DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (March 12, 2021) – While most of the preseason hype was directed elsewhere, it was Brandon Robinson (No. 44 Mission Roof Systems Indian FTR750) who delivered the opening salvo of the 2021 Progressive American Flat Track season with a victorious performance in Friday evening’s Volusia Half-Mile I presented by Daytona Dodgeat Volusia Speedway Park in Barberville, Florida.
The lights-to-flag triumph was actually Robinson’s third consecutive Mission SuperTwins presented by S&S Cycle win dating back to his sweep of last year’s doubleheader finale. It also came at the conclusion of a dominant opener in which he walked away with his Semi and earned $5000 by dominating the four-lap Mission SuperTwins #2Fast2Tasty Challenge.
Robinson said, “The way 2020 ended was huge for me confidence-wise, just knowing I was injured for pretty much the entire season and still able to come out on top. I went this past offseason a little bit more motivated, feeling like this is the time for me. It’s now or never.
“The whole Mission Roof Systems team put in so much effort, and my mechanic Ben Evans had me dialed in all night. It was pretty much effortless; I was just having a lot of fun riding out there and hitting my marks.”
While Robinson was effectively perfect on the day, he’ll have to share the accolades with a resurgent JD Beach (No. 95 Estenson Racing Yamaha MT-07 DT), who was nearly as good and even more surprising in his performance.
After struggling mightily throughout the 2020 season, Beach won his Semi, came home second in the night’s new #2Fast2Tasty Challenge and pressured Robinson from close behind during the entirety of the 10-minute-plus-two-lap Main Event. The turnaround for Beach and the entire Estenson crew was nothing short of astonishing after the talented and determined pilot managed a best result of just eighth a year ago.
After opening the ‘21 season with a runner-up result, Beach said, “This feels amazing. First off, I have to thank this whole Estenson Monster team; they have been working hard. Second, I have to thank my family and friends back home. The last year has been hard on them. When I don’t do good racing, I take that home with me, and I know I’ve been hard to put up with. I have to thank everyone in my corner who continued to believe in me. They all just kept pushing me and I kept digging. To come away with a second and be that close to Brandon was just amazing.”
Meanwhile, title favorites Jared Mees (No. 9 Indian Motorcycle/Progressive Insurance FTR750) and Briar Bauman (No. 1 Indian Motorcycle/Progressive Insurance FTR750) came away with third- and fourth-place points.
Mees struggled to maintain the pace of Robinson and Beach early and found himself displaced to fourth by Sammy Halbert (No. 69 Coolbeth-Nila Racing Indian FTR750) just after half-distance. Mees countered and at last found his groove, throwing down several blistering laps late to close back to within a second of the win at the checkered flag.
Bauman took full advantage of Mees’ aggressive pass of Halbert; he drew in tight and ultimately snatched away fourth for himself, albeit nearly five seconds off the win.
Halbert held on for fifth, with Beach’s teammate, Kolby Carlile (No. 36 Estenson Racing Yamaha MT-07 DT), underlining the incredible offseason development work put in by the Estenson squad by finishing in sixth after registering a top result of 13th during his 2020 rookie campaign.
Bronson Bauman (No. 37 Indian Motorcycle of Oklahoma City FTR750) took seventh, followed by Jarod Vanderkooi (No. 20 Mission Roof Systems Indian FTR750), Robert Pearson (No. 27 Rackley Racing/John Franklin Indian FTR750), and Davis Fisher (No. 67 BMC Racing/Dick Wall 60 Indian FTR750).
Shayna Texter-Bauman (No. 52 Red Bull KTM Factory Racing 450 SX-FFE) gave herself just about the best birthday present imaginable by earning her first AFT Singles victory in more than a season.
Even better, she did so in the face of the best efforts of reigning class champion Dallas Daniels (No. 1 Estenson Racing Yamaha YZ450F), who did everything in his power just to track Texter down and shadow her to the checkered flag by 0.131 seconds.
