2021 Championship Scenarios: What's it Gonna Take?
To the benefit of Progressive American Flat Track fans around the globe, a dramatic doubleheader at the Sacramento Mile set the stage for a winner-take-all 2021 Mission SuperTwins presented by S&S Cycle championship finale come Friday evening, October 8th, at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Once 25 points back and in need of an epic win streak, Jared Mees enters the finale with a four-point lead -- and an epic win streak -- working in his favor.
That advantage would be just a single point if not for the karmic runner-up send-off Bryan Smith enjoyed with Mees’ assistance. While “Mile Master” Smith went out in a suitable fashion riding one of Mees’ back-up Indian FTR750s, that result also provided Mees a marginally bigger lead over double defending Grand National Champion Briar Bauman.
In terms of mindset, the difference likely matters little to Bauman. The champ heads to Charlotte with the assumption that -- regardless of whether he was up five points or down four -- he was going to have to stand atop the podium in order to hold onto his crown.
That’s a relatively safe bet. Since Bauman and Mees first became embroiled in their extended title rivalry beginning with the start of the 2019 season, the two have combined to score almost 71% (34 of 48) of available wins. And that number jumps up above 82% (14 of 17) when you narrow it down to the Half-Miles.
With both works Indian superstars in full-on aggro-attack mode and the title truly on the line, the actual percentage chance that the Honda Charlotte Half-Mile victory falls to one of the two is probably considerably higher yet.
That said, it’s not unimaginable that another rider plays the spoiler. In fact, you don’t have to look back far for examples.
Prior to last season’s Daytona doubleheader finale weekend, Bauman led Mees by nine points, which meant Mees was close enough to win his way to the throne. Therefore, Bauman figured he’d almost assuredly need to win at least one of the races to retain his title.
Even with the desperate need for both to win in play, Mission Roof Systems’ Brandon Robinson still took both victories.
The weekend that set the stage for that potential 2020 winner-take-all scenario was nearly as important. It also happens to be the most recent datapoint in Charlotte. And who won there? Not Bauman (third) or Mees (second). Instead, it was Jeffrey Carver, Jr.
Those are exactly the sort of scenarios in which Smith managing to get between Mees and Bauman in Sacramento could prove to have massive, title-shifting implications. Here’s how it breaks down:
If Mees finishes ahead of Bauman, he’s the 2021 Grand National Champion
If Bauman wins, he remains the champ
If Bauman finishes 2nd, Mees has to finish 3rd or better
If Bauman finishes 3rd, Mees has to finish 6th or better
If Bauman finishes 4th or lower, Mees has to finish within four positions of Bauman
Had there been a one-point difference, Bauman would need only to 1) finish ahead of Mees and on the podium or 2) at least two positions ahead of Mees.
In AFT Singles, it’s much simpler. Estenson Racing’s Dallas Daniels carries in a 20-point margin, which means second-ranked Max Whale absolutely must win to have any shot.
If factory KTM pilot Whale finished second and Daniels stayed home, they’d end up equal in points, equal in wins, equal in seconds, and Daniels would be named the champion based on him owning more thirds.
If Whale does win, Daniels only needs to finish 13th or better in the Main. The fact that Daniels still has possession of his provisional start means he will be in the Main short of some major catastrophe.
Of course, G&G Racing’s Cory Texter has already clinched the 2021 AFT Production Twins presented by Vance & Hines title. Unless a rival manufacturer gets a time machine approved by Progressive AFT officials, this one is primarily for bragging rights and sorting out the order behind the once-and-again class king.