Here's the latest instalment of my morning after brain dump after watching (and listening to) the AFT 2019 races on Fanschoice. First thought was thank goodness the rain held off to actually get a Twins race finished. The Singles managed to have their Saturday Springfield TT, but the last two Twins mile races have been rained out, and this one was postponed from Saturday to Sunday. There must have been a lot of twitchy executives.
The rescheduled race was at a very handy time for me and I watched every session of all three classes over a six-hour marathon.
I'd never seen the Red Mile before and it threw up good racing, on a narrow groove. After heavy rain the track was dusty by the end of the qualifying.
There were 31 entries for a 16-rider final.
All but one rider made the semis, that one was Californian Andrew Luker.
All classes were shifting gears, which is unusual for an any flat track race, including miles. Brad Baker, the super-insightful Fanschoice pundit in the commentary box, said it was because the two corners were significantly different and it was hard to gear the bike to work ideally on both. The only aerial photo I could find didn't show a significant difference, so it shows how crucial gearing is.
Shayna's factory Red Bull KTM looked very strong, but then it has a big power-to-weight benefit compared to many other riders. She could pass Gauthier without using the draft.
Oliver Brindley was back after foot surgery. He missed the Springfield TT. In his heat he spun it up wildly off the front row, but made it through to the semis where he battled with the reigning champion, Dan Bromley, for fourth, but just missed out, coming in fifth.
Brindley kept up his good record of making the mains, but had an electrical problem and DNF'd.
Rush and Shayna Texter looked the riders to beat all night. Gauthier was a constant threat, even though, amazingly, this was his first ever mile race on a 450. He had a great battle with Rush in a semi.
Mikey Rush won his first ever National on the American Honda CRF, narrowly beating Shayna, with Stollings in third. Gauthier was third, clawing back points from Jesse Janisch who was 11th. Gauthier scored zero points at the Springfield TT.
The very business-like female anchor told Kevin Stollings the race seemed like a war of atrophy.
After a couple of half-arsed seasons the AFT Production Twins class has grown into something worth watching. There were 17 entries for this round.
Production Twins is for all the twins except the FTR750. The engines must come from a street bike, but the chassis are all custom flat track framers.
The only Harley in the class is (I believe) an ex-factory XG750R. It's run by Black Hills Harley with former Brit and European Superbike/Supersport racer James Rispoli on board. It was flying, narrowly missing winning its semi, by 0.002s, but it was puffing smoke and seemed to be blowing oil mist, enough oil to seem to affect Kayl Kolkman's concentration when it passed him in the semi. It was blackflagged in the main, causing confusion because Ben Lowe was sure he was the rider being signalled. He didn't stop racing and eventually came third, but it was the first thing he mentioned on the podium. Why don't they hold up the racer's number with the black flag like they do in other motorsports?
Cory Texter won, scoring three out of three wins, on his G&G Yamaha.
Kolby Carlile was second, also on a Yamaha, having comeback from surgery after a broken knee when he was run over in the Arizona round.
The Production Twins are diminishing the entries in the Twins class. There were only 22 entries premier class entries, so just 5 riders would miss out on the main (16 rider main, plus one using a provisional start).
Bryan Smith was back on the Crosley Howerton Kawasaki (which the commentator, Scottie Deubler never seems to mention has a Kawasaki engine. Baker did though). His first race since Texas in 20 April (where he failed to make the main).
Mees was dominant from the start. Fastest lap in every session. His fastest semi lap was 0.7s quicker than Bryan Smith's fastest lap in the semi he won.
Briar Bauman crashed out of a comfortable 2nd place in his semi, when his FTR750 seemed to hit a false neutral. He tried to stomp it in gear, but went offline and laid the bike down and went into the airfence. There was a line-out restart for a two-lap dash. Bauman made it from the back of the line-out to fifth so made the main on the 2nd row.
Johnny Lewis was back on an FTR750 but complained of brake problems. He got the holeshot in a semi, and made the main, but struggled without a working brake, coming in 12th. he gets to keep his #10 for next season.
The factory Harleys were on the pace (well, everyone's pace except Jared Mees'). Vanderkooi was second in his semi, having led it, both were on the front row of the main, but both broke down. That means there were three Harley competing in Kentucky and all three broke in their respective mains.
The semis were great.
The Estenson Yamahas continue to under-perform on ovals. JD Beach chose to compete in the road racing championship rather than flat track so Roger Lee Hayden rode his bike. RLH is the brother of the late Nicky and Tommy, Tommy being the Estenson Yamaha team manager. RLH hadn't raced a twin on a mile in 17 years. He didn't qualify for the main. Jake Johnson looked in danger of not qualifying for the main, but the two-lap restart helped him and he made it. He was ninth in the main.
Stephen Vanderkuur ran very strongly on his newly acquired Indian.
17 bikes in the main: 12 x Indian, 2 x HD, 2 x Yam, 1 x Kawasaki
Mees took the lead early, but Brandon Robinson crashed out, 'busting the groove' and looked beaten up.
During the wait for the restart Mees' tuner, Kenny Tolbert constantly pointed a leafblower at his rider's FTR engine. This team just think harder than EVERYONE else. Expect to see more leafblowers during the next red flag hold up.
Mees led from the restart, but was pressured by Briar Bauman and won by 5/100s of a second (see the photo at the top of this post). Bryan Smith was in touch, but didn't look to have the pace to challenge Mees or Bauman. He was a second back at the line.
It finished 1 Mees, 2 Briar B, 3 Smith. Briar still leads the title race. He's been on the podium at every race this season and won one. Mees now has two wins.
When we were six races into last season, Indian has scored three podium sweeps. This year they have two, but have actually filled more podium spots - 14 out of a possible 18, compared to 2018's 13 from 18.
Next race is Laconia Short Track on 15 June (weather permitting...)