Wiles commands another Honda victory; Royal Enfield dominates AFT Production Twins.
LIMA, Ohio (June 26, 2021) – Defending Grand National Champion Briar Bauman (No. 1 Indian Motorcycle/Progressive Insurance FTR750) scored arguably the most critical victory yet of the 2021 Progressive American Flat Track season following an epic showdown with Brandon Robinson (No. 44 Mission Roof Systems Indian FTR750) in Saturday evening’s Johnny K’s Indian Motorcycle Lima Half-Mile powered by Drag Specialties at Allen County Fairgrounds in Lima, Ohio.
While Bauman controlled the Mission SuperTwins presented by S&S Cycle points coming in, Robinson threatened to seize control of the momentum with another impressive performance. Robinson entered the Main Event as the clear favorite, soundly defeating Bauman in their shared Semi before adding his fourth Mission Challenge win with relative ease as well.
In the Main, Robinson squared up teammate Jarod Vanderkooi (No. 20 Mission Roof Systems Indian FTR750) on the opening lap and immediately looked to check out yet again. A motivated Bauman didn’t allow that to happen, however, overhauling Vanderkooi with maximum expediency before trading haymakers with Robinson over the lead.
That heavyweight fight went right down the final lap, with Robinson attempting one final desperation overtake in the race’s final corner before Bauman cut back underneath to secure his second victory of the season.
“What a battle,” Bauman said. “This was an incredible event… I didn’t really think we had anything for Brandon there today — he was so fast all day. He smoked us in the heat race and smoked us in the dash. But Dave (Zanotti) got dialed in for the Main Event, so I’m really, really happy with that one.
“It was an incredible event. I’m so happy we were able to do that for this big of a crowd. There are so many people all the way around this facility. Lima is probably the best track on the circuit. And to actually have a battle and not let Brandon just check out like we kinda planned on him doing, it means a lot to me and a lot to my team.”
Behind, Vanderkooi outdueled Brandon Price (No. 92 Mission Roof Systems Indian FTR750) to grab his third podium on the season as the Mission Roof Systems squad locked down spots 2-3-4 on the evening.
Kolby Carlile (No. 36 Estenson Racing Yamaha MT-07 DT) continued his recent run of form to finish fifth, marking the third consecutive race in which he was the highest-placed among the non-Indian riders.
Meanwhile, the widely expected victory challenge of race promoter and multi-time Lima Half-Mile winner Jared Mees (No. 9 Indian Motorcycle/Progressive Insurance FTR750) failed to materialize. Mees was simply not his usual self, suffering from the ill effects of his still mending knee. As a result, he was stuck down near the bottom of the order from start to finish, ultimately finishing an uncharacteristic eighth.
Last weekend’s AFT Singles winners, Henry Wiles (No. 17 American Honda/Progressive Insurance CRF450R) and Max Whale (No. 18 Red Bull KTM Factory Racing 450 SX-FFE), picked up right where they left off in Saturday’s rematch.
Wiles, in particular, showed off his rediscovered vintage form, moving his way to the front early and opening up more than two seconds of padding. The race still wasn’t over at that point, however, as Whale put his head down after overhauling Wiles’ teammate, Trevor Brunner (No. 21 American Honda/Progressive Insurance CRF450R) to slash away at that gap.
Whale did well to reduce the margin to around a half-second at one point, but Wiles ultimately proved too strong in the end.
After opening his season in disappointing 17-5-5-11 fashion, the 450cc legend has firmly put himself back in title contention with consecutive finishes of 1-2-1. Aussie Whale is in even better shape as he’s now tied with Dallas Daniels (No. 1 Estenson Racing Yamaha YZ450F) atop the points order while holding the tiebreaker with two wins to Daniels’ one.
“I think I’ve used about every line at this track besides the low line that I was running today,” Wiles said. “I’ve really just relied on the whole Turner Racing crew powered by Progressive Insurance. My suspension guy, Tim (Bennet) at TCD racing, made a phenomenal call and we actually changed shocks for the Main Event. It was a pretty ballsy move. We were just so confident in it and I’m glad we made the choice.
“I’ve got to thank the whole crew. It wasn’t me — it was the bike. All I could do was ride the wheels off of it, and I tried to do that and be as smart as I could all day. I’m glad we could execute and get the job down again.”
Despite no claims as a cushion specialist, Morgen Mischler (No. 13 Mission Roof Systems KTM 450 SX-F) charged his way up through the field to round out the podium. Second American Honda runner Brunner held on to claim fourth, while defending champion Daniels salvaged fifth after dropping as low as seventh at mid-distance.
An unlucky Brandon Kitchen (No. 105 Husqvarna Motorcycles/Vance & Hines Husqvarna FC450) was forced to retire with a mechanical issue while running fourth. Fellow future stars Kody Kopp (No. 143 Smartop/Jones Honda/Latus Motors CRF450R) and Dustin Brown(No. 191 Jones Racing Honda CRF450R) came home sixth and seventh, respectively.
AFT Production Twins presented by Vance & Hines
Johnny Lewis (No. 10 Moto Anatomy X Powered by Royal Enfield Twins FT) sat out last weekend’s OKC Mile doubleheader in order to best position himself and his factory Royal Enfield race bike for success in the AFT Production Twins presented by Vance & Hines class at the Lima Half-Mile. It worked.
To the surprise of no one, despite getting the third pick on Row 1, title leader Cory Texter(No. 65 G&G Racing/Yamaha Racing Yamaha MT-07) scored yet another holeshot. Despite the rapid start, however, he had nothing for the streaking Lewis, who drove underneath Texter less than a minute into the Main, blasted him with the roost, and immediately opened up a sizable advantage.
Second qualifier Ben Lowe (No. 25 Mission Roof Systems Harley-Davidson XG750R) then worked his way into a scrap with Texter over second as Lewis continued to escape at the front.
That battle came to a momentary half when the red flag flew due to a downed rider with less than two minutes remaining on the clock. In fact, Lowe and Texter both beat Lewis off the line at the restart, but the Royal Enfield pilot easily powered around the outside of both to reclaim his spot at the front.
The real drama came courtesy of Ryan Varnes (No. 68 RVR/RoyBuilt Don’s Kawasaki Ninja 650), who seemingly found another gear in the second leg.
Varnes, who found himself near the bottom of the top ten early, somehow put himself in podium contention late. Over the final few laps of the Main, he zapped both Lowe and Texter, and actually managed to close down on Lewis just as the checkered flag flew. But in the end, Lewis held on for the win by 0.153 seconds.
“I just cannot give Woody Kyle and David Lloyd enough credit for what they’ve been able to accomplish,” Lewis said. “Going into the first race this year, we had a pretty slow motorcycle. Every weekend it’s more work, more work. David and Woody just do not stop. It’s amazing to have these guys on my team. I cannot thank them enough. It was a fun Lima.”
The results marked the first podiums of the year for 2020 race winners Lewis and Varnes, while third-place finisher Texter added his sixth. Fourth-place finisher Lowe, meanwhile, was left still seeking his first.
OKC podium finisher Cameron Smith (No. 44 Mike Butler Racing/Cornerstone Masonry Group Honda CRF450R) closed out the top five.
The Johnny K’s Indian Motorcycle Lima Half-Mile powered by Drag Specialties will air on NBCSN on Saturday, July 3, at 5:00 p.m. ET/2:00 p.m. PT, featuring exclusive features and cutting-edge aerial drone and onboard footage.
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