In the end, Texter never saw so much as a front wheel of an opponent in the once red-flagged-and-restarted Main to up her history-leading tally of AFT Singles victories to 18.
“Man, what a big win for me,” Texter-Bauman said. “I can’t thank my entire Red Bull KTM team enough for sticking behind me. Last year was a little bit of a challenging season for us — we just kinda kept swimming in the deep end. But we never gave up, and they never lost faith in me. I don’t know what those critics are going to say on Facebook next because I think I’ve proved I can ride a motorcycle.
“And it feels great to be up here. What could be a better way to the start off the year than with a win on my birthday?”
Daniels’ Estenson Racing teammate, Mikey Rush (No. 15 Estenson Racing Yamaha YZ450F), completed a 2-3 for the squad by coming out on top of an intense five-rider scrap for the final spot on the box.
Max Whale (No. 18 Red Bull KTM Factory Racing 450 SX-FFE), who won the opener here a year ago, took a close fourth, followed in tight succession by Tanner Dean (No. 38 1st Impressions Race Team Honda CRF450R), Brandon Kitchen (No. 105 Husqvarna Motorcycles/Vance & Hines Husqvarna FC450), and Morgen Mischler (No. 13 Mission Roof Systems KTM 450 SX-F).
AFT Production Twins presented by Vance & Hines
The very first Main Event of the ‘21 Progressive AFT season set the bar sky high for the year ahead. No less than three riders held first position on the race’s final lap of the AFT Production Twins presented by Vance & Hines Main with an opportunistic Chad Cose (No. 49 Voodoo Ranger/Roof Systems Harley-Davidson XG750R) ultimately sneaking away with a shocking victory.
Cose led for the opening seven minutes plus of the eight minute + two lap Main before Dan Bromley (No. 62 Memphis Shades/Vinson Construction Yamaha MT-07) made his move. The ex-premier class contender dove underneath to claim the lead and quickly worked a bit of separation in what very much felt like the race’s decisive maneuver at the time.
However, 2019 class champ Cory Texter (No. 65 G&G Racing/Roof Systems Yamaha MT-07) had other ideas. Texter, who started deep in the field with the last pick of the third row, spent almost the entire affair clawing his way up the order and slowly working into contention of what was previously a two-man fight.
Texter swept by Cose with one lap remaining and then overhauled Bromley on the last lap. Unwilling to give up the win that easily, Bromley immediately retaliated. The two made contact with less than a half-lap remaining, opening the door for Cose to power his way by both and claim the checkered flag at the last moment.
“It’s never luck at this level,” Cose said. “You’ve got to have the ability to do it. I felt great all day; there’s a couple things I felt we could have changed, but all in all (I’m happy). These guys were as hungry as I was — I think you could tell by the aggression that we all had out there. This is what you have to do to win races.
“I was a little disappointed they got by — I made a couple mistakes — but luckily I was there to capitalize in the end. I think any one of us three could have won. I’m just glad we put on a show for the fans.”
Dalton Gauthier (No. 79 D&D Cycles/Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson XG750R) came home a distant fourth after battling for the lead in the race’s early stages, while an impressive Cameron Smith (No. 44 Fredericktown Yamaha/Richie Reynolds Racing MT-07) rounded out the top five, adding to the evidence that the class could have something of an altered flavor in 2021.
The Volusia Half-Mile presented by Daytona Dodge Doubleheader will air back-to-back on NBCSN on Saturday, March 20, starting at 12:00 p.m. ET/9:00 a.m. PT. The broadcasts will include exclusive features, cutting-edge aerial drone and onboard footage and expert commentary.
Round 2 of the 2021 Progressive American Flat Track season will take place tomorrow evening with the Volusia Half-Mile II presented by Daytona Dodge. Gates will again open for fans at 4:00 p.m. ET/1:00 p.m. PT with Opening Ceremonies set the kick off the evening program at 7:00 p.m. ET/4:00 p.m. PT. Live coverage of the entire weekend’s racing activities will be available on any device for only $1.99 a month via TrackPass on NBC Sports Gold.