How to Watch & What to Watch: Mission Sacramento Mile powered by Law Tigers
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Progressive AFT Speeds into Legendary Sacramento Mile
The 2023 Progressive AFT season shifts into high gear with the 57th running of the Legendary Sacramento Mile. Read More
You Can Breathe a Little Easier…
While he originally built his reputation upon his Half-Mile mastery, Jared Mees (No. 1 Indian Motorcycle/Rogers Racing/SDI Racing FTR750) has developed into a borderline miracle worker on the Miles since joining the works Indian Motorcycle Effort.
Since 2017, Mees has taken at least one Mile victory in each season, and typically several more than that. Consider that in ‘18, he won four Miles in just over the span of a month (May 12 - June 16), in ‘19, he swept an entire season’s allotment of six Miles, and in ‘21, Mees strung together five consecutive Miles victories to successfully overcome a mammoth championship deficit and claim back his crown. Included among those many triumphs were four consecutive victories at the Legendary Sacramento Mile.
All of that means the three-Mile island portion of the calendar we’ve currently entered carries added weight for Mees’ title defense.
Of course, Mees’ four-win streak at Cal Expo was halted last year – a season in which he took just a single Mile win. The other two went to then-rookie Dallas Daniels (No. 32 Estenson Racing Yamaha MT-07 DT), who enters this critical point in the campaign with a 24-point advantage in the Mission SuperTwins championship standings.
A year ago, the Miles were viewed as the biggest stress test for the rules changes made ahead of the ‘22 season in an effort to level the playing field.
As it turned out, the revised regs worked out about as well as anyone could have possibly dreamed for an initial attempt. Even at the Miles, race-only and production-based equipment duked it out for victory from start to finish
That said, the platforms flexed opposing strengths around the big Miles. Along with his innate abilities, Mees managed to stay in contention due to his mount’s superior tractability and cornering momentum. Meanwhile, the prodigious Daniels could rely on a superior top-end punch – an advantage he exploited to perfection to blast ahead of Mees at the stripe by a miniscule 0.008 seconds in their first-ever Mile showdown.
The premier-class regulations were further refined over this past offseason in pursuit of even greater competitive balance and then tweaked just a little more a couple weeks back via a midseason tech bulletin.
As the Estenson Racing Yamaha MT-07 DT continues to improve as an all-around racebike, the long-dominant Indian FTR750 has been granted a minor easing of its targeted constraints, gaining a millimeter back with its inlet restrictors increased from 34mm to 35mm at the Miles and TTs (with no change at the Half-Miles or Short Tracks).
How that translates from paper to dirt and impacts this weekend’s race strategies will be one of the round’s most tracked storylines.
No Avoiding a Big Story
While a win by either Mees or Daniels would obviously be a significant development in this year’s title fight, there is literally no possibility of a ho-hum winner’s story this weekend.
Consider some other possibilities:
A win this weekend would move JD Beach (No. 95 Estenson Racing Yamaha MT-07 DT) just a Half-Mile victory away from completing the mythical old school Grand Slam that has only been accomplished by four legends – Dick Mann, Kenny Roberts, Bubba Shobert, and Doug Chandler.
If Briar Bauman (No. 3 Parts Plus/Jacob Companies KTM 790 Duke) wins, it’ll be Rick Ware Racing’s first-ever Progressive AFT victory, Bauman’s first aboard the KTM, and the first for a KTM twin in the premier class.
Swap out teams and the same is true for younger brother Bronson Bauman (No. 37 Fastrack Racing/2 Wheelz KTM 790 Duke), plus a further amplified underdog factor.
A victory for Brandon Robinson (No. 44 Mission Roof Systems Indian FTR750) would be a massive turn in fortunes for the beaten and bruised contender who needs a change of luck in the worst way.
Speaking of underdogs, can you imagine the shockwaves that would shake the paddock if Johnny Lewis (No. 10 Moto Anatomy X Powered by Royal Enfield 650) or Ryan Wells (No. 94 Moto Anatomy X Powered by Royal Enfield 650) happened to hustle an air-cooled Royal Enfield Twins FT to a win around Cal Expo?
Along with Daniels, Jarod Vanderkooi (No. 20 JMC Motorsports/Fairway Ford Indian FTR750), Davis Fisher (No. 67 Rackley Racing/Bob Lanphere’s BMC Racing Indian FTR750), and the aforementioned Bronson Bauman are the most recent additions on the list of Grand National Championship Main Event winners. Unlike Daniels, Vanderkooi, Fisher, and Bauman are still in search of a second that would further solidify their place in the history books.
