Bauman Unstoppable In Williams Grove Half-Mile I Blowout
MECHANICSBURG, Penn. (September 11, 2020) - Briar Bauman (No. 1 Indian Motorcycle/Progressive Insurance FTR750) showed just what an American Flat Track Grand National Championship at the peak of his powers is capable of in Friday evening’s Williams Grove Half-Mile I.
Bauman flat-out crushed the opposition in a AFT SuperTwins presented by Vance & Hines Main Event the race’s runner-up accurately described as “demoralizing” while accepting his second-place trophy. The result did not come as much of a shock -- it was the third year running Bauman proved his superiority at Williams Grove Speedway in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania.
Championship rival Jared Mees (No. 9 Indian Motorcycle/Progressive Insurance FTR750) stole the holeshot and led for about two corners before giving way to Bauman at the front. The race for the win was effectively over at that point; Bauman was more than a second out in front with 11 minutes remaining on the clock and worked that advantage up to more than six seconds before cruising to an easy 4.347-second margin of victory.
When asked to explain his dominance at the venue, Briar said, “This racetrack is good for me. I think it fits my style quite a bit. It’s aggressive but passive aggressive. I’m aggressive with it, but I try to be easy on the gas at the same time. The bike is great here too.”
The aforementioned runner-up was not Mees, however. It was Brandon Robinson (No. 44 HCRR Racing/Ben Evans Racing Indian FTR750), who picked up his second-consecutive second place. Robinson swapped positions early with Mees, Jake Johnson (No. 5 Hite Trucking/RJ Performance Indian FTR750), and Bronson Bauman (No. 37 Indian Motorcycle/Progressive Insurance FTR750) before breaking free from that fight with a good nine minutes to go.
Bronson put in a late charge, first dispatching of Johnson and then overhauling Mees to earn his first podium result of 2020.
The slowing Mees managed to outlast a charging Dan Bromley (No. 62 Roof Systems of Dallas, Texas Indian FTR750), who registered an inspired ride to fifth in front of his home fans.
After running in podium contention early, the out-from-retirement Johnson ultimately lost out to Sammy Halbert (No. 69 Coolbeth-Nila Racing Indian FTR750) late but still managed to pick up a strong seventh place in his first ride of the year.
Bauman’s dominant win combined with Mees’ first non-podium of the year tightened up their title fight. Mees continues to lead, but only by three points (147-144) with another race at Williams Grove coming tomorrow. Halbert and Robinson are even in points at 108.
A fourth-straight Williams Grove win would be enough to hand Bauman the championship lead no matter where Mees finished behind him. Bauman said, “Do I think I can repeat tomorrow? It’s tough to say. It takes one little change on the bike and these guys can do anything. Brandon was rolling and Bronson rode so good in the Main Event too. They weren’t really up in the semis but then they made a few changes and all the sudden they were really relevant. It’s hard. I’d like to hope I can, but we’ll just have to see how it goes.”
AFT Singles presented by Russ Brown Motorcycle Attorneys
2019 AFT Singles presented by Russ Brown Motorcycle Attorneys championship runner-up Mikey Rush (No. 15 Estenson Racing Yamaha YZ450F) finally broke through to claim his first Main Event victory of 2020.
It didn’t come easily, as he had to defeat his second-ranked teammate, Dallas Daniels (No. 32 Estenson Racing Yamaha YZ450F) and 2016 GNC2 champ Ryan Wells (No. 94 Waters Autobody Racing/D&D PowerSports KTM 450 SX-F) to make it happen.
Rising star Daniels was ahead of the field early, running away at the front as a huge pack ran as many as four-wide while battling over second position. Once some order emerged from the chaos, Wells, Rush, and Morgen Mischler (No. 13 Roof Systems DFW/Duffy Fleet Services KTM 450 SX-F) worked together to claw their way back up to Daniels.
By half-distance, Wells was the man on the move and Daniels looked in danger of fading back to the second group. Wells moved into first and promptly ripped open a half-second of padding before Rush stepped up to the challenge and made it a two-way race for the win with one minute to go.
Rush dove under Wells at that point, only to have his opponent square him back up. Undeterred, Rush executed a second overtake and made the position change stick for good as the race went into its final two laps.
