How to Watch & What to Watch: Memphis Shades Ventura Short Track

FloRacing is the live streaming home of Progressive American Flat Track. Complete coverage of this Saturday’s Memphis Shades Ventura Short Track at Ventura Raceway will kick off with the day’s first practice session at 6:30 p.m. ET (3:30 p.m. PT). Sign up now and catch every second of on-track action live at 

FOX Sports coverage of the Memphis Shades Ventura Short Track, featuring in-depth features and thrilling onboard cameras, will premiere on FS1 on Sunday, May 19, at 12:00 p.m. ET (9:00 a.m. PT). 

Event Rewind: Mission Texas Half-Mile Main Event Highlights

Back to the Beach: Progressive AFT Returns to Ventura Raceway 

The stars of Progressive American Flat Track return to scenic Ventura Raceway for an oceanside showdown. Read More

And Here’s To You, Mr. Robinson 

It was just a few weeks ago that we published a feature of which the basic premise was that – even with all the justified hype surrounding the Grand National Championship rematch featuring Jared Mees (No. 1 Rogers Racing/SDI Racing/Indian Motorcycle FTR750) versus Dallas Daniels (No. 32 Estenson Racing Yamaha MT-07 DT) – one shouldn’t overlook the fact that there is another. 

That other being, of course, Briar Bauman (No. 3 Rick Ware Racing/KTM/Parts Plus KTM 790 Duke). And while that very much remains a salient point, now is probably the time to point out that there is an other another. 

2024 Mission AFT SuperTwins title leader Brandon Robinson (No. 44 Mission Roof Systems Indian FTR750), who has been very good for a very long time, may just be on the cusp of a career year. 

Despite his mounting successes, Robinson has been, perhaps, somewhat underrated and almost certainly underappreciated. It’s not that his ability has gone unrecognized or that he hasn’t gotten his due, but rather, it's simply a result of never really being “the guy.” 

That’s been especially true in recent seasons when the guy has been the guy. Robinson’s era has seen its spotlight largely spoken for by a superstar making a serious run at Greatest of All Time consideration. And even as that reign approaches its eventual end, there are a pair of heirs apparent already staking their claim in the line of succession. 

So, it’s been in a somewhat understated manner in which Robinson has quietly gone about creating his own legacy. This year’s early flourish came following a winless ‘23. But last year’s lack of victories was an aberration. Prior to that, the Pennsylvanian had notched up two or more wins in four consecutive seasons, with this year’s fast start righting the ship more than anything else. 

And even if obscured in Mees’ shadow, if you’re very good for a very long time, eventually, you’ll become historic in your own right. 

Stacked up, Robinson’s career victory tally is now 15 and counting. That puts him tied with the likes of Mert Lawwill and Sammy Halbert, tucked solidly inside the top 30 all time with the top 20 not all that far off.  

That’s some pretty elite company considering that the Grand National Championship has been waged for seven decades. Just how elite? Consider that of the last 14 riders he’s passed or equaled on the all-time wins list, 12 have already been enshrined in the AMA Hall of Fame (LawwillBrad AndresGene RomeroJim Rice, Mike KiddCal RaybornFred NixTerry PooveyEverett Brashear, Alex JorgensenRonnie Jones, and Doug Chandler) and the other two (Halbert and Kevin Atherton) will be soon enough. 

The big question now is just how sustainable Robinson’s remarkable early-season form will prove moving forward. This is not the ideal time to hope to sneak up and steal a Grand National Championship, not with Mees’ sights set on an unprecedented tenth GNC and Daniels driven to obtain his first. 

Those two are not only fast enough to battle for the win on any given weekend, they are relentlessly consistent enough that it should be expected they will contend for the win on every single weekend.  

And that includes the TTs, a discipline on which Robinson has traditionally suffered, at least by comparison. While the TTs are only two of 16 rounds, still, that’s two of 16. There is unlikely to be much, if any, margin for mistakes or even finishes toward the bottom of the top ten for a title hopeful looking to claim the 2024 Mission AFT SuperTwins crown. 

