2021 Threat Matrix, Part 3: Bauman on Those Who Would Take His Crown
Mission SuperTwins presented by S&S Cycle king Briar Bauman has some seriously lofty aspirations heading into his attempt at a rare Grand National Championship three-peat in 2021.
Not content to just rule over the Progressive American Flat Track world, Bauman has set his sights on expanding the kingdom under his reign.
He explained “I think with the first (GNC), it’s like, ‘I just really want to get it.’ And then with the second, it's like, ‘I really don't want to lose it.’ And now for me with a chance at a third, more than even the championship, I'm just trying to put an exclamation point on my legacy in the sport. I want to go down as one of the greatest to ever do it and for reasons beyond just what I do on the track.
“I want to be a guy who shows people that what we do is worth coming out and seeing, following, and watching. I want to make others want to be a part of it too, rather than just win my championships, take my money, and go home.
“My manager, Scott Taylor, and I have tried to do a really good job this offseason of getting involved with people that, at some point, I get to link up with and have the opportunity to show them what we do... Give them a taste of what flat track is about, and get them more involved.”
As encouraged as all the sport’s stakeholders should be to hear its champion speak of such goals, that sort of transcendence needs to be backed up with continued spectacular performances on track to have the maximum intended effect.
And as consistently excellent as Bauman has been since joining the Indian Wrecking Crew, the world’s greatest dirt track racers have collectively dedicated themselves to usurping his throne.
The Mission SuperTwins field is absolutely loaded with podium-producing talent; every rider on the ‘21 entry list has either been on the box during Bauman’s championship run or entered the class during that span with an undercard championship to their name.
“I think on about any given weekend, every rider on the grid can grab a podium,” Bauman said. “Everyone is more than capable. It's stacked to say the least.”
Jared Mees (No. 9 Indian Motorcycle/Progressive Insurance FTR750)
“I think that he's one of those guys where there's nothing else in life, you know what I mean? It's either win the championship or he’s not happy with how things are going. With a lot of the other guys, you get a breather and you understand they have a lot of other things going on outside of racing. Whereas with Jared, everyone talks about his persistence, and I think that makes everyone's job really stressful, whether that's good, bad, or indifferent. On my end, it's bad because I have to deal with that every single weekend. And I know that if I'm winning, that guy's not sleeping until he's winning again. He’s just a grinder, and he makes my job extremely hard.”
Sammy Halbert (No. 69 Coolbeth-Nila Racing Indian FTR750)
“Sammy had quite a few podiums last year, and he got a win which hadn't happened in a long time. I'm sure he'll want a lot more of them now -- that's just sort of how it works. He was solid last year, and he'll be better this year. He'll have a full season under his belt, and I know that made a big difference for me and my team, just getting to learn the Indian.”
Brandon Robinson (No. 44 Mission Roof Systems Indian FTR750)
“After me, Mees, and Halbert, he's probably the next dude, for sure. For a whole season, he can be a little bit up and down, but he is a solid dude. I know for me, we'll get a win some nights and afterward, I know it took everything I had just to get it. So for him to be able get multiple wins over multiple seasons, that just speaks to what he’s been able to accomplish the last couple years.”
Jarod Vanderkooi (No. 20 Mission Roof Systems Indian FTR750)
“There are a lot of dudes who are good in flat track but aren't necessarily good motorcycle riders. Jarod is a good motorcycle rider, which I think needs to come first to actually be great at flat track. I know he's capable of doing really, really good things. He's capable of being every bit as good as Robinson -- maybe even better on a more consistent basis. But it’s a matter of him having the right mindset, being confident, and really giving it everything he has to live up to that potential.”
Brandon Price (No. 92 Mission Roof Systems Indian FTR750)
“He always has some good runs. He's pretty spotty, but he’s getting more consistent as he goes. I forget sometimes that he's still young. I was the same way. It takes a little while to get to the point where you're a guy every weekend. And it's really hard to be a guy every weekend. I think if he cleans up those off weekends, all the sudden, he could be a guy fighting for a championship.”
