Let Me Tell You About This Race: Bronson Bauman
Every rider who has advanced to the Progressive American Flat Track ranks has competed in so many races throughout their life, it’s virtually impossible for them to recall every last one. However, some races are simply unforgettable, whether due to triumph, disaster, excitement, chaos, or hilarity.
In this series, we ask a number of the world’s greatest dirt trackers to tell us about one particular race that stands out in their memory be it a Progressive AFT Main Event, a regional amateur race a decade ago, or simply an epic backyard barnburner.
To kick off our 2024 preseason installments, Bronson Bauman, reflects on the race that saw him step forward and officially establish himself a premier-class force in his own right after previously being best known as ‘the younger brother of…’:
Going into Williams Grove in 2018, Briar had, I believe, four career wins, including two the year before. I had never even had a podium. Honestly, I was struggling quite a bit. Earlier that season, I was riding for Bill Werner Racing and things weren't really gelling there, so I ended up leaving the team.
I did a few races on my own, and actually missed a couple because I was a broke kid and couldn't afford to do it. After missing those races, I ended up getting the call to substitute on the factory Indian at midseason with Brad Baker and Bryan Smith both injured.
I remember that day at Williams Grove was cold and rainy. The track was wet-tacky and really aggressive. You could really get on the gas hard early on and then it kind of slicked off.
It was one of those days where I think I qualified in the top ten – nothing spectacular. I direct transferred to the Main but with a second-row start. And this was back when we started six on a row, so it wasn’t like I was lighting the world on fire by any means.
Come the Main Event time, I talked to my mechanic and we made some adjustments. My initial start was pretty good, but then we had the incident that led to the Kenny Coolbeth fight with Johnny Lewis. That happened. So, a restart followed and I didn't get the greatest jump. I got a poor start, honestly, and was just inside the top ten and started to work my way up.
I was battling with Lewis for fifth, and shortly after I passed him, he ended up crashing and the red flag came out next lap. '&*#!,' I was thinking he was going to be placed back in front of me for the restart and I'd have to pass him all over again.
But the second restart happens and I come off of Turn 2 and find myself in third and battling for second. It was one of those deals where I knew the cavalry was coming and wondered exactly when they were gonna hit.
But instead, I kept running third and actually ended up passing Jared Mees for second. ‘Okay, something is wrong. What's happening here?’
I was second behind my brother. He would pull a bit from me and then maintain and then maybe I'd close a bit. We were not really playing cat and mouse, but he was always just outside of arm's length.
I ended up finishing there and was super excited going across the line. My brother won and turned around and was looking at me. ‘What? Second? What?’ On the podium, he said, 'Man, when I saw you I thought I must have lapped you, but we didn't lap anyone!'
We joked around about it, but we were in what is now my brother's adopted home state of Pennsylvania, and to have my first podium ever and have it happen while racing with my brother for the win – that was pretty awesome.
The opportunity with the factory Indian team kind of turned things around and gave me some confidence, where I was actually making Main Events and getting top tens. Before that, I wasn't doing that. It really opened my eyes. And then that podium came and it was like, 'Oh, yeah, I actually can do this.'
It really caught me and a lot of other people off guard. Everyone expected Briar to be up there, but not necessarily me.
The following year, Briar and I both got the call from the factory Indian team, and that's when I got my first win and some more podiums and Briar ended up winning his first championship. It was a Cinderella story for two kids from Salinas, California, to go 1-3 in the championship. And that night in Williams Grove was kind of a springboard to that.
Racers Are People Too, Bronson Bauman Edition
Favorite Food: My favorite food is certainly Mexican food. It’s not always great in every location, but it always seems to hit the spot.
Favorite Restaurant/Stop on the Road: The taco shop back in Salinas. Since I’m not living out there any more, it’s always a spot to hit when I’m around the area.
Favorite Band: I don’t really have a favorite band to say. I’m a huge country music guy though.
Favorite Song: This is another hard one. It depends on the circumstances. For race day it’s “Not Like Us” by Brantley Gilbert.
Favorite TV Series: It’s between Cheers and Suits.
Favorite Movie: It would be either one of the Super Troopers.
Favorite Hobby that Doesn't Involve Wheels, Engines, or Racing: It’s hard to beat a hobby that doesn’t involve something with a motor and wheels, but I am an avid whitetail hunter.