How to Watch & What to Watch: Yamaha Senoia Short Track
FansChoice.tv is the live streaming home of Progressive AFT. Complete coverage of this Saturday’s Yamaha Senoia Short Track will kick off with the day’s first practice session at 4:00 p.m. ET (1:00 p.m. PT).
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Event Rewind: DAYTONA Short Track I Main Event Highlights
Event Rewind: DAYTONA Short Track II Main Event Highlights
Short Wait to Get Back on Track
The 2023 Progressive AFT season resumes just two weeks after its thrilling Bike Week double-opener with the inaugural Yamaha Senoia Short Track. Read More
Even with an impressive rookie campaign under his belt, Dallas Daniels (No. 32 Estenson Racing Yamaha MT-07 DT) admitted that it’s still a bit surreal to be racing with riders he once looked to as his childhood heroes. But if Daniels continues to take it to his more established competition like he did at the DAYTONA ST, what once felt surreal is going to become all too real in a big hurry.
Pecking orders at the pinnacle of any sport are never reshaped without significant friction. Friendships can be beaten into bitter rivalries when locked in a struggle for the Grand National Championship, as we’ve previously seen with Bryan Smith and Jared Mees (No. 1 Indian Motorcycle/Rogers Racing/SDI Racing FTR750), and, more recently, Mees and Briar Bauman (No. 3 Parts Plus/Jacob Companies KTM 890 Duke).
The mental aspect of racing is a very real thing and mind games can play a pivotal role in determining the ultimate victor. Daniels is a calm, respectful competitor and a clean racer, but that doesn’t mean his adversaries won’t look for a way to get into his head.
It’ll be fascinating to see how he reacts if forced to re-contextualize childhood heroes as present-day enemies.
Speaking of Mees
Since 2016, reigning Mission SuperTwins champ Mees has scored at least one victory in four separate season-opening weekends (‘17, ‘18, ‘20, and ‘21).
Perhaps more telling is how the factory Indian Motorcycle legend responded on the occasions that he didn’t.
In 2016, he bounced back from a 4-9 DAYTONA ST opener by going 1-2 in the next two races.
In 2019, following a 17th place finish at the DAYTONA TT, he went 2-1-3 in the subsequent three events.
And last year, he followed up his fifth-place run at the Volusia HM by going 1-1-2-1 in a four-race flurry that ultimately set the stage for his successful title defense.
In other words, history suggests that Mees, who finished 4-4 at this year’s DAYTONA ST, is primed for a big weekend at Senoia Raceway.
The continued development of Briar Bauman and the Rick Ware Racing KTM 890 Duke is one the sport will follow closely all season long. The opener has to go down as a smashing success, even if his Thursday no-brakes podium was followed up by a more down-to-earth Saturday seventh.
The two-time champion is as talented an all-around racer as can be found in the paddock. So long as the package underneath him continues to come together, he should be expected to fight for the podium with increasing frequency. This weekend will provide another data point of that progress.
The same can be said for Johnny Lewis (No. 10 Moto Anatomy X Powered by Royal Enfield 650) and the Royal Enfield program that is transitioning up to premier-class duty in 2023. A pair of top tens was a respectable start, but Lewis knows it could have been much more had things shaken out a bit differently. He is also well aware that this weekend could prove to be another realistic opportunity to exploit the Twins FT’s strengths and secure a top result.
This year’s loaded Mission SuperTwins field is stocked with premier-class winners (11 in all lined up for the DAYTONA ST Main Event).
Is there anyone else who could join that historic list this season?
There are actually a few potential winners to choose from, but how about 2022 Mission Production Twins champion Jesse Janisch (No. 33 KTM/Haversack/Z-Max 890 Duke), who will make his season debut with Wally Brown Racing this weekend?
While he’s only participating part-time in ‘23, Janisch was victorious seven times during last year’s title triumph. And the WBR KTM he’s riding now proved strong enough in its debut season to claim a pair of Mission Production Twins race wins and – of even greater relevance – a podium in its first-ever premier-class attempt with another one-time Mission Production Twins champion, James Rispoli, at the controls.
