Mees Extends Title Lead with Dominant Black Hills Half-Mile
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (August 6, 2023) – Reigning champion Jared Mees (No. 1 Indian Motorcycle/Rogers Racing/SDI Racing FTR750) fortified his Grand National Championship advantage with a trademark performance in The City of Sturgis Black Hills Half-Mile presented by Black Hills Harley-Davidson at Black Hills Speedway in Rapid City, South Dakota
Progressive American Flat Track, sanctioned by AMA Pro Racing, took the spotlight at the 83rd Sturgis Motorcycle Rally on Sunday night, and all of its superstars, Mees again shone the brightest. He looked nearly unbeatable entering the Mission SuperTwins presented by S&S Cycle Main and then proved those fears well founded as soon as the race began. He shot out into the lead from pole and stretched out a sizable gap within a matter of laps, extinguishing any hopes of an upset as he did so.
Drama-free at the front, the Main Event was anything but from second place on down the order. Despite being in desperate need of a runner-up finish to minimize the damage to his championship chances, Dallas Daniels (No. 32 Estenson Racing Yamaha MT-07 DT) found himself in fourth behind JD Beach (No. 95 Estenson Racing Yamaha MT-07 DT) and Briar Bauman (No. 3 Parts Plus/Jacob Companies KTM 790 Duke) and in danger of being displaced to fifth by Brandon Robinson (No. 44 Mission Roof Systems Indian FTR750).
Fueled by that desperation, Daniels somehow thread the needle, splitting Beach and Bauman to emerge from fourth in second with eight minutes to go. He and Estenson Racing teammate Beach then separated from the fight for fourth and flew their Yamahas in formation from that point forward.
However, Beach didn’t appear to be content to merely follow Daniels to the flag, instead showing his teammate a wheel more than once as the race neared its conclusion. While Beach may have had some pace on Daniels, he was wise enough to hold off on anything but the cleanest of passes – an opportunity for which never showed itself.
As a result of Mees’ victory and Daniels’ runner-up, Mees now leads by 5 points (321-316) and has locked up the tiebreaker with just three races left to determine this year’s champion.
Mees said, “It was a good day for us. We knew we needed to come in and do exactly that. We were dominant all day long. Jimmy Wood had the Öhlins suspension so hooked up – the Indian was probably one of the most hooked up motorcycles on a Half-Mile that I’ve ever been on, honestly. And Kenny Tolbert had the thing tuned-up perfectly, obviously. We were solid right off the truck, and that was a big key to today – not having to search for the speed.”
Meanwhile, nine riders were in contention for fourth place in a wild fracas just behind the podium positions. Fourth and fifth, ultimately went to Davis Fisher (No. 67 Rackley Racing/Bob Lanphere’s BMC Racing Indian FTR750) and Cameron Smith (No. 34 Martin Trucking/Fredericktown Yamaha MT-07). Brandon Robinson (No. 44 Mission Roof Systems Indian FTR750) held on for sixth, while Bauman suffered the most in the fray, dropping all the way down to 12th by the time he took the checkered flag.
Seventh was taken by Kolby Carlile (No. 36 G&G Racing/Yamaha Racing Yamaha MT-07) while Johnny Lewis (No. 10 Moto Anatomy X Powered by Royal Enfield 650), Jarod Vanderkooi (No. 20 JMC Motorsports/Fairway Ford Indian FTR750), and Bronson Bauman (No. 37 Fastrack Racing/2 Wheelz KTM 790 Duke) completed the top ten.
Parts Unlimited AFT Singles presented by KICKER
Reigning Parts Unlimited AFT Singles presented by KICKER champ Kody Kopp (No. 1 Red Bull KTM Factory Racing 450 SX-F) pulled off perhaps the most impressive of his seven race wins this season on Sunday at Black Hills Speedway.
Kopp not only had to work up through a talented field on a slick track after running as low as seventh early, he also had to somehow find a way around the race’s heavy pre-race favorite, Tom Drane (No. 59 Estenson Racing Yamaha YZ450F), to complete that epic charge to victory.
Kopp exploited a high line no one else could quite master to slash up from seventh to second. That strategy could take him only that far, however, as Drane was too fast and too smart to simply power around. Instead, the factory Red Bull KTM ace applied as much pressure as he possibly could and then pounced as soon as Drane made a slight mistake as the two leapt out of Turn 4 with just two laps remaining.
Once into first, Kopp kept it together and held on by 0.227 seconds at the checkered flag.
“That was probably the toughest race of my career,” Kopp said. “I really dug myself out of a hole after a terrible heat, but I knew we had the speed… (But) Tom made it so hard to do. I would roll him – I had a lot of entry speed into (Turn) 1 – but he would see me and come up and block, which is what you have to do at a track like this, and it would cost me all of my momentum. But he just slipped up once coming off 4, and that’s all it took.”
“Last year around this time, when we started thinking about the championship, I feel like I was settling for like fifths and sevenths. This year, I want to get eight wins like Dallas (Daniels did in 2020). This is huge for me and my team.”
The two were joined on the box by Trent Lowe (No. 48 American Honda/Mission Foods CRF450R), who held off second factory KTM ace Max Whale (No. 18 Red Bull KTM Factory Racing 450 SX-F), by 0.096 seconds for the spot.
Early frontrunner and ‘22 Black Hills HM winner Trevor Brunner (No. 21 Estenson Racing Yamaha YZ450F) finished in fifth, just 0.005 seconds ahead of Chase Saathoff (No. 88 American Honda/Mission Foods CRF450R).
Rookie Declan Bender (No. 216 Killer Bee Racing/Luczak Racing KTM 450 SX-F) earned the best finish of his Progressive AFT career in seventh. He was followed by Dalton Gauthier (No. 79 D&D Racing/Certified KTM 450 SX-F), Travis Petton IV (No. 82 ECG Racing/3 Bros KTM 450 SX-F) and Tarren Santero (No. 75 Vinson Construction/Eric Hoyt Honda CRF450R) to round out the top ten.
Kopp now leads the championship by 49 points over Drane (298-249). Should he build that advantage by just a single point next weekend at his home race in Castle Rock, Washington, he’ll successfully complete his title defense a full two rounds early.
The battle for the 2023 Grand National Championship resumes in less than a week with the CertainTeed Castle Rock TT presented by Law Tigers at Castle Rock Race Park in Castle Rock, Washington, on Saturday, August 12. Visit https://www.tixr.com/groups/sdiracing/events/castle-rock-tt-59623 to reserve your tickets today.
For those that can’t catch the live action from the circuit, FansChoice.tv is the live streaming home of Progressive AFT. Sign up now and catch every second of on-track action starting with Practice & Qualifying and ending with the Victory Podium at the end of the night at https://www.fanschoice.tv.
FOX Sports coverage of The City of Sturgis Black Hills Half-Mile presented by Black Hills Harley-Davidson, featuring in-depth features and thrilling onboard cameras, will premiere on FS1 on Sunday, August 13, at 11:00 a.m. ET (8:00 a.m. PT)
For more information on Progressive AFT visit https://www.americanflattrack.com