The Indian factory team takes on a new look this season, as Shayna Texter-Bauman becomes the newest member, joining her husband Briar Bauman and defending American Flat Track SuperTwins champion Jared Mees.
Texter-Bauman moves from AFT Singles to the premier class. So does she become the first female factory rider in the premier class of the series? The answer is yes, sort of.
Jennifer Snyder was a factory Harley-Davidson rider in the early 2000s, but the records indicate she raced only in support classes and not the premier AMA Grand National (now AFT SuperTwins) class.
Then in the mid-2010s, Nichole Mees (Jared’s wife) was listed as a factory Harley rider in news releases, but she was part of an independent team that received Harley support and was not under the factory Harley tent at the races. And finally, there’s Texter-Bauman herself. She was backed by Triumph in 2014 in the premier class, but that also was an independent squad with factory support, not a full-fledged factory team.
Certainly, having a husband-and-wife team racing together under the same factory tent is something unique in the 68-year history of the championship. In her previous seasons in the premier Twins class, Texter-Bauman was not able to get the kind of strong results she had in the Singles class.
When she last ran the SuperTwins class full time in 2014 on the Triumph, she qualified for four races and had a best result of 12th. Her career best finish in SuperTwins was a 10th at the Illinois State Fairgrounds in September 2015. She was riding a Kawasaki at the time.
But now racing with the powerful Indian factory team, she feels she finally has the machine and the team backing her, to make a strong push in SuperTwins.
“Now, I’m on the best bike with the best team and the best riders,” Texter-Bauman said. “For me, there couldn’t have been a better opportunity.”
During testing, Texter-Bauman said she’s gradually learning the ins and outs of the potent Indian FTR750 racing machine.
“I feel good on the bike,” she said. “Obviously, I don’t have anywhere near the number of laps on the bike that a lot of the guys in the class who have been on the Indian for multiple years. But each time I get on the bike I feel like I learn something new and I’m getting faster each and every time. The biggest challenge right now is trying to transition my brain from being a Singles rider to a Twins rider. The bike is so different in the way it reacts on the track, since it was purposely built for flat track, as opposed to racing with a motocross chassis.”
Prior to preseason testing, Texter-Bauman never had the chance to sample the FTR750 on the track. She said the closest she came was “sitting on it in the parking lot.”
She will also have a winning veteran rider in the form of Jake Johnson working as her mechanic and having Johnson there to bounce ideas off of should provide a solid anchor for Texter-Bauman.
For Johnson’s part, he’s excited and a bit nervous about moving into the role of technician after years being on the track.
“I’ve had so many close calls happen to me over the years, like things falling off and left loose (on the motorcycle) and things like that,” Johnson said. “So, I’m going to be super particular about that and will probably wear out wrenches making sure things are tight. We’re going to learn together as we go. I’m in a new role and she’s kind of in a new role. It’s going to be a fun challenge and I’m looking forward to it.”
In terms of mixing it up with her husband on the track, it shouldn’t be a problem, according to Texter-Bauman, because she’s been racing almost her entire life.
“We’re both competitors,” Texter-Bauman explained. “It is a little bit different now being husband and wife, but everyone likes to bring up the story when I took his bars out from under him at the Springfield Mile — and we were dating then. Obviously, it wasn’t intentional, but it shows that we’re going to race each other hard.”
Two-time national champion Briar Bauman is thrilled to have his wife as a team member. They’ve grown up racing against one another, so that part will not be new. Bauman admits that he’d be very excited to see his wife ride up front and battle for wins in the SuperTwins class.
“If we can get her to that point where she’s battling for a win, that would mean so much to the sport, to our family, to the team and everyone around us,” he said “To me that would be bigger than me winning the championship. Right now, it’s all about seat time and getting her comfortable.”
While Texter-Bauman’s move to the factory Indian team was the biggest offseason news, when it comes to the key players biding for the championship, most expect it again to be a battle between Indian factory riders Mees and Bauman.
The battle between the two in recent years has been so intense it’s changed the way both approach the series. Bauman believes the battle between himself and Mees has forced both riders to step up their game and he feels something even more than just plain consistency is the now key to winning championships.
“Our battle has raised the game almost to the point where when I look at the season calendar, I give myself one gimme and the rest of the races I have to be one or two,” Bauman said. “It’s gotten to the point where you feel you can’t even take third anymore.”
Mees, the seven-time national champion, turns 36 this season. So far, he has been able to keep father time at bay, owing to his always rigorous training regimen. At this point in his career Mees is beginning to compile enough wins and championships that the longstanding records held by nine-time AMA Grand National champ Scott Parker and seven-time title winner Chris Carr are possibly within reach.
“Scotty and Chris’ records are something I do think about,” Mees admitted. “That’s kind of what motivates me to keep going. Had they not achieved that kind of success in their careers, I may have already retired. It gives me something to fight for day in and day out.
“Obviously, the two big ones are number of national championships and race wins, but there are some lesser-known ones like all-time wins on half-miles and riders who won the most on different types of tracks. Some of those would be cool to take. Anytime you can go after the record of a guy like Scotty Parker it’s very rewarding. It would be great to match or even pass Scotty’s records, but that would take a lot.”
Mees is the winningest active rider and third all time in AMA Grand National/AFT SuperTwins wins with 60. Parker has 94 wins and Carr has 78.
With the almost total domination of Indian since the team came on the scene in 2017, AFT has adjusted the rules once again to try to create a more level playing field for the teams not running the all-conquering Indian FTR750. This season, Indian teams will face fuel injection and RPM restrictions among other rules to ty to slow the FTR750.
Those new rules present a challenge to the Indian teams. Bauman’s mechanic Michelle DiSalvo admits that the new rules have added to a bit her workload.
“It’s been a little bit tougher getting everything ready for the season,” she said. “But I’ll wrap things up a few weeks before the start of the season and give myself a bit of a cushion.”
While the SuperTwins title is likely to go through the factory team, Mees thinks there will be plenty of riders in the series looking to step up to challenge he and Bauman, especially with the new rules package.
“For sure Briar is going to be the main guy,” Mees concluded when assessing his competition as he tries to defend his championship. “Brandon Robinson last year showed a lot of strength at certain tracks. J.D. Beach will be very tough on the TT tracks and they may get competitive on some of the miles as well now that the rules have given them so many options.”
One thing is certain, the rivalry between Mees and Bauman has already become one of the best in the history of the series, and it has the chance to become even more legendary.