Yamaha stands as the title sponsor of the Senoia ST, which is located just a relatively short drive down the interstate from the firm’s American headquarters.
And Yamaha comes prepared to defend its home turf from a position of strength, having won eight combined Mission SuperTwins races over the past year.
Considering the Short Track acumen of Daniels and teammate JD Beach (No. 95 Estenson Racing Yamaha MT-07 DT), the tuning fork company will be looking to make that nine before the week is out.
It’s Way Too Early to Get Desperate… Right?
Last year, Kody Kopp (No. 1 Red Bull KTM Factory Racing 450 SX-F) pretty much put the Parts Unlimited AFT Singles presented by KICKER championship to bed before his rivals knew what hit them, registering six wins over the season’s opening nine races.
While he didn’t have the luxury of sneaking up on anyone this year – particularly flying the #1 plate on the front of his bike – that still didn’t prevent him from taking a stomping double victory at the DAYTONA Short Track.
Round 3 would typically be considered far too early to get desperate, but Kopp is not your typical defending champion.
It’ll be extremely intriguing to see exactly how his prospective challengers respond this weekend in Senoia.
While Kopp looks incredibly formidable, there’s a pretty decent chance that if he's beaten this weekend, the victory will go to a first-time Progressive AFT winner.
There’s currently a backlog of riders with obvious win potential backed by teams with a history of turning out race winners.
It only seems a matter of time before Tom Drane (No. 59 Estenson Racing Yamaha YZ450F), Trent Lowe (No. 48 American Honda/Mission Foods CRF450R), and Chase Saathoff (No. 88 American Honda/Mission Foods CRF450R) score that breakthrough victory.
Rather than if or when, the most pressing question is which of them will be first?
The DAYTONA Short Track was a serious showcase of the diversity and parity of manufacturers in the Mission SuperTwins class that now stands as a strength of Progressive AFT. Count it down with us:
- 7: Different manufacturers competed (Yamaha, Indian, KTM, Royal Enfield, Kawasaki, Harley-Davidson, Husqvarna)
- 6: Scored points (Yamaha, Indian, KTM, Royal Enfield, Kawasaki, Harley-Davidson)
- 5: Topped at least one timed session or race (Yamaha, Indian, KTM, Royal Enfield, Kawasaki)
- 4: Qualified on the front row (Yamaha, Indian, KTM, Royal Enfield)
- 3: Finished on the podium (Yamaha, Indian, KTM)
- 2: Finished top two twice (Yamaha, Indian)
- 1: Won two races (Yamaha)
Short Track Heroes
Mees and Brandon Robinson (No. 44 Mission Roof Systems Indian FTR750) are currently in a five-way tie with Kenny Roberts, Steve Eklund, and Sammy Halbert for fourth most all-time Short Track wins at five.
Just behind them is Bauman, who is part of a six-rider tie for ninth with four, while Daniels and Beach are caught up in a ten-way tie for 21st with two apiece.
In short order, Kopp has rocketed up the all-time Parts Unlimited AFT wins list, despite only getting his first just last season. The KTM star is now tied with former class champion and current Mission SuperTwins ace Ryan Wells for fourth all-time with nine wins to his credit.
However, Kopp’s quest to continue that climb is complicated by the fact that the list is not fixed by any means. In fact, this weekend’s entry list includes five riders ranked inside the all-time top seven in career wins.
- Shayna Texter-Bauman (No. 52 Parts Plus/Jacob Companies KTM 450 SX-F) leads the way with 19.
- Dalton Gauthier (No. 79 D&D Racing/Certified KTM 450 SX-F) is third all-time at 12, one win shy of two-time class champ Dallas Daniels.
- Max Whale (No. 18 Red Bull KTM Factory Racing 450 SX-F) and Dan Bromley (No. 62 Memphis Shades/Corbin/Vinson Construction Yamaha YZ450F) are tied with JD Beach for seventh all-time with seven wins each.
Spread the Wealth
Parity was a key feature in the Parts Unlimited AFT Singles class as well at the DAYTONA double-opener. Three different manufacturers finished on the podium (KTM, Yamaha, Honda), while four different manufacturers finished inside the top six (KTM, Yamaha, Honda, Husqvarna).