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Photos from the American Flat Track event at Daytona Beach, FL

Mees Opens 2018 with Daytona Victory

Mar 252018

Less than one week after the stars of Monster Energy Supercross made their annual trek to legendary Daytona International Speedway, the famed tri-oval infield was converted into a truly unique and challenging left- and right-turning Daytona TT course for the daredevils of American Flat Track (AFT). The opening round of the 2018 season of AFT signified just the second visit inside the hallowed grounds of the World Center of Racing, and when the dust settled for the Harley-Davidson TT a familiar face stood in victory lane.

Last season, Monster Energy rider Jared Mees and his Indian Motorcycle Racing team took AFT by storm en route to a dominant title run in what was a triumphant return to racing for the iconic brand. Despite the best efforts of his fellow competitors to close the gap on Mees and Indian’s dominance in the offseason, it was just more of the same at Daytona. Mees’ trademark determination and aggression played perfectly into the Daytona TT layout, and allowed him defend his victory from last year and begin his title defense in the best way possible.

“It’s awesome to come back here to Daytona and repeat. My team had the Indian Scout FTR750 dialed in. It’s a long season, so to start out with a win and get an early lead is huge. With the number one plate this year, we know we have a target on our back. But we embrace the competition and can’t wait for (the season).” 


Mees set the stage for his winning ride by capturing the checkered flag in both his heat race and semi-final race, which placed him second on the grid for the final. Fellow Monster Energy rider, and Mees’ Indian teammate, Brad Baker was also on rails leading into the final with a second-place finish behind Mees in the heat race, and a winning effort in the semi-final that made him the fastest qualifier entering the final and awarded him first starting spot.


As the field of 18 earth-pounding v-twin and parallel-twin motorcycles roared off the line to start the 25-lap final it was Baker who grabbed the holeshot and assumed the early lead. A five-rider battle up front kept the primary contenders close together, which allowed Mees to be aggressive and fight his way into second behind Baker.


A little contact is expected in the close quarters racing that AFT is known for, so it was no surprise to watch Mees show the crowd why they call him the “Jammer” in the pits. Baker and Mees came together several times in their battle for the lead, but on Lap 7 Mees took a page out of the motocross playbook and made a pass attempt over the track’s lone jump, which forced him to Baker’s inside on the switchback portion of the track and eventually into the lead.


Once he put the No. 1 on point, Mees was able to open a gap of more than two seconds on the field. Behind him, Monster Energy backed MotoAmerica racer JD Beach was on a charge of his own to the front in a special guest appearance. While Beach may make a career out of knee dragging on the pavement, his affinity for flat track is undeniable and he’s a natural talent on the dirt. Beach eventually made his way around Baker, and once he put his Yamaha into second he immediately started to eat away at the deficit to Mees.


Things got interesting in the final quarter of the race as Beach had worked his way to about a half second back of Mees, overcoming a considerable gap to the defending champ. However, Mees showed he was simply biding his time and proceeded to pick up the pace in the closing laps to prevent Beach from making any sort of serious challenge for the position.


Mees controlled the majority of the final and crossed the line four tenths of a second ahead of Beach, giving Monster Energy a 1-2 finish at the Daytona TT. The final podium spot went to TT specialist Henry Wiles aboard a Kawasaki. Baker brought home his Indian Scout in fifth, putting three Monster Energy riders inside the top five.


“In the beginning I had to get physical with Brad a couple of times. I had to get by, and over the jump I just had a real good line and was able to get aggressive. The last 10 days there’s been a lot of time and effort testing and getting prepared. A big shout out to my entire team. We put another win out there for Indian Motorcycle.”


Mees will lead the AFT Twins field into the second round with an added cushion in the championship standings thanks to Beach’s runner-up effort. A total of eight points sit between Mees and the next full-time competitor, Wiles.


AFT Twins Results

1. Jared Mees, Indian Motorcycle Racing

2. JD Beach, Team95 Yamaha

3. Henry Wiles, Kawasaki

4. Briar Bauman, Kawasaki

5. Brad Baker, Indian Motorcycle Racing


AFT Twins Standings

1. Jared Mees, Indian Motorcycle Racing – 25

2. JD Beach, Team95 Yamaha – 20

3. Henry Wiles, Kawasaki – 17

4. Briar Bauman, Kawasaki – 15

5. Brad Baker, Indian Motorcycle Racing – 13