With all that said, Mees and Daniels have both brought it as expected to start the season and yet Robinson stands atop the order. That alone is worth acknowledging and celebrating. It’ll be fun to see how the title fight continues to develop starting with this weekend’s Ventura Short Track.  

Rookie Watch 

Another major league talent whose capabilities have been at least partially hidden in the shadows is Mission AFT SuperTwins rookie Max Whale (No. 18 Latus Motors Racing/Liqui Moly Harley-Davidson XG750R). 

Whale had the misfortune to come up through the ranks during the back-to-back arrivals of Daniels and Kody Kopp (No. 1 Rick Ware Racing/Parts Plus KTM 450 SX-F) in the Parts Unlimited AFT Singles class. Still, it was clear to anyone paying attention that the Australian had a bright future in the premier class, and that his physical stature suggested he might even be better when muscling around a bigger and more powerful bike. 

Just four races in and Whale is already turning heads. He comes into Ventura having logged three consecutive top tens, with his most recent being his best outing yet. At Texas Motor Speedway, he notched up a career-best seventh place after dicing with a number of riders he grew up idolizing.  

That seventh also happened to be the top result for any rider on a Harley-Davidson XG750R since Bronson Bauman (No. 37 Fastrack Racing Mission Foods KTM 790 Duke) earned that same placement during the 2022 season-ending weekend at the Volusia Half-Mile. 

Whale is just one of a promising collection of rookies in a class that is notoriously difficult to break into and make an immediate impression. 

Trevor Brunner (No. 21 Mission Foods/Zanotti Racing KTM 790 Duke) has taken a pair of top tens himself, while Declan Bender (No. 70 GOMR/ Trucking Indian FTR750) just grabbed his first this past weekend. 

It seems only a matter of time before Morgen Mischler (No. 13 Big Red Super Twins/Al Lamb’s Dallas Honda Transalp) joins that group after battling to do so in Texas. 

The future looks bright with this new blood joining the class and more rising stars on the way. 

The Hunt for 503 

While Whale’s seventh was the best result for an XG750R in over a year, it was, of course, not the best result for a Harley-Davidson of any type in that time frame. 

Sammy Halbert (No. 69 Dodge Bros. Racing/Castrol Harley-Davidson XR750) will be back in action this weekend looking to give the iconic Harley-Davidson XR750 its 503rd victory after demonstrating that possibility was all too real in the Daytona double opener. 

There, Halbert was the rider to beat – more overdog than underdog – despite the XR’s most recent triumph coming more than six seasons back. On both nights at Daytona, Halbert topped practice and qualifying sessions, won the #Mission #2Fast2Tasty Challenge, and led the most laps.  

While the fact that Halbert is a certified Daytona demon no doubt played a role in that stellar performance, he was quite competitive on the XR750 at Ventura Raceway a year ago as well.  

Consider 503 in play. 

The Unconventional Double 

Ventura native Kayl Kolkman (No. 98 Underground Suspension/Öhlins USA Yamaha MT-07) has an outside chance at pulling off the rare single header double podium.  

Kolkman is rather a unique case in that he only races Progressive AFT events sporadically yet maintains the potential to challenge up front just about any time he does. Dating back to 2016, he’s averaged less than four starts per season, and yet, he’s finished inside the top ten in each season he’s competed (he sat out the 2020 pandemic year). Among those top tens include a podium and a pair of fourths. 

While last year’s Main Event at his home race didn’t play out in his favor, Kolkman certainly demonstrated the pace to add another top result during the inaugural Ventura Short Track; he posted the fastest time in Practice 1, Practice 2, and Qualifying 2, and then finished fourth in Heat 2. 

He’s back in action this year, and he’s got another dog in the fight. Kolkman’s primary role in the 2024 Mission AFT SuperTwins championship is supporting title hopeful Robinson’s bid as his full-time suspension tech with the Mission Roof Systems outfit. And that doesn’t change just because he’s racing this weekend. 

Kolkman will be pitted next to Robinson this weekend while pulling double duty. The two have been working in unison in advance in an attempt to pre-dial Robinson in as much as possible before the event to help ease that burden just a bit.  

