DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – The crown jewel of the season awaits as Progressive American Flat Track prepares for a monumental Labor Day Weekend double-doubleheader at the Illinois State Fairgrounds in Springfield, Illinois, on Sept. 3-5.
The weekend will kick off on Friday evening with the Springfield Short Track Doubleheader, which packs two complete rounds of the tightly fought AFT Singleschampionship into a single evening. And then Saturday and Sunday will see the big twins head over to the mile dirt track for the Memphis Shades Springfield Mile I & II presented by Law Tigers.
An epic by any measure, this year’s Progressive AFT weekend in Springfield has a bit of added meaning as it represents the end of an era on two fronts.
First, it will mark the final time Bryan Smith competes at the Springfield Mile after recently announcing his intention to retire at the end of the season. Smith is currently tied with the legendary Bubba Shobert for third all-time in Mission SuperTwins presented by S&S Cycle Mile victories at 25, nine of which have come at the Springfield Mile. Few could script a better ending to his history with the venue than by going out on top.
Perhaps the single biggest obstacle standing in the way of that sort of storybook ending is long-time rival Jared Mees. Mees has developed into a Mile ace himself in recent seasons, now boasting 18 Mile victories of his own, including three of the last four in Springfield.
Mees, coincidentally, also factors heavily into the other aforementioned era-defining shift. This year’s edition marks the final time that the race will be promoted by Kiesow Racing and IMDA. Kiesow Racing and IMDA resurrected the Springfield Mile in 1981 following a 15-year layoff and, over the past four decades, built it into arguably the most fabled motorcycle dirt track race anywhere in the world. Starting in 2022, Jared and his wife, Nichole, will promote the race, building on the massive success Mees Promotions has enjoyed doing the same for the Lima Half-Mile.
Briar Bauman has a leg up on securing a third consecutive Grand National Championship as he powers into Springfield with a 25-point cushion over Mees. While he has two career Mile wins to his name, the champ is still looking for his first Springfield Mile win.
That’s not the case for third-ranked Brandon Robinson, who doubled at the venue back in 2013, nor Sammy Halbert, who was victorious in last year’s Springfield Mile I.
DPR Racing/Brian Bigelow Racing will field a pair of heavy-hitting wild cards in Jeffrey Carver Jr. and Henry Wiles.
Home track hero Carver was the star of one of the more memorable Springfield Miles in recent years when he defeated Mees and Kenny Coolbeth Jr. to score a hugely popular win in 2018.
Wiles, meanwhile, will make a welcome one-off return to Mission SuperTwins action this weekend as well. The AFT Singles regular needs just one premier-class Mile win to complete the career Grand Slam. He’s come close in the past, including twice finishing as a Mile runner-up during his second-ranked ‘18 season.
Hayden Gillim is another intriguing wild card. The versatile Gillim is fresh off an impressive fourth-place performance in the AFT Production Twins class at the Peoria TT. He was rewarded for that effort with a shot at the premier-class on a Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson XG750R in Springfield.
AFT Production Twins presented by Vance & Hines returns to the venue where the class was originally introduced to the world at speed in 2018.
The Memphis Shades Babe DeMay Challenge — a four-lap dash similar to the Mission SuperTwins Mission Challenge — will underline that important historical tie by providing class competitors an opportunity to win an additional $5000 on both Saturday and Sunday.
As always, Cory Texter remains the rider in the crosshairs. While the heavy title favorite is still seeking his first-ever Progressive AFT win at the Springfield Mile, he did enjoy a career highlight here by finishing on the box in the premier class back in 2016.
Reigning AFT Singles champion Dallas Daniels will look to keep his perfect class podium record intact while providing another glimpse of his future and immense potential on a twin.
‘18 AFT Singles champ Dan Bromley, meanwhile, comes in riding high after earning his maiden AFT Production Twins victory last weekend in Peoria.
Others to watch include Ryan Varnes who won at Springfield a year ago, Ben Lowe, who podiumed the race in 2018 and also comes in hot following a strong effort in Peoria, and Chad Cose, who finished second and third in last year’s Springfield Mile I & II.
Speaking of Cose, the Vance & Hines-backed pilot will be joined this weekend by a pair of talented wild cards in Jesse Janisch and Morgen Mischler.
An already wild AFT Singles title fight has the potential for another titanic shift with two full points-paying rounds taking place in a single night during Friday’s Springfield Short Track Doubleheader.
Dallas Daniels and Max Whale have traded haymakers as the two rising stars have battled for 450cc supremacy all season long.
Daniels is coming off the roughest weekend of his young professional career, with a pair of crashes in the Peoria TT Main Event. The Springfield ST could serve as a “get-right” evening for the Illinois native, considering he’s finished first, third, and fifth in his only three previous attempts at the race.
Aussie Whale is no slouch on the tight oval either, having earned third- and fourth-place results a year ago.
Henry Wiles, meanwhile, is among the greatest Short Track riders in the history of the sport. He added to his legend by racking up a pair of Springfield ST second-place results a year ago. His young teammate, Trevor Brunner, meanwhile, earned his maiden Progressive AFT win here last year and has threatened to add to his victory tally on more than one occasion this season.
Morgen Mischler was the other rider to land on the podium at last year’s Springfield ST. It would come as a surprise to absolutely no one if he manages to do so again next weekend, as that’s something he’s done more than any other rider in the class thus far in 2021.