Daytona Beach, Fla., July 5—Now that the fireworks have cooled off from America’s Independence Day celebrations, the world’s top dirt track motorcycle racers are set to create some fireworks of their own in upstate New York. On Saturday, July 8, Rolling Wheels Raceway Park will play host to the 10th round of the 2017 American Flat Track championship. This year’s event will be the second running of the Rolling Wheels Half-Mile and also marks the start of the second half of the 18-round season.
This turning point is not lost on rivals Bryan Smith (No. 1 Indian Motorcycle Racing backed by Allstate Scout FTR750) and Jared Mees (No. 9 Indian Motorcycle Rogers Racing Scout FTR750), who are once again locked in a heated battle for the AFT Twins presented by Vance & Hines title. The pair are also seeking some redemption at Rolling Wheels Raceway Park, but for different reasons.
At the moment, defending Grand National Champion Smith holds the upper hand with a five-point lead over Mees. It’s always good to have an advantage, but the champ wants to get back to winning, especially considering his crushing loss to Mees in the inaugural Rolling Wheels Half-Mile. In last year’s contest, Smith was the class of the field throughout the majority of the event, but saw the win slip just out of his grip in the Main Event.
“I was the fastest guy there all day last year, but I didn’t get the holeshot. Mees did and he beat me,” Smith said. “I want to be the fastest guy all day—including the Main this year. We were dead even. He got the holeshot, I was second off the line and he beat me. Everything I tried to do, I just kept messing up and getting further away. I’d catch him, and go further away. So, I just want to win. Period. I feel like I need to win it and beat him, no doubt.”
As for Mees, his need to redeem himself is much more recent and he has something to prove after a frustrating Lima Half-Mile presented by Indian Motorcycle—an event which he also promoted. The three-time Grand National Champion made a costly error, jumping the start twice in his Semi and failing to make the Main. Although that error only cost him a five-point deficit, Mees is eager for a fresh start as the season heads past the halfway point.
“I’m looking forward to this race,” Mees said simply. “I need to get back in my groove after my mistake in Lima. The season starts here; nine races down and nine to go. Let’s go!”
Trailing Smith and Mees in the standings is fellow Indian Wrecking Crew member, Brad Baker (No. 6 Indian Motorcycle Racing backed by Allstate Scout FTR750). The 2013 Grand National Champion is equally eager for the win, and has been on the verge of his first 2017 victory all too often in nearly every event this season.
Although Briar Bauman (No. 14 Zanotti Racing Kawasaki Ninja 650) was the first rider to bust up Indian Motorcycle’s win streak at the previous round in Lima, Ohio, Sammy Halbert (No. 69 Estenson Logistics Yamaha FZ-07) has consistently been able to run with the Wrecking Crew. Halbert currently sits fourth in the AFT Twins points standings and is also looking for his first win of the year.
Sitting fifth in the championship, Jeffrey Carver Jr. (No. 23 Carver’s BBQ Kawasaki Ninja 650) continues to impress. Carver Jr. scored his first podium of the season at Lima, and did the same last year at Rolling Wheels. The Illinois native will look to build on his growing momentum and have a go at the top spot this weekend.
Bauman sits sixth, followed by the young Davis Fisher (No. 67 Bob Lanphere Beaverton Motorcycles Kawasaki Ninja 650) and Brandon Robinson (No. 44 Harley-Davidson Factory Flat Track Team XG750R), who leads the charge for the factory Harley squad.
It’s also a safe bet to look for Robinson’s teammates—Kenny Coolbeth (No. 2 Harley-Davidson Factory Flat Track Team XG750R) and Jake Johnson (No. 5 Harley-Davidson Factory Flat Track Team XG750R)—who are sure to show strength on the red clay in upstate New York.
In the AFT Singles class, Shayna Texter (No. 52 Richie Morris Racing Honda CRF450R) continues to lead the way with a 22-point gap on Brandon Price (No. 92 DPC Racing/Don’s Kawasaki KX450F). Although considered a specialist on the Miles, Texter has renewed confidence on her 2017 Honda CRF450R and looks to take some Half-Mile wins in 2017 to expand her points lead. However, she’ll certainly have her work cut out for her this weekend as she continues to have a host of young talent nipping at her heels and pressuring to steal the victory at the end of every AFT Singles race.
Leading the Rising Star charge is Price. The 17-year-old from Maryland has been on an upward climb since his debut in the series last year. Price equaled the best result of his debut season with a fourth-place finish in New York last year. This year, now that he has a taste for winning, Price is looking to score more wins to close the gap on Texter in the title chase.
Still chasing his first win of the season is Kolby Carlile (No. 36 Parkinson Brothers Racing Honda CRF450R). Like Mees, Carlile is also searching for some redemption after missing the Main at Lima due to a stroke of bad luck when his exhaust system fell off while he was leading his Semi. It was a tough blow to Carlile who had been running strong all day, but he looks forward to rebounding with a win in a big return to his home state of New York.