DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (October 18, 2020) – Following 15 rounds of epic Progressive American Flat Track action, Briar Bauman (No. 1 Indian Motorcycle/Progressive Insurance FTR750) successfully completed his bid to repeat as AFT SuperTwins presented by Vance & Hines Champion in Saturday evening’s decisive Progressive AFT Finale at DAYTONA II.
Even with an extended pandemic-imposed pause, the highly anticipated 2020 showdown between Bauman and multi-time series king Jared Mees (No. 9 Indian Motorcycle/Progressive Insurance FTR750) proved more than worth the wait. The momentum swung back and forth on a nearly weekend-by-weekend basis, leaving both superstars still in control of their destiny heading into this weekend’s DAYTONA finale.
Bauman seized control of the title fight with a clutch runner-up finish on Friday, which seemingly made the final task before him relatively easy by his standards. All he needed to do at Daytona International Speedway on Saturday night was score an eighth-place finish to cap off a title defense that saw him rack up six wins, four seconds, three thirds, and one seventh along the way.
However, the level of difficulty was ratcheted up significantly due to weather; rainy conditions forced multiple delays in the program, the Semis were cancelled, and the AFT SuperTwins presented by Vance & Hines Main was pushed to the front of the pack once conditions allowed to ensure the season’s premier-class champ was crowned before the night was out. The changes and unpredictability of the day could have easily thrown an admittedly stressed Bauman out of his rhythm.
Instead he responded like a champion. Starting on the front row with Mees as a result of their qualifying performance, Bauman got away in third and glued himself to the rear wheel of his championship rival.
Meanwhile, Brandon Robinson (No. 44 HCRR Racing/Ben Evans Racing Indian FTR750) proved invincible around the Short Track at DAYTONA for a second consecutive night. He assumed the lead on lap one and held the position through the checkered flag.
Mees did well to keep Robinson in his sights, clinging on in hopes of a win that would give him the best possible shot at the championship should Bauman make a critical mistake.
Jeffrey Carver Jr. (No. 23 Happy Trails Racing FTR750) ran in fourth deep into the contest, holding back a racy Sammy Halbert (No. 69 Coolbeth-Nila Racing Indian FTR750) for a solid five minutes. Unable to find an opening, Halbert finally made one; he pushed up the inside of Carver to take over fourth, knocking his rival back to seventh in the process.
Halbert then reeled in the leaders, arriving within striking distance of Bauman and a potential podium finish just as the race entered its final two laps. Bauman saw what was happening and understood full well what could happen. Rather than risk getting similarly bumped down the order and out of the points lead, Bauman allowed Halbert by and then cruised to a title-clinching fourth-place finish.
After claiming his eighth-career victory, Robinson said, “This is amazing. Through the ups and downs we’ve had this season to come out of here with the DAYTONA double — there’s nothing better. This is insane. We’re going to be able to go into this offseason and get healthy and come out swinging in 2021. I’m ecstatic.”
“Obviously, things went really, really well,” back-to-back champ Bauman said. “I was able to do what we came for and what we set out to do all season for Jess Garcia and the whole Garcia family — win the championship. Jess was with me every step of the way. It means a lot to me to be able to fulfill what I showed up to do. He was one of my best friends. It’s just an honor to win for him, Indian Motorcycle, Progressive Insurance, and everyone else behind the team.”
AFT Singles presented by Russ Brown Motorcycle Attorneys
Henry Wiles (No. 17 RMR Honda/Honda Talon CRF450R) demonstrated once again why he’s widely considered one of the greatest Short Track riders in the history of the sport, holding off Max Whale (No. 18 Coondoo Cattle Co./Australian Road Services Kawasaki KX450F) and Trent Lowe (No. 48 Roof Systems of Dallas, TX/Shoei Helmets Honda CRF450R) to win an abbreviated AFT Singles presented by Russ Brown Motorcycle Attorneys Main Event.
Shortened to just four minutes plus two laps due to the numerous weather delays, Wiles shot out to the lead from the start, and protected the groove from there. Whale sought any way past Wiles but simply could not find one. Lowe closed in as well, but the experienced ST master ahead of them refused to give way.
After taking his second win of 2020, Wiles said, “I was stoked to get that start. I told myself I can’t not win now. It was my race to win. Max kept me honest, and I could see Trent was in the picture too. I put in smooth, consistent laps. I’d go just a touch easy on some laps, and then I’d pick it up a little bit on some other laps. I tried to ride the best that I could so I didn’t give Max a good shot at poking it up on me. I’m stoked my wife and daughter came out for this — it means a lot to me.”
Despite losing to Wiles on the night, Whale’s runner-up result was enough to beat him for second in their championship fight (215-208).
Mikey Rush (No. 15 Estenson Racing Yamaha YZ450F) set the fastest lap of the race en route to fourth with Andrew Luker (No. 11 Rackley Racing/Keeran Racing Yamaha YZ450F) completing the top five just behind.
2020 AFT Singles champ Dallas Daniels (No. 32 Estenson Racing Yamaha YZ450F) was forced to start from Row 4 with no Semi to improve his starting position. He made up a couple positions to end his title-winning season with a run to ninth. Sandwiched between his opening round failure to qualify for the Main and his ninth-placed finale, Daniels packed in a remarkable eighth wins, nine podiums and twelve top fives.
AFT Production Twins
2019 AFT Production Twins champion Cory Texter (No. 1 G&G Racing/Roof Systems Yamaha MT-07) made the absolute most of his last chance to run the #1 plate before handing it over to the newly-crowned James Rispoli (No. 43 Latus Motors Racing Harley-Davidson XG750R), logging a blowout victory in the final race of the 2020 Progressive American Flat Track season.
Rispoli crashed and found himself trapped under his motorcycle after coming together with Friday-winner Johnny Lewis (No. 10 Moto Anatomy X Powered by Royal Enfield Twins FT) in the race’s opening corner. That incident brought out a red flag and moved Rispoli from Row 1 to the back of the field.
Texter ripped into the lead off the line at the restart and proceeded to assemble a massive advantage en route to his fourth triumph of a hard-fought yet ultimately unsuccessful title defense.
He said, “It feels amazing. I’ve wanted to win in DAYTONA my whole life. I was actually the first rider to ever ride this racetrack back in 2010. I helped test it out for them, but I’ve always sucked here. So this is awesome. I feel competitive everywhere right now. I wish the season could keep going or start over right now.”
Lewis backed up Royal Enfield’s maiden Progressive AFT victory with its second-ever podium finish the very next night.
Lewis was followed closely to the flag by third-place finisher Ben Lowe (No. 25 Roof Systems/Bruce Lowe Excavating Yamaha MT-07), while Ryan Varnes (No. 68 RVR/RoyBuilt Don’s Kawasaki Ninja 650) edged Patrick Buchanan (No. 175 Parkinson Brothers Racing/PRO 1 Industries Kawasaki Ninja 650) as the two completed the top five.
Meanwhile, despite being faced with an extremely difficult track to overtake on and very little time in which to do it, Rispoli made his way up to finish his season with an impressive sixth-place finish. The result was actually the worst of an incredibly consistent campaign, which also included seven wins, four seconds, two fourths, and a fifth.
The Progressive AFT Finale at DAYTONA I & II will air back-to-back on NBCSN on Saturday, October 31, starting at 11:00 p.m. ET/8:00 p.m. PT. The broadcasts will include exclusive features, cutting-edge aerial drone and onboard footage, and the expert commentary of Progressive AFT legend Chris Carr.