FORT WORTH, Texas (September 23, 2017)
– The wonderfully unique and unpredictable nature of American Flat Track racing was on full display on Saturday night at Texas Motor Speedway.
In a season utterly dominated by the juggernaut Indian Motorcycle works line-up spearheaded by newly crowned 2017 AFT Twins presented by Vanc & Hines champion Jared Mees (No. 9 Indian Motorcycle Rogers Racing Scout FTR750), there was still room for an underdog to serve up an upset at the penultimate round of the championship.
Privateer Jeffrey Carver Jr. took it to the factory stars and controlled the Lone Star Half-Mile presented by Indian Motorcycle from the front throughout en route to his first-career win on a Twin in American Flat Track’s premier class.
In doing so — and as a result of a late-season swap of equipment — Carver simultaneously delivered fabled flat track marquee Harley-Davidson its first victory of the season when he took the checkered flag aboard the No. 23 Ben Evan’s Racing/Carver’s BBQ Harley-Davidson XR750.
Carver’s maiden premier-class victory came back in 2013 at the Castle Rock TT aboard a Single. Saturday’s controlled and precision performance was of an entirely different sort. Carver proved himself virtually untouchable on Texas Motor Speedway’s clay Half-Mile despite being pited up against the best of the best in AFT Twins presented by Vance & Hines action.
“I’m just stoked,” Carver said. “I’ve been really pushing hard this year. I started my own program at the beginning of the year and showed up at Daytona with just one motorcycle. We’ve been trying to excel and just keep picking up the pace with these guys… We’ve been traveling the circuit all year. We slept on the ground after a couple nationals this year because we didn’t have any money. We are just going for it. I love this sport. The chance to beat the fastest guys in the world is a really good thing.”
Asked about the decision to wheel out a Harley-Davidson for the season’s final two events, Carver said, “I studied the tracks. I rode XRs in ’11 and ’12 — I’ve rode them off and on. We started putting some things together, and we thought the last two races of the year would be a good place to bring it out. With this shape of track, I really thought it had what it took. I’m really glad I took the gamble and rolled the dice.”
Champion Mees was the only rider with the pace to even keep Carver honest on this night. He applied pressure from just over a second back throughout the majority of the race but was unable to force a pivotal mistake.
Mees’ runner-up finish was his 16th podium finish in 17 races this season, including 15 of first or second. He is now well positioned to claim sole possession of the single-season podium record with just the finale remaining on the season’s slate.
After the race, the champ said, “(Carver) was able to get a good start. He was able to put together three strong laps in the beginning, and then we just stalemated there for the whole race. I tried so hard to gain on him… I couldn’t bridge the gap. He rode strong — he really did. Hats off to him and his whole team. It’s cool to see a kid like that come out here and… I’m not saying we didn’t have him picked to win, but it’s a little bit of a surprise. It was awesome.”
Furthering the underdog theme of the evening were the last-lap heroics of Johnny Lewis (No. 10 Team Nila/John Wise Indian Scout FTR750). Having only climbed aboard his privateer Indian Scout FTR750 for the first time earlier in the day, Lewis tracked down factory Indian star and 2016 AFT Twins champion Bryan Smith (No. 1 Indian Motorcycle Racing backed by Allstate Scout FTR750) and overtook him on the final lap to steal away the final spot on the box.
“Not bad for a bike I jumped on for the first time today in practice,” Lewis said. “It’s been a while since I’ve been on the podium. I can’t tell you how happy I am. It feels good.”
Two-time ’17 AFT Twins race winner Briar Bauman (No. 14 Zanotti Racing Kawasaki Ninja 650) finished a couple tenths behind Smith to complete the Main Event’s top five.
Also of note was the showing of NBCSN’s American Flat Track color commentator Larry Pegram, who returned to the fray aboard the back-up bike of the injured Brad Baker (No. 6 Indian Motorcycle Racing backed by Allstate Scout FTR750).
The former Superbike star proved he’s still blessed with plenty of speed. Pegram not only qualified for the Main Event aboard the No. 272 Indian Motorcycle Racing backed by Allstate Scout FTR750, but actually managed to round out the evening’s top 10.
Shayna Texter (No. 52 Richie Morris Racing Honda CRF450R) kept her AFT Singles title hopes alive with a clutch performance at Texas Motor Speedway on Saturday night.
Texter held strong to keep AFT Singles championship leader Kolby Carlile (No. 36 Estenson Racing Yamaha YZ450F) at bay and claim the victory, putting a halt to Carlile’s bit to secure the crown a round early.
Dan Bromley (No. 62 Big Momma & Daddy Deep Pockets Racing KTM 450 SX-F) came home in third, less than a second behind Texter and Carlile.
The battle for the win was not the race’s only development with significant title implications; Brandon Price (No. 92 Brandon Price Racing backed by Parkinson Brother’s Racing/DPC Racing/Don’s Kawasaki Honda CRF450R), who came into the event ranked second and just 12 points back of Carlile, saw his championship chances evaporate completely when he suffered a late-race mechanical DNF while fighting for a top-five result.
With just the 25 points up for grabs at the season finale yet to be had, Carlile leads Texter by 24. Price was relegated to third, 31 points back and mathematically eliminated from contention.
“It was stressful,” Texter said of her Lone Star showdown with title rival Carlile. “The racetrack out there was so slippery. You just have to stay calm and keep hitting your points. It took a lot of focus and concentration.
“Unfortunately, we’re behind in this championship and not where I want to be. We got a flat tire at Williams Grove, and obviously everyone knows I’m not a TT rider. That’s definitely hurt us, but all I can do is go out there and win and have some fun.”
Carlile said, “I did everything I could do today. I saw Brandon on the side of the track and thought I may have had the title clinched. But then I added up the points on the last lap, and realized I still need one more.”
Actually, Carlile needs to pick up at least two points (17th place or better) to assure himself the championship. Any less would leave the door open for Texter, whose class-leading five race victories guarantee her the upper hand in any tiebreaker scenario.