Carver takes third aboard H-D XR750
Daytona Beach, Fla., Apr. 8—The action leading up to Saturday night’s scheduled American Flat Track Main Event at the Harley-Davidson Atlanta Short Track presented by Hellbender Harley-Davidson pointed squarely to a wild, unpredictable affair with any of a dozen riders in with a realistic shot at the win.
Instead, Mother Nature swept through with a storm system before that anticipated battle could be waged, pushing the remainder of the racing activities back a day at Dixie Speedway. And when racing did resume on Sunday afternoon, it was reigning AFT Twins presented by Vance & Hines champion Jared Mees (No. 1 Indian Motorcycle Rogers Racing SDI Scout FTR750) who stormed through like a force of nature after appearing mortal the day before.
Mees mastered the tricky, slick conditions to secure his 32nd career premier-class victory in lopsided fashion. The champ broke free early and then piled it on from there as the race evolved. With his lead never seriously challenged, Mees eased up late and still took the checkered flag with nearly two seconds in hand.
And just like that, Mees has now opened his championship campaign with back-to-back victories at the DAYTONA TT and Atlanta Short Track for a second consecutive season. That does not bode well for the competition considering how last year turned out them.
“I got out front and just tried to put my laps together and ride smart,” Mees said. “The track was very slippery and technical. I just kind of put it together. I was really worried about Kenny [Coolbeth] – he’s really good in these conditions – but we got a good start and the motorcycle was working extremely well.
“The team won this for me this weekend, honestly. They worked so hard, and they deserve all the credit. Every time I came in, it was shock changes, engine combination changes, and exhaust pipes, offsets, and rear wheels. We just turned the motorcycle upside down to give me the feel I was looking for, and finally today… Honestly, raining out last night and coming back today, just to allow me to debrief and relax, was really good for me. Yesterday, it felt like we were behind the eight-ball every time we went out. Today was like a fresh start. It felt great.”
While Mees quickly eliminated the drama expected in the fight for the win, Kenny Coolbeth (No. 2 Nila Racing, Columbia Avionic Indian Scout FTR750), Jarod Vanderkooi (No. 20 Harley-Davidson Factory Flat Track Team XG750R), and Jeffrey Carver Jr. (No. 23 Roof-Systems/Indian of Metro Milwaukee H-D XR750) more than made up for it in a thrilling dogfight for the remaining spots on the podium. The trio quickly worked past a fast-starting Henry Wiles (No. 17 Wilco Racing/Willy Built/Bandit Industries Indian Scout FTR750), and proceeded to engage in a heavyweight tilt for second.
Rising star Vanderkooi made evident the vast progress Harley-Davidson has made with its still-developing XG750R by holding down second for an extended run. But despite his impressive performance he was ultimately overhauled by both Coolbeth—who has more years in professional dirt track than Vanderkooi has on the planet—and Carver.
Carver worked his way past Coolbeth and into the runner-up position late, but Coolbeth had an answer. He called upon his experience and exemplary technical skills to reclaim the spot and hit the stripe in second.
Today’s runner-up result combined with his DAYTONA TT eighth-place ride sees Coolbeth move into second in the early-season points standings. Having recently announced that this will be his final AFT season, the series legend appears both motivated and capable of going out on a high note as he continues to gain speed aboard his privateer Indian Scout FTR750.
Coolbeth said, “When Jeffrey got by me, I took a breath and regrouped. I thought it out and changed my lines a little bit. I wish I could have been that fast the entire race and given the #1 a hiccup in his win. But hats off to Jared; he’s stepped it up for all of us. It’s going to be a fun year for me. When I’m having fun, I’m going good. I’m ready to go.”
While Vanderkooi showed the progress being made with Harley-Davidson’s new machine, Carver demonstrated that there’s still plenty of life left in the manufacturer’s venerable XR750 platform as well. He said, “We brought out the Gary Goodwin/Roof-Systems XR750. Harley still has a good power plant. Jarod showed the new bike is going good, but we thought coming to some of these slick tracks, the XR750 would be the best bet.
“It was really exciting. We had to come from a few spots back and chase the racetrack. These are the tracks I like – you have to work around and find good lines and take risks. I know I bounced off the wall a few times coming down the straightaway. I hope all the Harley fans out there are pumped up about it.”
Vanderkooi crossed the line 0.126 seconds back in fourth. He said, “It’s bittersweet. The lines were changing persistently out there. 25 laps is a long time, and there’s a lot of veterans out there that know what they’re doing. I’m getting there – this is my fourth year in the class. I was just running the same line. I should have changed it up a little bit, but it got me there so I stuck with it. The Harley-Davidson Vance & Hines XG750R is amazing. The team did a whole ton of work over the off-season, and I think it’s paying off. We’re putting it towards the front and making changes as we go. Now we just need to get the riders up to speed, and we’ll be good.”
Short Track master Wiles and part-time series ace Johnny Lewis (No. 10 Richie Morris Racing Indian Scout FTR750) took fifth and sixth aboard their privateer Scout FTR750s. In doing so, they bumped the second and third members of the Indian Wrecking Crew down to seventh (Brad Baker (No. 6 Indian Motorcycle Racing backed by Allstate Scout FTR750) and eighth (Bryan Smith (No. 4 Indian Motorcycle Racing backed by Allstate Scout FTR750) one year after they helped execute a works Indian clean sweep of the podium at Dixie Speedway.
Jake Johnson (No. 5 Estenson Racing Yamaha FZ-07) and Kayl Kolkman (No. 98 Kolkman Racing/Stamp Concrete Development Yamaha FZ-07) came home in ninth and tenth, leaving heavy-hitters Briar Bauman (No. 14 Zanotti Racing Kawasaki Ninja 650) and Sammy Halbert (No. 69 Harley-Davidson Factory Flat Track Team XG750R) outside the top ten.
Roadracing ace JD Beach (No. 95 G&G Racing/Rickdiculous Racing/Team95 Yamaha FZ-07), who finished as runner-up at the DAYTONA TT and topped one of Saturday’s qualifying sessions, was eliminated from contention in the Semis due to a flat tire.