The 2019 American Flat Track season comes down to the wire, with twice-reigning champ Jared Mees and points leader – and teammate – Briar Bauman battling for the title
Words by Chris Carr
Photos by Scott Hunter/AFT
I mentioned earlier in this issue (Blue Groove, page 6) that the dual Springfield Miles on Aug 30 and September 1 would be pivotal to both Jared Mees’ and Briar Bauman’s championship hopes – and those who watched live or on FansChoice.tv witnessed both.
Saturday’s race saw Mees seize an opportunity from Bauman (who needed to use his only Provisional Start for the year) to break away from the pack early-on, winning his fifth race of 2019 with a narrow victory over Jeffrey Carver Jr., the only rider who could stick with him. Bauman did his best to make chicken soup out of chicken shit, moving from 17th to seventh by the end of lap one and eventually grabbing third ahead of younger brother and teammate Bronson.
Mother nature postponed Sunday’s race to Labor Day Monday, but the holiday crowd in attendance witnessed firsthand a Springfield Mile reminiscent of the Harley vs. Honda era of the 1980s. A lead group of nine swapped positions via the draft and through the turns on a track that developed a very wide groove. Like Bauman earlier, Mees would have to use his only Provisional Start of the year after his bike expired in his Semi. Bauman would attempt any early breakaway, much like Mees had the previous day, only to have the pack of eight others reel him in within two laps. All but one (Henry Wiles) led at one point or another during the 25-lap battle, including Mees, brothers Bauman, rookie Brandon Price, Robinson, factory Harley-mounted Sammy Halbert and Jarod Vanderkooi, and Davis Fisher.
In the end, Mees led Bauman off turn four for the win. Bauman, for the second day in a row, would record a career-best Springfield Mile runner-up finish to maintain control of the AFT Twins standings.
At the Williams Grove Half-Mile on September 7, Bauman returned the favor, pulling away from Mees six laps into the Main and holding off rookie sensation Brandon Price for the win. Mees slipped back at race’s end, getting nipped for the final podium position by Davis Fisher. The victory – and Mees’ misfortune – gave Bauman a 35-point lead heading into the penultimate round at the Minnesota Mile on September 21, where a solid finish there will give him the championship – his first-ever – with the Meadowlands Mile finale still to come.
On reflection, just as I can think of no better way to end this decade of Springfield Miles than with the superb racing action we saw over Labor Day Weekend, I’m also seeing the end of the Mees Era – and the beginning of a Bauman one.