Oklahoma City, Okla., June 17—American Flat Track’s return visit to the OKC Mile presented by Indian Motorcycle in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, lived up to every bit of the hype on Saturday night at Remington Park.
Despite being presented with every opportunity to ease up in the intense heat and accept a safe runner-up result to claim sole possession of the AFT Twins presented by Vance & Hines championship lead, Jared Mees instead gritted his teeth and went to work aboard the No. 9 Indian Motorcycle Rogers Racing Scout FTR750.
Until that point, an imperious Brad Baker (No. 6 Indian Motorcycle Racing backed by Allstate Scout FTR750) dictated the race from the front and from the start. Baker cleared off from the opening lap and systematically assembled a seemingly insurmountable lead.
Behind in third, Mees found himself corralled behind reigning Grand National Champion Bryan Smith (No. 1 Indian Motorcycle Racing backed by Allstate Scout FTR750) while Baker made his escape.
Even after finally working into second, Mees could do nothing as Baker continued to pile onto his advantage. However, the leader’s prodigious speed transformed into his Achilles Heel as it inevitably propelled him into thick packets of lapped riders.
Poor luck turned into mistakes which turned into tight riding on the part of Baker; for Mees, meanwhile, it served as hope and motivation. He whittled away at the lead and finally took it for himself on the penultimate lap.
Desperate to finally get a first win aboard his Indian, Baker immediately struck back, diving up the inside of Turn 1 on the final lap. However, Mees squared up the corner and weaved back under Baker on exit, pulling a gap of his own in the process. Baker continued on in second position to the flag, finishing, 0.880 seconds back at the flag.
The Indian Wrecking Crew again made good on its moniker at the OKC Mile as Smith secured the fourth Indian Motorcycle podium sweep of the 2017 season by finishing a lonely third. In fact, Indian’s nearest challenger on the evening, fourth-placed Sammy Halbert (No. 69 Estenson Logistics Yamaha FZ-07), came home more than 23 seconds behind the win and over 17 seconds off the podium.
Following four straight wins on the part of primary rival Smith—including three straight on the Miles—Mees now boasts a two-race Mile win streak of his own. To tilt matters even more in favor of the suddenly hot Mees, the series now prepares to go heavy on his preferred battleground—the Half Mile.
Mees, who now sits all alone on top of the championship fight at 177 points to Smith’s 169, said, “Man, I had to earn that one. Brad and Bryan were like checked out at the start. I started reeling in Bryan, and I got by him, but Brad was gone.
“He made a couple of mistakes due to lappers, I think… I just put my head down those last two laps. I wanted that one so bad. When you talk about digging deep—I dug deep.”
After his heartbreaker, Baker said, “It was nerve-wracking. It didn’t become an issue until I got into lappers. I didn’t get through one of them cleanly; one pushed me wide, one I had to shut off really early to avoid getting into to. And then I got tense when I got to them, not wanting to make a mistake while I was around them.
“I was looking over my shoulder to see the distance (to Mees). Before I got to the lappers, it was a pretty significant gap, so I thought I was good… I was hoping he had just as much trouble with the lappers as I did, but one lap I thought I heard someone. I was hoping it was a lapper— turned out it wasn’t.”
Smith said, “I was trying to the last lap. I was pushing at the beginning, and I made a couple mistakes, and Jared got by me. And then I made some more mistakes trying to go too hard. That was all she wrote for me today. My teammates beat me; they were better today. That’s the end of the story.”
Shawn Baer (No. 32 McNews Automotive KTM LC8 950) picked up his first top five of the season in fifth.
Texter strikes back in AFT Singles Action
Shayna Texter (No. 52 Richie Morris Racing Honda CRF450R) backed up her claim as the AFT Singles class’ master of the Mile, taking her third win in four such races this season.
She did so following a dramatic three-rider shootout featuring Red Mile dominator Kevin Stollings (No. 99 Ben Evans Honda CRF450R) and ’16 OKC Mile winner Tristan Avery (No. 16 Ron Ayers Honda CRF450R).
Avery led the opening five laps despite his machine bucking and protesting underneath him. Stollings finally slotted in front on lap 6 and looked to check out like he had done in Kentucky, but Texter responded to quickly track him back down.
With just a couple of laps remaining, Texter and Stollings rode two abreast through Turns 1 and 2, each looking to get the measure of the other. However, Stollings’ bike let go at that moment, ruling him out of contention. Avery, in turn, attempted to pounce on Texter on the final lap, but she held strong to claim the checkered flag by 0.141 seconds.
“This weekend means so much,” Texter said. “We were battling in the Heat race, and my exhaust plug fell out, so I had to go to the LCQ. I had to do some extra laps, and in this heat, it was tiring.
“I was riding behind Tristan and Stollings all day and seeing what they were doing. I tried to be a little bit faster than them and try to capitalize on it. It was a long 15 laps, and I just had to be smart.”
Parker Norris (No. 24 Goodroe Racing Honda CRF450R) was another major beneficiary of Stolling’s poor luck, using the opportunity to scoop up his first podium of the season in third.
Title hopefuls Kolby Carlile (No. 36 Parkinson Brothers Racing Honda CRF450R) and Brandon Price (No. 92 DPC Racing/Don’s Kawasaki KX450F) ended up fourth and fifth, respectively. Despite their solid finishes in Oklahoma City, Texter’s triumph provided her with a little extra padding at the top – 129 to Carlile’s 118 and Price’s 106.
The OKC Mile will air on NBCSN on Thursday, August 24, at 10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT. Catch the highlights on Facebook and YouTube.