How to Watch & What to Watch: Ventura Short Track
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Event Rewind: Mission Dallas Half-Mile presented by Roof Systems Main Event Highlights
Daniels, Mees Continue Battle for Supremacy at Ventura Short Track
Progressive AFT will complete its run of four early-season Short Tracks with this Saturday's inaugural Ventura Short Track. Read More
The biggest story heading into the Ventura ST is the same as it was heading into the Dallas Half-Mile, and one which could easily prove to be the biggest story for the rest of the season… perhaps for the next few seasons.
We are on the verge of a full-scale thermonuclear championship battle between a legend who has been one of the sport’s great powers for the past two decades and a rising star who is on a trajectory that suggests he could fill a similar role for the next couple of decades.
Mission SuperTwins points leader Dallas Daniels (No. 32 Estenson Racing Yamaha MT-07 DT) and reigning champion Jared Mees (No. 1 Indian Motorcycle/Rogers Racing/SDI Racing FTR750) have cleared out some space for themselves atop the points standings by splitting the season’s four oval wins up amongst themselves.
While the racing between the two has been, at times, spectacular, it has stayed clean and respectful. What are the odds that remains the case for an entire season?
It’s certainly possible – and it could be a fascinating show without the introduction of overt mind games or interpersonal drama – but it still feels like a cold war just waiting to get hot.
Don’t You Forget About Me
When contemplating the possibility of Mees eventually passing the torch to Daniels, it’s worth remembering that Briar Bauman (No. 3 Parts Plus/Jacob Companies KTM 890 Duke) will ultimately have a say.
He’s in the same discussion in terms of sheer talent and long-term potential to impact the record books. Still just 27 years old, Bauman beat Mees for consecutive Championships in 2019 and 2020 and came up a combined 37 points short of making that four straight titles from ‘19-’22.
It’s somewhat easy to overlook him as a title contender at the moment… but it may only be a fleeting moment.
Despite committing to the development of the Rick Ware Racing KTM 890 Duke on the eve of the new season – and the obvious fact that the bike is still early in that process – Bauman has already managed to outclass the most talented dirt trackers in the world outside of Mees and Daniels.
The initial teething difficulties with the bike have rendered a quick 35 points down on Daniels. While far from impossible, a genuine title run in 2023 might be a big ask. But as he and his team continue to get a grip on the bike – or more accurately, the bike continues to get more grip for Bauman and the team to work with, he is bound to start winning races and generally making waves.
And then perhaps in 2024, we will be treated to a showdown of three future Hall of Famers battling at the peak of their powers.
The Ventura Short Track represents the first in a two-weekend California tour for Progressive AFT. Bauman and his younger brother, Bronson Bauman (No. 37 Fastrack Racing/2 Wheelz KTM 890 Duke), are the sport’s most high-profile California natives currently racing, but both have since laid down roots east of the Mississippi.
The premier-class has a few other home-state favorites for fans to root for this weekend, including Nick Armstrong (No. 60 Competitive Racing Frames/Lessley Brothers Yamaha MT-07) and Jimmy McAllister (No. 50 JMAC Racing/Savage Custom KTM 890 Duke).
The cheers could be loudest of all for Kayl Kolkman (No 98 Brandy Gordon/B&L Plumbing/Rod Lake Yamaha MT-07), a part-time racer with full-time racer skills, who just so happens to hail from Ventura, California.
Now that Trent Lowe (No. 48 American Honda/Mission Foods CRF450R) has erased himself from contention for the title of “best to have never won a Main Event,” who will be the next rider to join the illustrious ranks of Progressive American Flat Track race winners?
There are three obvious candidates, and it wouldn’t go down as a complete shock if all three join Lowe as first-time winners before the season is out:
Chase Saathoff (No. 88 American Honda/Mission Foods CRF450R), Tom Drane (No. 59 Estenson Racing Yamaha YZ450F), and James Ott (No. 19 1st Impressions Race Team/Husqvarna Racing FC450) are all up-and-coming racers who rank inside the Parts Unlimited AFT Singles presented by KICKER championship top ten, supported by powerhouse teams with a runner-up finish among their most recent six results.
Ott, in particular, should be plenty motivated to deliver this weekend; he’s from nearby Simi Valley, just a 40-minute drive removed from Ventura Raceway.
Short Track Short List
While much has been made of the fact that Mees is just a single Half-Mile win away from joining icon Scott Parker for most in Grand National Championship history, it’s gone a bit under the radar that he’s also closing in on the Short Track top spot.
With traditionally fewer Short Tracks per season, it’s only natural the ultimate number to shoot for is far lower than Parker’s 34 HM wins. The fact that the tight confines of the discipline invite chaos and upsets is likely also a factor in preventing any given rider from monopolizing the top of the podium.
With his Senoia ST win, Mees emerged from a five-way tie with Brandon Robinson (No. 44 Mission Roof Systems Indian FTR750) Kenny Roberts, Steve Eklund, and Sammy Halbert (No. 69 Martin Trucking/Castrol Harley-Davidson XR750) to claim sole possession of fourth place on the all-time ST wins list at six.
That leaves him just three short of the all-time mark of nine, currently shared by Chris Carr and Henry Wiles. Jake Johnson stands between them in third with eight.
Besides the fact that both Robinson and Halbert will be looking to earn a sixth ST win of their own this weekend, the stacked field also boasts the likes of Bauman (tied for ninth with four ST wins) and Estenson Racing teammates Daniels and JD Beach (No. 95 Estenson Racing Yamaha MT-07 DT), who have combined to win four of the series’ most recent seven STs.
Honda, Honda, Honda
Honda’s 1-2-3 sweep of the podium at the Dallas Half-Mile served as a reminder of the manufacturer’s historical success in Parts Unlimited AFT Singles competition.
Honda owns five rider’s championships in the class, more than any other manufacturer. That said, it’s been a while since Honda has achieved that ultimate goal of winning the championship.
While they’ve taken the manufacturer’s crown more recently, the last time a Honda-mounted rider earned the #1 plate was back in 2015. Since that time, pilots (primarily) armed with KTMs, Yamahas, Husqvarnas, and Kawasakis have all taken the title.
- 2022 KTM
- 2021 Yamaha
- 2020 Yamaha
- 2019 Husqvarna
- 2018 KTM
- 2017 Yamaha
- 2016 Kawasaki
- 2015 Honda
- 2014 Honda
- 2013 Yamaha
- 2012 Honda
- 2011 Honda
- 2010 Yamaha
- 2009 Honda
The American Honda-backed Turner Racing team has championship-caliber bikes and riders. That’s not news – the team went 2-3 in last year’s title fight.
It’s just a matter of putting it all together for a full season and closing the deal in the end. The Dallas HM was a strong indication they are headed back in the right direction.
KTM has the early advantage as Kody Kopp (No. 1 Red Bull KTM Factory Racing 450 SX-F), Dalton Gauthier (No. 79 D&D Racing/Certified KTM 450 SX-F), and Max Whale (No. 18 Red Bull KTM Factory Racing 450 SX-F) an early 1st, 2nd, and 3rd in the points race with Yamaha-mounted Trevor Brunner (No. 21 Estenson Racing Yamaha YZ450F) in fourth.
Meanwhile, their recent podium lockout has positioned Turner Racing’s Lowe, Saathoff, and Morgen Mischler (No. 13 American Honda/Mission Foods CRF450R) 5-6-7 with a healthy slate of 13 races remaining in which to mount a charge.