And even among a grid stocked deep with Mission SuperTwins race winners, there still remains a handful of fast guys looking for a maiden premier-class victory, including recent Mission Production Twins victors Kolby Carlile (No. 36 G&G Racing/Yamaha Racing Yamaha MT-07), Ben Lowe (No. 25 Rackley Racing/Mission Foods Indian FTR750) and Nick Armstrong (No. 60 Competitive Racing Frames/Lessley Brothers Yamaha MT-07).
Bridging a Gap a Mile Wide
The current residence of the #1 plate along with ownership of the top three positions in this year’s Parts Unlimited AFT Singles standings are enough to tell you KTM is the class’ reigning top dog.
KTM has been a power player for years at this point. Dan Bromley took the title in 2018 with support from KTM North America and the marque jumped in with a full works factory squad the following year.
Over that span, KTM has racked up 26 victories and two championships, including last year’s crown courtesy of Kody Kopp (No. 1 Red Bull KTM Factory Racing 450 SX-F).
Kopp is the favorite to repeat, but he has a KTM satellite rider in Dalton Gauthier (No. 79 D&D Racing/Certified KTM 450 SX-F), and a teammate in Max Whale (No. 18 Red Bull KTM Factory Racing 450 SX-F) who are ranked right behind him in second and third, respectively.
Interestingly, among those 26 victories, just two have come on Miles (Whale at the OKC Mile II in 2021) and Shayna Texter-Bauman (No. 52 Parts Plus/Jacob Companies KTM 450 SX-F) right here at the Sacramento Mile in 2019.
During that same time, Honda has scooped up 11 Mile wins, while Yamaha has earned four and Husqvarna one.
Why the relative lack of success on Miles for the otherwise powerhouse KTM effort? There’s no denying the speed of the Hondas – particularly the America Honda-backed Turner Honda CRF450Rs – but much of it is likely down to luck and body types.
Kopp, who still has yet to win at a Mile despite coming within 0.053 seconds of one last season, is the latest in a lineage of lanky air-pushers that have starred aboard KTMs, along with the similarly built Gauthier, Whale, and Bromley.
A win this weekend is not beyond the grasp of any of that lead trio, they’ll just have to be strategic grandmasters to make it happen.
While the Hondas present a formidable force once again, the victory this weekend goes through Trevor Brunner (No. 21 Estenson Racing Yamaha YZ450F) until proven otherwise.
Brunner has won the last three Sacramento Miles, two aboard factory Hondas and the most recent armed with an Estenson Racing Yamaha YZ450F.
Past, Current, and Future Legends
Dallas Daniels’ rookie win at the Sacramento Mile seemed to go against the odds considering that in the previous 40 years, only seven riders had won the Sacramento Mile – the same seven riders who also happen to rank 1-7 on the all-time Mile wins list: Scott Parker, Chris Carr, Bubba Shobert, Bryan Smith, Ricky Graham, Jared Mees, and Jay Springsteen.
But did it really? The current trajectory of Daniels’ career arc suggests he may one day fit right in with that illustrious company.
A little more digging shows that the Sacramento Mile favors excellence more than it does experience. Take a look at what point in their careers the super seven got their maiden Sacramento Mile wins:
Parker: 9th career premier-class victory, 4th-ever Mile win (55 total Miles wins)
Carr: 2nd win, 1st Mile win (29)
Shobert: 3rd win, 3rd Mile win (25)
Smith: 8th win, 5th Mile win (25)
Graham: 13th win, 7th Mile win (23)
Mees: 35th win, 8th Mile win (23)
Springsteen: 30th win, 10th Mile win (14)
For Daniels, it was his second win and his second Mile win. If anything, history is now working in his favor entering this year’s edition of the legendary race. Among those seven, only Graham and Springsteen failed to score consecutive race wins at Cal Expo at some point in their careers.
Return to Form
It’s been a minute since we’ve seen Shayna Texter-Bauman fighting for victories. Last year’s stint in the premier-class proved difficult aboard a bike she could never really get to work to her liking. And this season’s return to the Parts Unlimited AFT Singles class where she has won more races than any other rider has been somewhat quiet to date, in large part due to an early-season schedule not exactly conducive to her strengths.
That changes in a big way this weekend.
Texter-Bauman’s most recent two podiums came here at Cal Expo in 2021 – a weekend in which she came up a combined 0.117 seconds short (0.024 and 0.093) of scoring two more Sacramento Mile wins.
She’s made those close races and minuscule margins work to her benefit more often than not, however. Just look at the margins of victory for her four career victories at the venue:
Texter-Bauman is a terrifying competitor to race against on the Miles with her perfect blend of tactical acumen, bravery, precision, and diminutive size.
Those are also among the reasons she’s one of the most popular riders the series has ever seen – a rare personality with the potential to attract new fans in droves.
A return to podium contention this weekend wouldn’t just be good for her, it would be good for the sport full-stop.