DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Dallas Daniels (No. 32 Estenson Racing Yamaha MT-07 DT) closed the 2023 Grand National Championship battle to a single point with a clutch victory in Saturday’s CertainTeed Castle Rock TT presented by Law Tigers as Progressive American Flat Track, sanctioned by AMA Pro Racing, put on a show before another massive crowd at Castle Rock Race Park in Castle Rock, Washington.
Mission SuperTwins presented by S&S Cycle title hopeful Daniels needed a win in the worst way and he got it the unexpected way. His Estenson Racing teammate, JD Beach (No. 95 Estenson Racing Yamaha MT-07 DT) – winner of eight of the series’ previous nine TTs – took the holeshot and immediately checked out at the front. Daniels, meanwhile, was briefly shuffled back to fourth, running alongside Briar Bauman (No. 3 Parts Plus/Jacob Companies KTM 790 Duke) and, more crucially, reigning champion Jared Mees (No. 1 Indian Motorcycle/Rogers Racing/SDI Racing FTR750).
Daniels dove in front of Bauman almost immediately and then set his sights on Mees as Beach continued to disappear. The rising star didn’t wait long to make his move, pouncing on his title rival with more than eight minutes remaining on the clock to take control of second position.
Moments later, Bauman crashed while disputing fourth. That shock twist was merely a teaser for the race-shaking drama set to come, however, as race leader Beach lost the front entering the switchback section approximately 30 seconds later.
Daniels inherited the lead and went about building his own insurmountable advantage at the front. The focus of the contest then shifted to Beach’s comeback after picking up his fallen machine. Beach stormed around the outside of Johnny Lewis (No. 10 Moto Anatomy X Powered by Royal Enfield 650) with little delay to elevate himself back into a podium position. He then looked to reel in Mees, who was nearly four seconds in front of him.
The TT titan finally arrived on the rear wheel of Mees’ factory Indian with just a minute remaining. However, what felt like an inevitable pass became an impossible one after Beach made a minor slip just as the clocks hit 0:00. That small miscue provided the defending champ with just enough breathing space to survive the final two laps and retain second to the stripe.
Mees’ effort to hold on was every bit as critical as Daniels’ to win – and arguably as critical as any of his eight wins this season. As a result, Mees goes into the Springfield doubleheader finale holding both a one-point lead (342-341) and the tiebreaker, shifting the lion’s share of the pressure to his young adversary.
The victory saw Daniels complete the elusive Grand Slam in just his second premier-class season, adding a TT win to his prior Mile, Half-Mile, and Short Track triumphs. Afterward, he said, “As a little kid, I dreamed of being in this position. Just having a chance going into these last two (races) is amazing. I’m not like super excited because I didn’t want to win my first TT that way; obviously I know you’ve got to get to the finish line first. If I was going to beat JD, I wanted to do it straight up. I was so bummed to see him go down just because I don’t want to win that way.
“But I’m so pumped to get that win. It was a crazy main event… I was so nervous. I was looking back a whole lot. I know Earl Hayden is up there, reaming me right now. If he could call me after this, he’d be yelling at me. But it was good. The Estenson Racing Monster Energy Yamaha was working great. We knew what we had to do coming in here and we wanted to win.”
The sport’s all-time TT master, Henry Wiles (No. 17 BriggsAuto.com/Martin Trucking Indian FTR750), charged his way up to fourth with Oregonian Davis Fisher (No. 67 Rackley Racing/Bob Lanphere’s BMC Racing Indian FTR750) coming home in fifth.
Three-time Castle Rock TT winner Sammy Halbert (No. 69 Martin Trucking/Castrol Yamaha MT-07) took sixth, followed by Brandon Robinson (No. 44 Mission Roof Systems Indian FTR750), Lewis, and Ben Lowe (No. 25 Rackley Racing/Mission Foods Indian FTR750), while local hero Scooter Vernon (No. 274 Hovey Racing/Stace Richmand KTM 790 Duke) rounded out the top ten.
Parts Unlimited AFT Singles presented by KICKER
Trevor Brunner (No. 21 Estenson Racing Yamaha YZ450F) earned his second win of the 2023 Parts Unlimited AFT Singles presented by KICKER season in a tense ride that saw him on the defensive from green light to checkered flag.
Brunner got the launch off the line to grab the lead entering the opening corner and then spent the next eight minutes and two laps doing everything possible to hold onto that position despite the application of relentless pressure from last year’s Castle Rock TT winner, Dalton Gauthier (No. 79 D&D Racing/Certified KTM 450 SX-F).
But their duel was not theirs alone. At half-distance, what had been a four-rider stack at the front that also included Tanner Dean (No. 38 Walrath Racing/Hovey Racing Honda CRF450R) and Max Whale (No. 18 Red Bull KTM Factory Racing 450 SX-F) became a five-rider affair with the addition of Tom Drane (No. 59 Estenson Racing Yamaha YZ450F). And then with a minute remaining, Chase Saathoff (No. 88 American Honda/Mission Foods CRF450R) arrived to transform it to a tight six-rider fight for the victory.
With less than 30 seconds to go, Brunner finally made the mistake Gauthier was desperately attempting to force. But rather than pounce, he responded by nearly losing the front himself and was instead displaced to third by Dean.
However, Gauthier somehow willed a path right back past into second and did so in time to line up a last-corner overtaking attempt on Brunner – a bid that came up 0.202 seconds short.
Brunner, who also won the Peoria TT, said, “We just trusted the process. The lines we were doing all day were working really well. I heard (Gauthier) the entire race, just breathing down my neck. But I just remained consistent and held my lines. I had one bobble going into the tight left and just about lost it. But I gathered it back up real quick and put in some more smooth laps and got it done. It feels so good. This is probably my favorite track on the circuit so it really feels good to get a win here.”
Home state hero Dean held on in third to go from retirement to the podium, while Whale, Drane, and Saathoff followed close behind in fourth, fifth, and sixth, respectively.
1st Impressions Husqvarna teammates James Ott (No. 19 1st Impressions Race Team/Husqvarna Racing FC450) and Chad Cose (No. 49 1st Impressions Race Team/Husqvarna Racing FC450) finished in seventh and eighth in that order, followed by Aiden RoosEvans (No. 26 A1R Racing/FRA Trust Honda CRF450R).
Meanwhile, defending Parts Unlimited AFT Singles champion Kody Kopp (No. 1 Red Bull KTM Factory Racing 450 SX-F) finished an uncharacteristic tenth in front of his home fans. While he came in with visions of locking up the championship, it was a fitting end to a difficult day that saw Kopp advance to the main event through the LCQ and then spend the bulk of the Main running just outside the top ten.
But despite matching his worst finish of the season, Kopp continues to dominate the points standings, now 35 points up on second-ranked Brunner (308-273) with just 50 points left in play.