The Chase is Over, Chase May Now Proceed 

At long last, Chase Saathoff (No. 88 JPG Motorsports Honda CRF450R) is officially a Progressive AFT race winner.  

To be fair, it didn’t actually take that long at all, just a bit over two seasons. A great many riders go much longer to get their maiden wins and even more never earn one. It just felt like it took forever due to a unique blend of advance hype and high-profile near misses. 

To his credit, Saathoff remained levelheaded throughout despite having to deal with not just the pressure, but the non-stop reminders and repeated questions regarding when he’d finally get his first. 

While it didn’t go down the way he would have scripted it, it’s impossible to make a convincing argument that the Illinois native was anything but the deserving winner in Texas. He was among the fastest riders all day long, won both his heat and the Al Lamb’s Dallas Honda Challenge, and then led every lap of the race despite three red flags and three launches. 

Granted, the accomplishment lacked the satisfaction of storming across the line with the checkered flag waving, but it still accomplished the most important thing Saathoff needed from a maiden win. It got it out of the way. That pressure is gone and all of those questions are a thing of the past.  

Now he can move forward and just worry about living up to his potential. It’s a well-worn racing adage that claims that once the first win has been obtained, they tend to come quickly and in bunches. It doesn’t matter if he smashed down the door or if it fell off its hinges, that door is now open. 

Look for Saathoff to rush through and add to his tally before the year is out. 

Who’s Next? 

A good example of that phenomenon is Saathoff’s former teammate, Trent Lowe (No. 48 American Honda/Mission Foods CRF450R), who earned his first win during last year’s stop in DFW in what was his fifth season running as year-in and year-out top-five finisher.  

Lowe then picked up a second career win just three races later at the Red Mile. 

Besides Saathoff’s quest for a second win, attention now turns to who might be the next to get their debut Progressive AFT victory. 

James Ott (No. 19 1st Impressions Race Team Husqvarna FC450) is the most obvious candidate with multiple podiums to his name. 

Meanwhile, Lowe’s younger brother, Jared Lowe (No. 63 BigR/Little Debbie Racing Honda CRF450R), announced his arrival as a win contender with his first appearance in the top five this past weekend. 

All that said, the best bet might just be rookie Evan Renshaw (No. 265 American Honda/Mission Foods CRF450R). The heralded prospect started to unlock his potential at Texas Motor Speedway, where he earned his first heat race win and ran in podium contention throughout the Main before a late two-rider incident took him out of the equation.  

So, while Renshaw’s best result yet may be just a ninth-place finish, a win as early as this weekend might be considered an upset but not a complete shock. 

It’s Par(i)ty Time 

There have already been three winners (Dallas DanielsBrandon Robinson, and Jared Mees) in the opening four weekends of 2024.  

Last season there were only four all year long. While a repeat is certainly within the realm of possibility, it feels like we have a good chance of exceeding that number. 

But could we reach seven, as the series last did in 2018? Interestingly, that number was obtained despite Mees hogging up 10 wins himself and did not include Robinson, who kicked off his recent run of two-plus wins per season the following year. 

2018 Race Winners: 

  • Jared Mees (10) 
  • Bryan Smith (3) 
  • Henry Wiles (1) 
  • Briar Bauman (1) 
  • Jeffrey Carver, Jr. (1) 
  • Kenny Coolbeth, Jr. (1) 
  • Jake Johnson (1) 

Thus far in ‘24, five different riders have stood on the podium (Daniels, Robinson, and Mees, plus Sammy Halbert and Brandon Price (No. 92 Memphis Shades/Corbin/OTBR Yamaha MT-07)).  

Meanwhile, eight riders have already finished inside the top five (the aforementioned five plus Bauman, Davis Fisher (No. 67 Rackley Racing/Bob Lanphere’s BMC Racing Indian FTR750), and Jarod Vanderkooi (No. 20 JMC Motorsports/Fairway Ford Ohio Indian FTR750).  

