LEXINGTON, Ky. — It was a night of firsts as Progressive American Flat Track enjoyed an epic evening of racing at the Mission Red Mile I presented by Indian Motorcycle of Lexington.
Following 14 minutes and two laps of nail-biting action in front of the massive Red Mile crowd, Mission SuperTwins presented by S&S Cycle rookie Dallas Daniels (No. 32 Estenson Racing Yamaha MT-07 DT) officially added his name to the exclusive list of premier-class Main Event winners.
But prior to Daniels’ exhilaration, it was heartbreak for teammate J.D. Beach (No. 95 Estenson Racing Yamaha MT-07 DT). Beach had established himself the rider to beat in the lead-up to the main, but he was unlucky to be forced out by mechanical issues a couple minutes into the race.
That left reigning champion Jared Mees (No. 1 Indian Motorcycle/Progressive Insurance FTR750), Daniels, and Mission Production Twins Challenge entrant James Rispoli (No. 43 Wally Brown Racing/Haversack KTM 890 Duke) to battle it out in the lead pack.
The trend of heartbreak continued a couple of minutes later when the machine of Bronson Bauman (No. 37 Latus Motors Racing Harley-Davidson XG750R) dumped oil on the circuit while running fourth, forcing a red flag stoppage near half-distance.
The race resumed with Mees, Daniels, and Rispoli sitting 1-2-3, and Brandon Robinson(No. 44 Mission Roof Systems Indian FTR750) joining the lead group in fourth. While Rispoli took a peak on a few occasions, it was Mees and Daniels who traded back first and second for the remainder of the contest.
Mees lined up Daniels and made what he hoped would be the race’s decisive maneuver entering turn three for the final time. He pulled it off perfectly and seemed destined to keep his perfect Red Mile streak intact, right up until the final moment when Daniels blasted by at the stripe to steal away the win by .008 seconds.
The victory was not only Daniels’ first in the premier class, it was also Yamaha’s first on a Mile going all the way back to Kenny Roberts’ legendary victory aboard the TZ750 at the 1975 Indy Mile. Daniels also became the first rookie to win in the premier class since Mikey Rush won at Daytona in 2007 and the first rookie to win on a Mile since Scott Parker did so at Indy in 1979.
“I can’t believe I won a Grand National,” Daniels said. “I’ve been dreaming of this my whole life. It’s been a long road for me and the team. Those guys have worked their butts off. It’s been a long road since they started, and I know this is so rewarding for them.
“Taking my dad on that victory lap… I’ve been talking about that since I was like eight years old. We did it… It’s awesome!”
Rispoli held on for third to become the first Mission Production Twins Challenge rider to land on the Mission SuperTwins podium and add to what was already an incredible debut for the WBR KTM.
Robinson came home fourth, followed by another Mission Production Twins Challenge pilot in Ben Lowe (No. 25 Mission Foods/Roof Systems Yamaha MT-07) to complete the top five.
If anyone forgot just how dominant James Rispoli (No. 43 Wally Brown Racing/Haversack KTM 890 Duke) was at times when he won the 2020 Mission Production Twins presented by Vance & Hines championship, he provided a most compelling reminder on Saturday night.
Rispoli made his return to the class at the Red Mile to debut the WBR KTM 890 Duke and did so in style. He not only made the bike a winner, he did so in runaway fashion, leading from start to finish.
The only rider who even managed to keep him honest was Jesse Janisch (No. 33 Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson XG750R). Janisch clung on behind him just outside the draft, but he never managed to present a realistic challenge to Rispoli’s position at the front.
While Rispoli may have had a drama-free run to victory, the battle for the final spot on the podium was most entertaining. A tight five-rider pack made up of the returning Michael Rush(No. 15 Hellipower Racing/Las Vegas Harley-Davidson XG750R), Ryan Varnes (No. 68 Schaeffer’s Motorsports/Rausch Fuel & Oil KTM 890 Duke), Ben Lowe (No. 25 Mission Foods/Roof Systems Yamaha MT-07), Cory Texter (No. 1 G&G Racing/Yamaha Racing Yamaha MT-07), and Nick Armstrong (No. 60 Competitive Racing Frames/Lessley Brothers Yamaha MT-07).
Among a great deal of shuffling, points leader Armstrong systematically made his way from seventh to third, but went off the groove and dropped right back to seventh, erasing all his hard work.
Defending champion Texter did what he does and emerged late as he and Lowe scrapped for third over the final two laps. Ultimately, Texter took the position by 0.122 to further a three-race podium streak. However, he’s still three points back of Armstrong in the championship chase after Armstrong clawed his way back up to fifth at the flag.
Combining the Parts Unlimited AFT Singles presented by KICKER class and a big Mile racetrack is typically the recipe for an ultra-tight pack war. Saturday’s showdown was no exception.
As many as eight riders were in with a shot for victory deep into the race before a couple of them went off the groove, leaving a six-rider shootout on the race’s final lap.
The on-form Morgen Mischler (No. 13 American Honda/Progressive Insurance CRF450R) did his best to control the chaotic affair from the front and it paid off with a 0.053 seconds margin of victory.
While Mischler regularly traded the lead with teammate Dalton Gauthier (No. 79 American Honda/Progressive Insurance CRF450R) for much of the contest, the final sprint came down to him, title rival Kody Kopp (No. 12 Red Bull KTM Factory Racing 450 SX-FFE), and Trent Lowe (No. 48 Mission Foods/Al Lamb’s Dallas Honda CRF450R).
Mischler opened the final lap in the lead and made the most of his Honda’s horsepower to just fend off his challengers.
Despite just missing out on the win, Kopp continues to lead the championship on the strength of an early season that has seen him finish no worse than second.