How to Watch & What to Watch: Red Mile
FansChoice.tv is the live streaming home of Progressive American Flat Track. Complete coverage of this Saturday’s Red Mile presented by Indian Motorcycle of Lexington will kick off with the day’s first practice session at 3:30 p.m. ET (12:30 p.m. PT).
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Event Rewind: Mission Sacramento Mile powered by Law Tigers Main Event Highlights
No Shortage of Contenders in Red Mile Showdown
Progressive AFT races from one awesome Mile to another with this weekend's Red Mile presented by Indian Motorcycle of Lexington. Read More
Pirates with Papers
Unsurprisingly, several of the biggest stories heading into the Sacramento Mile remain so in advance of the Red Mile:
The continued evolution of the championship/generational conflict currently being waged by reigning champion Jared Mees (No. 1 Indian Motorcycle/Rogers Racing/SDI Racing FTR750) and points leader Dallas Daniels (No. 32 Estenson Racing Yamaha MT-07 DT)
The quest of JD Beach (No. 95 Estenson Racing Yamaha MT-07 DT) to become just the fifth rider to complete the old school Grand Slam.
Briar Bauman’s (No. 3 Parts Plus/Jacob Companies KTM 890 Duke) pursuit of the first-ever premier-class victory aboard a KTM twin.
However, there are plenty of other intriguing storylines beyond the obvious, most of which involve the series’ leading independent riders.
It’s always notable, and frankly, entertaining, whenever a privateer mixes it up at the front of a national, and even more so when they win. James Rispoli and Davis Fisher (No. 67 Rackley Racing/Bob Lanphere’s BMC Racing Indian FTR750) nearly did exactly that at the Red Mile a year ago. First, Rispoli shocked the paddock by battling with Mees and Daniels in en route to third in what proved to be a spectacular Mission SuperTwins debut for the Wally Brown Racing-developed KTM Duke. And then Fisher did him one better aboard his private Indian FTR750 the following day, finishing a close second to Mees after taking his turn as a third member of the Mees-Daniels-guest-star triumvirate.
Jarod Vanderkooi (No. 20 JMC Motorsports/Fairway Ford Indian FTR750) later added his name to the list of Mission SuperTwins Main Event winners at the tail-end of last season, while Bronson Bauman (No. 37 Fastrack Racing/2 Wheelz KTM 890 Duke) and Brandon Price have both earned runner-ups aboard private equipment in recent seasons.
Of course, the standard bearer for that scrappy bunch has long been Brandon Robinson (No. 44 Mission Roof Systems Indian FTR750).
The Pennsylvanian entered the 2023 season as the only pilot other than Mees and Briar Bauman to have taken at least two victories in every season going back to 2019. He’s been building in form and reputation that entire time, collecting more points in each successive season over that span, while elevating himself to legitimate title contender status.
Unfortunately, Robinson is a rider to watch at the Red Mile precisely because this season has not followed that grand plan. After finishing inside the championship top five in four consecutive years, he currently finds himself on the outside looking in after suffering from repeated early-campaign misfortune.
Already 72 points back on a podium-churning machine like Daniels, Robinson’s championship hopes are dreary at best and in need of some series-shaking developments to be reignited.
A downer by most measures, this development can also be reinterpreted as a gift. The speed is clearly still there, as evidenced by a runner-up, two podiums, and four top-fives in seven races. And even with a considerably better start, the 2023 slate always made for an uphill climb for Robinson’s championship aspirations, prominently featuring four TTs on the schedule.
So while his title-hunting may need to be back-burnered, Robinson is free to chase wins with abandon. Upping his streak to five successive seasons of two-plus wins seems like a pretty solid goal at this point.
The Comeback Kid
Another rider looking increasingly likely to join that list of privateer podium finishers is Kolby Carlile (No. 36 G&G Racing/Yamaha Racing Yamaha MT-07), who came up just 0.023 seconds short of accomplishing the feat last time out.
Carlile’s surging competitiveness makes for a feel-good story following an extended run that has been anything but.
The larger shape of his career has been interesting to say the least. He earned his Parts Unlimited AFT Singles title with Estenson Racing in 2017 despite not standing atop the podium once that season. He came back even faster the following year, logging a cathartic four-win season despite finishing fourth in his title defense.
Satisfied with his 450cc accomplishments, Carlile next proved himself a race-winner and title contender in Mission Production Twins in 2019. He then graduated to the premier class full-time in 2020 with Estenson but found himself saddled with an uncompetitive bike that even a supreme talent like JD Beach could only manage to hustle to a single finish better than 10th all year, and even then, an eighth.
The now potent MT-07 DT made serious strides forward the following year, as did Carlile’s fortunes. Unfortunately, after notching up three top fives, a nasty end-of-season crash paired with the inevitable rise of Dallas Daniels forced him aside in order to make way for the future.
Since then, he’s been caught in a vicious cycle of solid results and long stints on the recovering bed, podiums dotting the rare occasions he’s been healthy enough to ride between a series of severe injuries.
The devastating mental and physical toll has been intense, and Carlile has admitted to having quit 25 times… only to have subsequently unretired each time.
Back on a Yamaha with the battle-proven G&G squad, Carlile overcame fear and adversity to run up front at the Sacramento Mile – an amazing sight and one all fans of Progressive AFT should root for to see again this weekend.
