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Event Rewind: Peoria TT Main Event Highlights

Progressive AFT Title Fight Sturgis Bound for Black Hills Half-Mile 

Jared Mees leads Dallas Daniels by one point as Progressive AFT readies for this weekend’s Black Hills Speedway showdown. Read More

Just Another Relaxing Beach Day 

The fact that nothing much really needs to be said regarding the latest TT clinic conducted by JD Beach (No. 95 Estenson Racing Yamaha MT-07 DT) may be evidence that we’re starting to take his discipline-specific brilliance for granted.  

At least Beach will have one more opportunity to put those unique skills on display before the ‘23 season is out. Which brings us to the following… 

The Fall(Out) 

Dallas Daniels (No. 32 Estenson Racing Yamaha MT-07 DT) was less than 30 seconds away from adding to his slim Grand National Championship advantage over Jared Mees (No. 1 Indian Motorcycle/Rogers Racing/SDI Racing FTR750) when disaster struck at Peoria – a home track with which the rising star is quickly developing a love/hate relationship. 

Daniels was sent on an emotional rollercoaster even more dramatic than the jump/right/left/fall/airfence sequence that immediately preceded it. 

For several long minutes, it looked as if Daniels’ championship dreams may have been effectively crushed. But a reversal of fortune that came about due to the titanium nerves of the rider and his crew allowed him to not only salvage some points, but scoop up a pretty solid fifth-place finish in the end. 

While disappointed, Daniels had to breathe a sigh of relief as he suffered just a three-point shift, trading a two-point advantage for a one-point deficit that keeps his title hopes very much alive. 

 There was some “Even-Steven” magical thinking connected to the fray that suggested the racing gods had simply leveled the odds after Mees was subjected to an eerily similar ordeal earlier in the season. 

At the Arizona Super TT, Mees crashed out of third late before remounting to finish sixth. Meanwhile, at Peoria, Daniels crashed out of second late to ultimately finish fifth. Ultimately, each rider lost three positions as a result of their respective TT mishaps. 

However, if you delve a little deeper and run through some scenarios, you’ll see they were not, in fact, equally damaging. And even if it’s true that Daniels is fortunate to remain as strongly positioned as he is, his incident does have real consequences. 

For starters, Mees’ fall merely cost him four points. Meanwhile, Daniels’ crash not only cost him six points, it also gifted Mees’ two points, creating an eight-point swing. So in terms of their relative championship situations, Daniels’ spill proved twice as detrimental. 

And let’s consider Daniels’ path forward – both then and now. 

Even though Mees finished as runner-up at the Castle Rock TT a year ago, it doesn’t take a huge stretch of the imagination to envision an outcome in which Mees ends up third or fourth there this year, finishing behind Beach and Daniels and battling it out with Briar Bauman (No. 3 Parts Plus/Jacob Companies KTM 790 Duke) for the final spot on the box. 

For the following exercise, we’ll assume that to be the case. 

If Daniels had held on for second in Peoria, he would currently lead the points 301-294. In that case, here’s a couple of ways the final four races might have conceivably played out: 

  • Daniels: 2-2-2-2: 385 

  • Mees: 1-4-1-1: 385 (Mees wins the title via the tiebreaker) 

  • Daniels: 2-1-2-2: 389 

  • Mees: 1-3-1-1: 387 

But instead, as it stands, Mees leads 296-295. That changes things: 

  • Daniels: 2-2-1-2: 383 

  • Mees: 1-4-2-1: 383 (Mees wins the title via the tiebreaker) 

  • Daniels: 2-1-2-1: 387 

  • Mees: 1-3-1-2: 385 

Daniels still has a real shot, but he’s probably going to need to win at least two of the final four races and hope for a little bit of help along the way. Had he held on to the Peoria runner-up, one of four wins and that same small amount of help would have done the trick. 

Of course, all of these scenarios will invariably be upended by whatever transpires at the Black Hill Half-Mile. 

Which brings us to the following… 

Everyone Has a Role to Play 

Baked into the aforementioned scenarios is the assumption that Mees and Daniels will monopolize first and second both this weekend and during the Springfield Mile double finale. 

But that is far from certain. In fact, the two have combined to finish first and second in just five of 14 races this year. 

Looking more specifically at the Half-Miles, Bauman has taken either the win or finished as runner-up in three of the last four races and comes into the Black Hills HM as its most recent victor. 

 If you go back a year, both Brandon Robinson (No. 44 Mission Roof Systems Indian FTR750) and Jarod Vanderkooi (No. 20 JMC Motorsports/Fairway Ford Indian FTR750) won at Half-Miles, Bronson Bauman (No. 37 Fastrack Racing/2 Wheelz KTM 790 Duke) finished ahead of both Mees and Daniels at the Volusia HM, and Beach split them up in Texas. 

Looking ahead to the twin finale in Springfield, Robinson got between them on a Mile once earlier this season, while Davis Fisher (No. 67 Rackley Racing/Bob Lanphere’s BMC Racing Indian FTR750) and Beach both pulled the trick off a year ago. 

So there may be more room for movement yet at the top of the points than we’re currently assuming. 

Who’s Ready for a Red Revival? 

As early as the date of its announcement, the shape of the 2023 calendar suggested that we could be in for alternating runs of momentum dependent on the riders’ respective strengths and weaknesses. That’s not only proven to be the case, those rises and dips in form have also extended to the manufacturers more generally. 

