.

In the AFT Singles Main, the lead group of six traded places nearly all race long...

“I’m really digging my team. It’s the same as last year, with Tim and the guys and my mechanic Andrew Butler. He’s a racer, too, and we’ve been buddies for a while. I really appreciate him. Before, it was just me and my dad Kent. We got the point where we knew we needed professional help, and Andrew is that guy – along with the whole team. Yamaha's been great to work with, too.

“I’m very much looking forward to Springfield this weekend – the TT and the Mile, as I’ll be riding an Indian on Sunday in the AFT Twins class with Estenson Racing. I’m excited about that, as that’s where I want to go next season. It’s cool, too, as the Indian frame #36, which is my racing number when I’m not carrying the No. 1 plate. It’ll give me some valuable seat time in the Twins class.

...with Carlile (1) jumping into the lead several times, only to be re-passed later in the lap.

“I’m glad it’s a TT for the Singles. I love riding TTs, and felt sort of cheated when I crashed at Daytona and didn’t get to ride the Main. Running Singles on the Mile at Springfield would be sketchy in some ways. You’re wide open pretty much the whole way, and I think things could get a little hairball. At Sacramento, the guys in the lead group were all pretty trustworthy; you don’t mind pitching it into turns one and three at 100 mph with them right next to you. But at Springfield the clumps of riders would probably be larger, and I don’t know if all the riders in those clumps would be as trustworthy. Just my opinion. Bottom line, I’m really excited about this weekend! I can’t wait.”

Carlile's dramatic drafting move on the final straight put him a wheel ahead of runner-up Price (92) and Bromley (62).

Excitement. All of the sudden there’s a lot of it surrounding the Carlile/Estenson camp – for the remainder of this year, and for what comes in 2019 and beyond.

Tickets for Sunday’s Springfield Mile I and Saturday’s Springfield TT can be purchased here: Fans that can’t make the races can watch complete live-stream coverage – beginning with practice and running until the final race – at starting at 3:00 pm ET Saturday and 11:00 pm ET on Sunday. Finally, be sure to tune into the feature broadcast of the Sacramento Mile and TT when it debuts on NBCSN on Saturday, June 9 at 5:00 pm ET.