American Flat Track: Can the King Keep His Crown?

Briar Bauman is seeking his third consecutive championship in American Flat Track’s top class, SuperTwins. The reigning Grand Champion has seen great success since joining the factory-backed effort from Indian Motorcycles in 2019. Unseating the then champion Jared Mees, whose team is also backed by the factory Indian effort.

Entering the race weekend at Sacramento, Bauman held onto his first-place standing with a 12 point lead over Mees. However, Mees had taken first place in both races the previous weekend at the Springfield Mile closing the gap between himself and Bauman. 

Mees set the tone for the weekend out of the gate, with the second-fastest lap in the first round of practice and the fastest time in the second round at 38.47 seconds. Bauman was not far off the pace with a 38.52 being his best time during qualifying.

The semi-finals saw both riders picking up the pace with Mees winning round one with a blistering 36.47, and Bauman winning the second heat with an equally fast 36.49. The two champions would line up side by side on the grid for the finals.

As dominant as his performance has been over the last three seasons, including 3 wins and 13 podiums this season, Bauman certainly could not count on an easy win against Mees. Mees, after all, has won the past two races at the Sac Mile and came in a close second during the 2017 season. 

The AFT Super Twins Main Event is the last race of the night to run, so not only do the competitors have to contend with trying to pilot these machines around the track reaching speeds of up to 140mph on the straights and entering turns around 90mph but with the condition of the track deteriorating. 

The combination of hot California sun and round after round of bikes sliding around the track had taken its toll on the racing surface before the night was done. By the time the riders lined up more the top “cushion” layer of dirt
had been worn down, and the dust they were throwing up had become more severe.

Jared Mees’ experience at Sacramento shone brightly as the sun set over the Cal Expo racetrack. The flat track veteran broke out to an early lead and stayed there, ending the race with a lead of over 4.5 seconds over the rest of the pack. 

Back amongst the other racers, Bauman was having a tough battle for a podium position. While Jared Vanderkooi defended his second-place position, riders like JD Beach and Sammy Halbert challenged Bauman for third place.

The effects of the pressure could be seen as Bauman went for a bold outside pass with only a lap or two left to go. Instead of sliding his way to second this attempt knocked him back to sixth, leaving him with next to no time to try and regain his podium standing. 

Bauman showed the crowd how he has earned his two back-to-back championships by battling his way back onto the podium, finishing the race in third. Sunday’s race would bring the same results with Mees finishing a strong first, Bryan Smith took second for the last race of his career, and Bauman took third again.

Mees’ dominant weekend at Sacramento has pushed from behind by 12 points to hold a narrow lead of 4. 

The season closer will be the Charlotte Half-Mile on October 8th. Historically Charlotte in October has had mild weather, but while they may catch a break from the sun Bauman, Mees, and the other racers won’t be receiving any reprieve from the heat of battle. 

A half-mile season closer with this tight of a race for the championship promises some exciting racing come October 8th. Anyone interested in tuning in can watch the race on NBC Sports or through a Track Pass membership on the NBC Sports Gold streaming service/app.

Disclaimer: AFT invited me to this race, and provided catered food and drinks. All other travel expenses were paid for out of pocket.

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