KTM came out swinging in the ST-heavy Rounds 1-4, as Kody Kopp (No. 1 Red Bull KTM Factory Racing 450 SX-F), Max Whale (No. 18 Red Bull KTM Factory Racing 450 SX-F), and Dalton Gauthier (No. 79 D&D Racing/Certified KTM 450 SX-F) combined to score all four wins and secure nine of 12 podiums. 

As Rounds 5-9 shifted the emphasis to the bigger tracks, Honda stepped forward in a major way. Turner Honda teammates Together, Trent Lowe (No. 48 American Honda/Mission Foods CRF450R), Chase Saathoff (No. 88 American Honda/Mission Foods CRF450R), and Morgen Mischler (No. 13 American Honda/Mission Foods CRF450R) earned a pair of wins while claiming 11 of 15 available podiums. 

Yamaha’s rise overlapped Honda’s, as Estenson Racing’s duo of Tom Drane (No. 59 Estenson Racing Yamaha YZ450F) and Trevor Brunner (No. 21 Estenson Racing Yamaha YZ450F) really came into their own at Round 7 and are still lighting it up as of Round 14. Over the last eight races, the two have earned four wins while notching up 10 of 24 podiums (with 16 being their max as a two-rider effort). 

Meanwhile, a Kopp-led KTM resurgence occurred during the Half-Mile-centric portion of the schedule, with KTM-mounted riders earning three of the last five wins. 

Following their triumphant midseason run, the Honda contingent went relatively quiet, netting just a single podium at the most recent five races. But the collective could be well positioned to spearhead yet another shift in momentum. Not only will the CRF450Rs be expected to shine at the Springfield Mile doubleheader finale, but this weekend’s race takes place at a Black Hills Speedway where Hondas ran 2-3-4 a year ago. 

And not included among those finishers was Saathoff, who won his heat and claimed victory in the Al Lamb’s Dallas Honda Challenge before running into an issue late in the Main Event while contending for the win. 

Invisible Swing 

Above we discussed the big ripples that can result from a small swing in points. Well, there’s another swing we’ve yet to discuss. 

Prior to this season, the points system was modified slightly to account for the possibility of the 19-rider grids that came with the revised format (six from each heat, six more from the LQC, and, potentially, a provisional entry). 

That was accomplished by adding one point to every finishing position other than for first, shifting from 25-20-17-15-14, etc., on down to 1 for 18th to 25-21-18-16-15, etc. on down to 1 for 19th). That effectively decreased the championship impact of each win ever so slightly, while increasing the importance of earning consistently strong results. 

So it should come as no surprise that the change has worked in the favor of Dallas Daniels, who has three fewer wins than Jared Mees but two more podiums. 

If you were to apply the old scoring methods to this season’s results, Mees would lead by four points (289-285) as opposed to only one (296-295). 

The way this title fight is playing out, that small difference could yet prove enough to alter history. 

Swinging for a Grand Slam Update (1+1=2) 

In last week’s edition, we highlighted the possibility that a certain 20-year-old, one-time Nicky Hayden AMA Horizon Award winner currently competing under the Estenson Racing banner might complete the Grand Slam with a victory in Peoria. 

And we were right. We just identified the wrong 20-year-old, one-time Nicky Hayden AMA Horizon Award winner currently competing under the Estenson Racing banner. 

With his upset victory in Peoria, Trevor Brunner completed the Parts Unlimited AFT Singles Grand Slam. While it doesn’t carry the same historical weight or notoriety as a GNC Grand Slam, it’s actually much, much rarer. 

While 17 different riders have accomplished the feat in the premier class, prior to Brunner, only one rider had done so in Parts Unlimited AFT Singles action: 2019 class champion Dalton Gauthier (No. 79 D&D Racing/Certified KTM 450 SX-F). 

How is that even possible? One can point to a handful of possibilities, including the class’ relatively shorter history along with the fact that racers with the skills to do so are natural candidates to graduate to Mission SuperTwins duty with little delay and therefore before completing the achievement. 

But many have come close: 

Dallas Daniels needed only a Mile win (though he finished as runner-up multiple times and won two as Mission SuperTwins rookie). 

Jeffrey Carver, Jr., needed only a TT win (though he podiumed multiple times and won the Castle Rock TT in the premier class). 

Brad Baker needed only a TT win (though he podiumed multiple times). 

Ryan Wells needed only a TT win (though he podiumed multiple times). 

JD Beach needed only a Half-Mile win (though he podiumed multiple times). 

Dan Bromley needed only a Half-Mile win (though he podiumed multiple times). 

So who’s best positioned to up that number to three? 

A couple obvious choices are Max Whale, who requires just a Short Track win (though he’s podiumed multiple times) and Morgen Mischler, who needs just a TT win (though he finished as the runner-up in last year’s Peoria TT). 

But how about Kody Kopp? While he still needs both a TT and a Mile win, it’s not all that difficult to imagine him doing it yet as early as this season even though only four races remain on the schedule. 

Consider the plausibility of this scenario: Kopp earns his first TT win with the home crowd cheering him on at the Castle Rock TT and then goes gunning for his Mile win with two pressure-free chances at Springfield, having once again locked down the #1 plate early.