Bronson Bauman (No. 37 Indian Motorcycle of Oklahoma City FTR750)
“I think last year he was a little too worried about things that were outside of his control. Maybe it’ll be good for him that he's not a full factory guy under the tent with all the pressure of being great every night. Maybe he can take his own program and run with it. He and Jarod are similar in that they’re good motorcycle riders and good at flat track. They have some similar traits. My biggest thing is, even when I'm not good, I still have a big head and the confidence to pull out a day I probably shouldn't be able to. If Bronson can get some confidence rolling, he can get past some places where he’s struggling and capitalize at places where he’s doing well. If he does that, he’ll be a guy to contend with as well.”
Bryan Smith (No. 4 Crosley/Howerton Motorsports Indian FTR750)
“No disrespect to Bryan, but if a guy is not going to be there every weekend, you don't really think about what they’re doing too much. But he's taking the best bike in the Indian, and he's going to handpick all of his best circuits. Whenever he's there, he's going to be really good. We called him the "Mile Master," and I think we’re going to see why again this year.”
Jeffrey Carver Jr.
“It's unfortunate that we don't really know what he's doing because I think he's a guy that needs to be a part of the series every weekend. When he has the confidence, he can do whatever he wants on a bike. The level that Jared and I were riding at toward the end of the year was really freaking high. And then out of the blue, we go to Charlotte and Carver just wins the thing going away. That's just how it works with him. He has one good qualifier, one good heat race, and all of the sudden, he's just rolling and he wins a National. But he could also go to the next weekend and have a bad session and be a 10th-place guy. It's kind of weird how he functions, but when he's solid, he's solid.”
JD Beach (No. 95 Estenson Racing Yamaha MT-07 DT)
“I want JD to do well. I know how hard he works, and I know how much he puts into it. And he's genuinely a good guy -- I’ve ridden with him a lot lately. There's not a whole lot of guys who put their life and soul into flat track, but he's someone who throws everything he has at his job. That's something I can appreciate. I just want him to do well -- I don't want him to beat me, but I want him to do well and have some great runs because he deserves it.”
Kolby Carlile (No. 36 Estenson Racing Yamaha MT-07 DT)
“I don't really know Kolby that well so it’s hard for me to comment too much. He's in a difficult position. He’s still young in the class so I don’t know if he has the experience needed to develop the motorcycle or even know what he wants from it yet. That’s a tough spot to be in.”
Davis Fisher (No. 67 BMC Racing/Dick Wall 60 Indian FTR750)
“Davis is a good kid. He kind of got hosed a little bit recently on a ride. His guys pulled out pretty close to the season, which is an absolute bummer. This goes back to me wanting to help grow the sport. I don't like seeing a kid who had two podiums in ‘19 and a really solid year again in ‘20 have his ride kind of yanked out. I think he has more confidence in what he's going to do now, and everything comes down to confidence. He's a good flat track racer. I think if he just gets some confidence going and his bikes are working well, he can be a guy. We already know he can podium... I think on a good night, he could win a race.”
Robert Pearson (No. 27 Rackley Racing/John Franklin Indian FTR750)
“Rob Pearson, dude, he’s just a freaking brute. From the rafters, the guy grabs two podiums on a bone-stock Indian. He’s a fighter. When you get into a battle with the guy, he's not going to give you an inch. He doesn't care if you're going for a championship -- that means absolutely nothing to him -- he's there to race and he's going to do it hard. And he's good at it. He switched teams and the first time he got on the bike he grabbed back-to-back podiums over Mees. That shows you how good he is.”
James Rispoli (No. 43 Latus Motors Racing Harley-Davidson XG750R Rev X)
“Me and James actually speak quite a bit. He does a great job with social -- way better than me -- and we have a similar outlook; we both want the sport to grow. On the racing side, it's so tough to say. Everyone plays the lap-time deal. I know there's a couple Production guys who say, ‘Oh my lap times were as fast as the SuperTwins guys.’ So I’m like, ‘Well, that's cool, come up and race with us and see if you can do it then.’ James has never made those claims, but he has had weekends where his times were somewhat close. So to even guess how it's going to go... it’s so tough. This class is stacked. I also know he's coming off an injury, so I don't expect a whole lot from him at Volusia. He’s coming in against a bunch of dudes who have been grinding all winter, and he unfortunately hasn't been able to do that. So he may start off a little bit slow, and then he'll get going once the season gets rolling a little bit more.”