It seems like only TT races can throw up any kind of surprise in this era of Mees domination, and last night's rain-delayed Buffalo Chip TT did just that.
Mees inherited the lead when early leader Briar Bauman crashed and took out second place Jarod Vanderkooi on the factory H-D. Johnson, now riding an Indian FTR750 for the Estenson team, fought through to make the pass on Mees five laps from the end.
This was Johnson's first AFT win since the second race of 2016, Daytona Short Track II, when he won on Honda CRF450. This voctory, in front of a claimed 10,000 spectators during Sturgis Bike Week, also came off the back of Jake's X Games podium, on an Estenson Harley XR750. And, remember, Jake started the season riding a Yamaha (see Sideburn 33 for a full feature on that bike, written by Jake himself).
Mees came in second with Sammy Halbert third, his first podium on the factory H-D XG750R. Vanderkooi remounted to finish 10th, while Mikey Rush came 7th, standing in for Brandon Robinson on the Vance & Hines-prepared factory H-D.
But while TTs are important if there's a race for a tight championship (illustrated by Shayna Texter's failure to make the main at another TT, a a huge dent in her title hopes), they are not representative of the rest of the season. So a decent showing for the Harley here won't necessarily translate to a podium for the XG on the next half-mile, which is the Black Hills race tomorrow night. Halbert's podium was his fourth top seven result from the previous five races though, and the team were testing last week at DuQuoin (not on this year's schedule, but testing is testing).
Only 25 bikes entered the twins class. There's some of talk of diminished grids, by keyboard warriors and 'back-in-the-dayers', but comparing this race to an August 4 race at Rapid City, in 2009, there were 34 entries. Five years later, the Castle Rock TT, again at the beginning of August, there were just 24 entries, and that's when pros could race 450s. So relatively low mid-season entries in the premier class is nothing new, and the class only needs 18 riders to put on a show anyway.
This season has been blighted by top riders being injured. Factory riders Brandon Robinson, Bryan Smith and Brad Baker were all missing with injuries, Baker's being the most concerning. The feeling has still not returned to his legs after the X Games crash that fractured three vertebrae and damaged his spinal cord.
Bronson Bauman, Briar's brother, stood in on one of the Indian's and came home a strong fifth. Hayden Gillim, a part-timer in the series, came in fourth. TT specialist, Henry Wiles, chose his Kawasaki over his Indian and came in sixth.
In the singles, former supercrosser and ISDE rider, Ryan Sipes won. Oliver Brindley came 11th out of 51 entries.
Next AFT race - Tuesday - Black Hills Half-Mile.