On top of that, there are a couple other prior premier-class winners lurking in the field in Johnny Lewis (No. 10 Moto Anatomy X Powered by Royal Enfield 650) and Bronson Bauman (No. 37 Fastrack Racing Mission Foods KTM 790 Duke). 

Another area in which this season has already demonstrated impressive diversity is via manufacturer representation near the front of the field. The fact that you hear relatively little talk about the rules these days is a solid indication that the changes made in 2022 to level the field have largely worked as intended.  

An even better indication is a look at the results. The series’ last trip to DFW prior to the regulation overhaul was back in 2020. That season, the following bikes finished 1-9 in the premier-class Main:

  1. Indian FTR750 

  1. Indian FTR750 

  1. Indian FTR750 

  1. Indian FTR750 

  1. Indian FTR750 

  1. Indian FTR750 

  1. Indian FTR750 

  1. Indian FTR750 

  1. Indian FTR750 

And here is how it shook out this time around: 

  1. Indian FTR750 

  1. Indian FTR750 

  1. Yamaha MT-07 

  1. Indian FTR750 

  1. KTM 790 Duke 

  1. Indian FTR750 

  1. Harley-Davidson XG750R 

  1. Yamaha MT-07 

  1. Royal Enfield Twins FT 

That makes five different brands in the top nine with a sixth (Honda) in close contention. It’s also worth noting that this year’s winning Indian FTR750 was a customer bike, and there were early concerns that the private Indians might suffer relative to the factory Indians and the production-based racebikes with the regulation changes. And while there was an adjustment period, here we are with Mission Roof Systems’ Robinson leading all in terms of points production and race wins. 

Saath Math 

As we’ve said many, many times, Chase Saathoff came close to securing his maiden Progressive AFT victory many, many times before finally sealing the deal in unconventional fashion at the Mission Texas Half-Mile. 

How close? Here’s a rundown of his near misses listed in order of nearness, the position finished, and the cumulative margin of those near misses: 

  • 0.011 (2nd) 
  • 0.036 (3rd) 0.146 
  • 0.043 (2nd) 0.189 
  • 0.089 (2nd) 0.278 

In other words, Saathoff, owner of one career win, is only about a quarter of a second away from now owning five career victories. 

  • 0.092 (3rd) 0.370 
  • 0.293 (2nd) 0.663 
  • 0.463 (6th) 1.126 
  • 1.100 (2nd) 2.226 
  • 1.191 (4th) 3.417 

He is just a little over three seconds short of double-digit wins. 

  • 1.244 (2nd) 4.661 
  • 1.348 (6th) 6.009 
  • 1.370 (4th) 7.379 
  • 1.379 (4th) 8.758 
  • 1.967 (3rd) 10.725

Less than eleven seconds separate Saathoff from 15 career Parts Unlimited AFT Singles wins. 

  • 2.005 (4th) 12.730 
  • 2.199 (5th) 14.929 
  • 2.347 (6th) 17.276 
  • 2.726 (3rd) 20.002 
  • 2.793 (6th) 22.795 

22.795 seconds – or about the same amount of time it takes to circulate the Texas Motor Speedway Dirt Track – is the difference between one win and Saathoff standing as the winningest rider in the history of the class. 

That’s the way it goes in a sport as competitive and unpredictable as Progressive AFT. Rather than wallow in what might have been, this should serve to illustrate just how quickly a more seasoned and confident Saathoff could stack his actual win total if he’s able to put all those hard lessons learned to good use. 

Living History 

In a season in which Kody Kopp has a chance to rewrite several of the Parts Unlimited AFT Singles career records, he is in position to now extend one already earned. 

With the career championships, total victories, and Half-Mile win records all very much within his reach in 2024, Kopp became the category’s winningest Short Track racer with his triumph at the Yamaha Senoia Short Track. This weekend he has a chance to create a bit of separation at the top. 

Here’s where that order stands heading into this weekend:

  1. Kody Kopp 7  
  2. Dallas Daniels 6 
  3. Dalton Gauthier 5 
  4. Brad Baker 3 
  5. Gerit Callies 3 
  6. Dan Bromley 3