SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — Reigning AFT Singles champion Dallas Daniels rebounded following his recent catastrophic Peoria TT outing, doubling up at the Springfield Short Track Doubleheader in improbable fashion on Friday night.
It wasn’t as simple as a standard sweep of the checkered flags at the Illinois State Fairgrounds, however, as Daniels was faced with back-to-back disasters before ultimately walking away with a redemptive double win to successfully reignite his title defense in front of the home fans.
A little earlier in the evening it looked as if Trevor Brunner had returned to the scene of his maiden victory and added a second to his career tally, albeit in controversial fashion.
With less than two minutes remaining on the clock of the opening Main Event, Brunner and fellow ‘20 Springfield Short Track winner Daniels broke free from Daniels’ teammate, Mikey Rush, and fast qualifier Kody Kopp, to engage in a two-rider duel for the win.
Daniels showed Brunner a wheel twice before finally executing what felt like the race’s decisive maneuver with the clock near expiration and just two brief laps remaining to seal a timely win.
Brunner had other plans, barging up the inside in the race’s final corner. The resulting contact sent Daniels tumbling to the dirt, which brought out a late red and left Daniels’ title hopes in serious jeopardy.
After initially being recognized as the race winner, a contrite Brunner admitted, “I would never replicate that pass again. We’re all riding aggressive and we’re all riding hard, but I understand on my part that was a bad judgement call, and my deepest apologies to the whole Estenson Racing team…
“I just wanted to go for the win. Everybody out here wants to win. We’ll do what we have to do, but in some instances some moves aren’t right to make. I flirted with that line tonight, and I know it was over the line.”
After intensive review by Progressive American Flat Track officials, the final results reverted to the running order on the lap prior to the incident (the last lap completed by all active riders still on the lead lap). Daniels was therefore ultimately awarded the win. And, as Brunner was designated the sole cause of the red flag, he was dropped down to the back of the lead lap and hence credited with 11th.
The Brunner-Daniels incident elevated one-time race leader Rush to second in the final order, at last ending the veteran ace’s seven-race podium drought. It also bumped Morgen Mischler – who tracked down and overhauled Kopp late — to third to increase his season’s podium haul to eight.
Kopp finished fourth while Brunner’s teammate, Cole Zabala, rounded out the top five.
The second race was nearly as hectic, although Daniels largely managed to escape the crossfire in the rematch thanks to some skillful maneuvering on the tight arena.
That said, despite getting first pick as the fast qualifier, the champ was immediately dropped to fourth behind Zabala, Brunner and Kopp. Less than a chaotic minute into the race, teammates Brunner and Zabala came together while disputing the lead, this time with Zabala hitting the deck and forcing another red flag.
Brunner assumed the lead at the restart with Daniels right on his tail, while Zabala found himself having to fight his way up from the back of the field.
Daniels made a tidy and drama-free pass for the lead with just over two minutes remaining and quickly stretched out a big enough gap to prevent another last-corner surprise. However, that important work was undone by another red flag; this time when Rush crashed after being contacted by Mischler in their scrap for third as the clock hit 0:00.
This set up a three-lap shootout for victory, seemingly putting another surefire Daniels win in doubt.
“After a weekend like Peoria… that was tough,” Daniels said. “I haven’t been in that position so far in my career, and it was a little sad because I thought we had the speed there (to win). I was definitely sore coming into here, but the team, man, they believe in me. I can’t thank the whole Estenson Racing Monster Energy Yamaha team enough. It’s just super crazy that we could rebound like this.”
Brunner held on for second, followed by fellow rising star Kopp. Zabala somehow charged his way up to fourth with Mischler close behind fifth. Perhaps even more impressive than Zabala’s race-long comeback was that of Rush, who slashed his way from last to seventh in that three-lap scramble.
Daniels has reclaimed the title lead by seven points (231-224) with just three races left to determine the 2021 AFT Singles crown.