This is a little bit later than usual for a couple of reasons, but I saw this race live in the flesh, having flown out to the Midwest and driven for hours on end to follow the fortunes of Red Torpedo-sponsored riders, Jared Mees and Shayna Texter. And it was a great experience. My full story will be in the next issue of Sideburn with photos by Ed Subias, but here are some thoughts.
The race is promoted by Jared and Nichole Mees. That means they put up the money to bring the AFT series to Lima. If the crowd doesn't arrive they lose out, because the AFT demand a certain amount to come to town (I don't know the figures, but if you wonder why races like Castle Rock drop off the schedule it's often because the track/promoters can't make the sums work). The Mees and their crew did a great job.
The track was groomed between every session - practice, qualifying, races. Five pick-up trucks graded it, then a water truck did two laps. This might have been a pain for people watching on fanschoice, but it didn't make any difference to fans on the ground.
The class is so packed with quality. I went to the Greenville outlaw race the night before, another cushion half-mile, and Honda US rider Cameron Smith smoked the field, including Jared Mees on his factory Tolbert-tuned FTR750, in the open main. The next day Smith didn't even qualify for the AFT singles 16-rider main.
Dallas Daniels made his pro debut, the most eagerly awaited pro debut in all my years of watching flat track, and he didn't disappoint. He made the main, first time out, coming 11th.
Johnny Lewis was there as his rider coach.
Ollie Brindley was riding not long after his ankle operation, and didn't make the main on this tough track. It's not a surprise, but he did seem disappointed.
Another rider not to make the main was 2019 multi time race winner Jesse Janisch. See what I mean about strength-in-depth?
Shayna Texter was 2nd fastest qualifier, after Chad Cose (who also won his semi), won her heat race, won her semi, then, after entering the first corner in fourth position, won the main by 2.4s. She is incredible.
Cory Texter (photo: Sideburn)
This is turning out to be an entertaining class, but doesn't yet have the depth of either Twins or Singles. Something has been rumoured that will radically change that. I will write a post on it soon.
Most people were tipping Cory Texter to win four our of four for the season on his G&G Yamaha.
No one had told Chad Cose though. The California Kid was on a Kawasaki, like 12 of the 17 entries.
There was one Harley in Production Twins - James Rispoli on the factory-supported, Black Hills, Vance and Hines XG750R (above)
Jordan Harris, on the River Rat CF Kawasaki that we featured in SB35, crashed, banged his head and made the wise decision to sit out the rest of the meeting.
And there was one BMW - Shawn Baer's F800, making it's debut. The rest of the bikes were Yamaha twins.
The final was exciting. Rispoli got a stinking start but battled up to third in the 15-laps. He left himself too much to do to catch the two leaders, Cose and Texter.
Cose took a narrow win, with Texter in second, bagging a bunch of points for his title challenge.
The Production Twins main was held at 7.35, the first race after the Twins semis. In the 2nd Twins semi Briar Bauman won and had a fastest lap time of 26.31. Estenson Yamaha rider Jake Johnson was second in that semi and had a best lap of 27.23s. In comparison, 40 minutes later, Chad Cose set the fastest lap of the Production Twins race, on his Kawasaki, with 26.74s. That means he split to the two 'Expert' Twins riders with a time that was closer to the Factory FTR750 time than the semi-factory Yamaha.
Baer Racing BMW F800 framer (photo: Sideburn)
A very meagre entry of just 20 bikes was further thinned before the heat races even started when Harley factory rider and Ohio local Jarod Vanderkooi crashed out, and also seemed to suffer a concussion.
Brandon Robinson came into the race carrying a wrist injury from an earlier race and didn't make it through the semis. He'd already used his provisional start so he went home pointless.
Former Daytona 200 winner Danny Eslick entered on an XR750 and scraped into the main but was 2s or more off the pace all day.
After an off-par season so far, by his high standards, Jeffrey Carver was back on the pace and won his semi, beating Mees into second.
Briar Bauman won his semi, with WIles a strong second.
JD Beach was never quite on the pace with the Estenson Yamaha MT-07, but it was fun watching his radical lines in practice. He would come into the turn very deep, then turn incredibly sharply and make a very late apex, tight to the grass on exit, already accelerating towards the straightaway with the bike virtually straight up and down. I didn't see anyone else try it. He came 10th in the main, 18s behind the winner.
The Estenson Yamaha pit set-up is incredibly impressive (and a little bit intimidating).
Newcomer to the class, Brandon Price was quickest qualifier on the Roof Systems of Dallas supported privateer FTR750, despite his exhaust falling off on the startline at the start of Q2.
Jeffrey Carver has a tattoo on his ribcage that reads 'Everything happens for a reason'.
The main was made up of 10 x Indian, 3 x Yam, 2 x HD, 2 x Kaw.
There was a red flag on lap 7, but I was at the other end of the track and didn't see the incident.
(photo: Briar Bauman)
After the restart Briar Bauman's FTR750 spat its rear tyre clear off the rim on lap 10. he looked in control of the race up till that point.
What followed was a brain-melting 15 laps of the absolute cream of flat track action starring Mees and Carver, with an Oscar-winning supporting role by Henry Wiles. I'm still buzzing from it six days later.
Bryan Smith looked on the pace earlier in the day but could only manage 7th.
Smith was the first non-FTR750 in the main. Top six all Indians.
Rookie Brandon Price was fourth. He would cap a great week by winning the Barbara Fritchie Classic 4th of July race, beating both Sammy Halbert (riding a private XR750) and Cory Texter on his dominant Yamaha Production Twin.
With Mees winning and Briar DNFing the championship has really closed up. Mees is the Cyberdyne Systems series T-800 Model 101 of pro flat track.
Next AFT race is the New York Short Track at Weedsport (what a great name) on 13 July.
Photos courtesy of AFT except where stated