“It feels great,” Rush said. “It’s always fun coming here to Williams Grove -- the fans are awesome. I couldn’t do it without my team; the Estenson crew are great people. They are a lot of fun to be around, but when we get to work, those guys get serious and get things sorted out. My motorcycles are awesome. I’m just thankful and blessed to be a part of this deal.”
Behind, Daniels not only regrouped, he sprinted back up to Wells and powered past him while exiting Turn 2 on the final lap. The Estenson Racing 1-2 marked its second double podium finish of the season.
Wells took his first podium of the ‘20 in third, with Mischler taking a close fourth.
Volusia Half-Mile winner Max Whale (No. 18 Coondoo Cattle Co./Australian Road Services Kawasaki KX450F) -- who was just out of touch of the lead group throughout -- completed the top five.
Meanwhile, title leader Henry Wiles (No. 17 RMR Honda/Honda Talon CRF450R) suffered through a difficult day. He failed to advance through his Semi and was forced to burn his provisional just to line up for the Main. He then finished 14th, allowing Daniels, Whale, and Rush to gobble up the majority of his hard-earned championship advantage.
Wiles still leads, albeit by just five points over Daniels (113-108). Whale (102) and Rush (99) are in position to strike in third and fourth, respectively.
AFT Production Twins
James Rispoli (No. 43 Latus Motors Racing Harley-Davidson XG750R) continued his recent tear, scoring his third AFT Production Twins victory in the class’ most recent four Main Events.
“The Rocket” tracked down reigning champion Cory Texter (No. 1 G&G Racing/Roof Systems Yamaha MT-07) early and the two spent the next several minutes determining who had the superior line around Williams Grove Speedway.
Texter appeared to have the early advantage running down low, but Rispoli’s high line got progressively stronger as the race developed. With around three minutes remaining on the clock, there was no longer a debate concerning who found the fast way around; Rispoli blasted away at the front and furthered his standing as the championship favorite.
With three wins and three seconds this season, Rispoli has quickly assembled a full race advantage in the points. “You never get used to winning,” he said. “We’re kind of having a dream season right now. We were struggling mid-day and Cory had kind of been in a class of his own. But as soon as the sun went down, something a little special happened. We saw Briar running around the top in the SuperTwins Semi, and I said to the boys, ‘This is our only shot.’ It worked -- sometimes it doesn’t. I’m just fired up. The Latus Motors Racing team has done a beautiful job today.”
Ryan Varnes (No. 68 RVR/RoyBuilt Don’s Kawasaki Ninja 650) not only made up for a less-than-ideal start, he managed to overcome a mid-race encounter with the wall to take the final spot on the box.
Varnes reeled in Indy Mile winner Ben Lowe (No. 25 Roof Systems of Dallas/Bruce Lowe Excavating Yamaha MT-07) and the two then engaged in a scrap for third position. With around four minutes remaining, Lowe ran up the inside of Varnes and the ‘19 class runner-up actually impacted the fence in the melee.
Varnes somehow managed to remain upright, maintained his composure, ran Lowe back down, and beat him to the flag in the end.
Rispoli’s fellow multinational championship-winning roadracer, Danny Eslick (No. 64 Scott Powersports/R&D Machine Kawasaki Ninja 650), rounded out the top five.
Also of note: Johnny Lewis (No. 10 Moto Anatomy X Powered by Royal Enfield Twins FT) gave Royal Enfield a flat track debut to be proud of, finishing an impressive sixth in the Twins FT’s maiden AFT Main Event.
The Williams Grove Half-Mile I & II will air back-to-back on NBCSN on Saturday, September 26, starting at 5:00 p.m. ET/2:00 p.m. PT. The broadcasts will include exclusive features, cutting-edge aerial drone and onboard footage, and the expert commentary of AFT legend Chris Carr.
American Flat Track will be back in action at Williams Grove Speedway on Saturday night for the Williams Grove Half-Mile II. Tomorrow’s schedule is the same as today’s; gates will open for fans at 3:00 p.m. ET/12:00 p.m. PT with the Main Event programs set to begin at 7:45 p.m. ET/4:45 p.m. PT. Live coverage of the entire weekend’s racing activities will be available on any device for less than $1 per event via TrackPass on NBC Sports Gold.