We already mentioned the head-turning performance of Wally Brown Racing at the Red Mile a year ago. Well, they’re back and now with the 2022 Mission Production Twins champion Jesse Janisch (No. 33 Wally Brown Racing/Haversack KTM 790 Duke) wringing the Duke’s throttle on a track he won at a year ago.
Consider that a reminder that Bauman is not alone in seeking KTM’s first premier-class twin-cylinder win.
Spread the Wealth
After Kody Kopp (No. 1 Red Bull KTM Factory Racing 450 SX-F) opened his ‘23 title defense with a lopsided performance at the DAYTONA ST double-header, there was a reasonable fear that the remainder of the field might be in for a front-row seat to a season-long tour de force as orchestrated by the young champion.
That’s not what’s transpired since. True, Kopp continues to lead in the points and remains the firm favorite to repeat. However, excluding the opener, we’ve had five winners in five races, representing four teams and three manufacturers – Kopp, Max Whale (No. 18 Red Bull KTM Factory Racing 450 SX-F), Dalton Gauthier (No. 79 D&D Racing/Certified KTM 450 SX-F), Trent Lowe (No. 48 American Honda/Mission Foods CRF450R) and Tom Drane (No. 59 Estenson Racing Yamaha YZ450F).
We’ve also seen the clear potential for those numbers to continue to expand.
Trevor Brunner (No. 21 Estenson Racing Yamaha YZ450F) and Chase Saathoff (No. 88 American Honda/Mission Foods CRF450R) are a pair of ‘23 podium finishers likely to increase the winners tally.
The class’ all-time winningest rider, Shayna Texter-Bauman (No. 52 Parts Plus/Jacob Companies KTM 450 SX-F), is poised to put another check in both the winner and team columns.
And finally, teammates Chad Cose (No. 49 1st Impressions Race Team/Husqvarna Racing FC450) and James Ott (No. 19 1st Impressions Race Team/Husqvarna Racing FC450) – who have taken turns running up front this season – are in position to add to all three categories, winner, team, and manufacturer.
How’s that for diversity in action?
3 Going on 25
Back in 2017, reigning Mission SuperTwins champion Jared Mees came into the inaugural Red Mile with more than 50 Mile Main Events under his belt for a total of three wins.
He returns six years later decorated with 24 Mile wins to his credit and on the verge of tying masters Bubba Shobert and Bryan Smith for third all-time in the category.
While Mees has undeniably enjoyed a magical run since joining Indian Motorcycle, the fact is, three Miles wins is actually a pretty impressive number. Consider that fewer than 25 riders have eclipsed that number in the long history of the Grand National Championship despite now working its 70th season of existence.
Among the fabled riders who earned exactly three Miles wins during the entirety of their careers are champions Kenny Roberts, Joe Kopp, and Jake Johnson.
How is that even possible?
It’s pretty simple actually. Mile wins are famously and greedily monopolized by the foremost purveyors of the form. During the first half of Mees’ career, the bulk of the Mile wins were garnered by the likes of Chris Carr, Rich King, Kenny Coolbeth, Jr., and Smith.
And now it’s Mees, himself, who hordes them like no other.
As a result, only two other active riders can claim at least three Mile wins – Sammy Halbert, who no longer competes on the Miles and earned three Mile victories in nearly 20 years of competition, and Brandon Robinson, who now sits at three Mile wins himself following 15 years of trying.
Amazingly, Briar Bauman owns as many Mission SuperTwins titles as he does Mile wins – two – despite racing in the top category for more than a decade.
All of that is just a long way of pointing out how remarkable it is that Dallas Daniels has an opportunity to earn his third Mile win in just his fifth attempt this weekend at the Red Mile.
Paying Dues vs Out of Nowhere
Already this season, the Parts Unlimited AFT Singles class has seen two riders earn their maiden Progressive AFT victories: Trent Lowe and Tom Drane.
The rider most likely to join that list next is almost certainly Chase Saaoff, who storms into the Red Mile riding a streak of second-, second-, and third-place finishes in his last three outings.
When Lowe finally earned his win, his dues had been paid and then some. Prior to breaking through at last at the Dallas Half-Mile, the Indiana native had scooped up eight prior podiums.
Drane was on the other end of the spectrum. While not totally unexpected, the Aussie’s win came in just his eighth attempt with a single prior podium to his name.
Recent history shows that Drane’s case is closer to the rule than the expectation, at least in terms of prior podium history.
Starting with Dallas Daniels’ first-career professional win at the 2019 Peoria TT, seven riders have secured their debut Progressive AFT wins in the Parts Unlimited AFT class in recent history. The average number of prior podiums among that seven is less than two (1.85). That number drops to 1.66 when you include a pair of riders who earned their first win before Daniels but remain class front-runners – Dalton Gauthier and Morgen Mischler. It then falls to less than one (0.777) if you exclude the long-arriving Lowe.
Here’s the breakdown of the aforementioned first-time winners and their prior podium tally:
Dallas Daniels (0)
Max Whale (1)
Brandon Kitchen (0)
Trevor Brunner (0)
Kody Kopp (3)
Trent Lowe (8)
Tom Drane (1)
Dalton Gauthier (1)
Morgen Mischler (1)
The list makes Saathoff and his six podiums an outlier nearly on the scale of Turner Honda teammate Lowe. Even James Ott could be considered overdue with two podiums.
The list also suggests that the 2023 field is stacked up with potential first-time winners who could strike from seemingly nowhere on any given weekend.