MECHANICSBURG, Pa. – Briar Bauman showed just what an American Flat Track Grand National Championship at the peak of his powers is capable of in Friday evening’s Williams Grove Half-Mile I.
Bauman crushed the opposition in a AFT SuperTwins presented by Vance & Hines main event the race’s runner-up accurately described as “demoralizing” while accepting his second-place trophy. The result did not come as much of a shock – it was the third year running Bauman proved his superiority at Williams Grove Speedway.
Championship rival Jared Mees stole the holeshot and led for about two corners before giving way to Bauman at the front. The race for the win was effectively over at that point; Bauman was more than a second out in front with 11 minutes remaining on the clock and worked that advantage up to more than six seconds before cruising to an easy 4.347-second margin of victory.
“This race track is good for me,” Bauman said. “I think it fits my style quite a bit. It’s aggressive but passive aggressive. I’m aggressive with it, but I try to be easy on the gas at the same time. The bike is great here too.”
The aforementioned runner-up was not Mees, however. It was Brandon Robinson, who picked up his second-consecutive second place. Robinson swapped positions early with Mees, Jake Johnson and Bronson Bauman before breaking free from that fight with a good nine minutes to go.
Bronson put in a late charge, first dispatching of Johnson and then overhauling Mees to earn his first podium result of 2020.
The slowing Mees managed to outlast a charging Dan Bromley, who registered an inspired ride to sixth in front of his home fans.
After running in podium contention early, the out-from-retirement Johnson ultimately lost out to Sammy Halbert late but still managed to pick up a strong seventh place in his first ride of the year.
Bauman’s dominant win combined with Mees’ first non-podium of the year tightened up their title fight. Mees continues to lead, but only by three points (147-144) with another race at Williams Grove coming tomorrow. Halbert and Robinson are even in points at 108.
In AFT Singles, Mikey Rush finally broke through to claim his first main event victory of 2020.
It didn’t come easily, as he had to defeat his second-ranked teammate, Dallas Daniels and 2016 GNC2 champ Ryan Wells to make it happen.
Daniels was ahead of the field early, running away at the front as a huge pack ran as many as four-wide while battling over second position. Once some order emerged from the chaos, Wells, Rush, and Morgen Mischler worked together to claw their way back up to Daniels.
By half-distance, Wells was the man on the move and Daniels looked in danger of fading back to the second group. Wells moved into first and promptly ripped open a half-second of padding before Rush stepped up to the challenge and made it a two-way race for the win with one minute to go.
Rush dove under Wells at that point, only to have his opponent square him back up. Undeterred, Rush executed a second overtake and made the position change stick for good as the race went into its final two laps.
“It feels great,” Rush said. “It’s always fun coming here to Williams Grove — the fans are awesome. I couldn’t do it without my team; the Estenson crew are great people. They are a lot of fun to be around, but when we get to work, those guys get serious and get things sorted out. My motorcycles are awesome. I’m just thankful and blessed to be a part of this deal.”
Behind, Daniels not only regrouped, he sprinted back up to Wells and powered past him while exiting turn two on the final lap. The Estenson Racing 1-2 marked its second double podium finish of the season.
Wells took his first podium of the ‘20 in third, with Mischler taking a close fourth.
Volusia Half-Mile winner Max Whale – who was just out of touch of the lead group throughout – completed the top five.
James Rispoli continued his recent tear in AFT Production Twins, scoring his third AFT Production Twins victory in the class’ most recent four Main Events.
Rispoli tracked down reigning champion Cory Texter early and the two spent the next several minutes determining who had the superior line around Williams Grove Speedway.
Texter appeared to have the early advantage running down low, but Rispoli’s high line got progressively stronger as the race developed. With around three minutes remaining on the clock, there was no longer a debate concerning who found the fast way around; Rispoli blasted away at the front and furthered his standing as the championship favorite.
With three wins and three seconds this season, Rispoli has quickly assembled a full race advantage in the points.
“You never get used to winning,” Rispoli said. “We’re kind of having a dream season right now. We were struggling mid-day and Cory had kind of been in a class of his own. But as soon as the sun went down, something a little special happened. We saw Briar running around the top in the SuperTwins Semi, and I said to the boys, ‘This is our only shot.’ It worked — sometimes it doesn’t. I’m just fired up. The Latus Motors Racing team has done a beautiful job today.”
Ryan Varnes not only made up for a less-than-ideal start, he managed to overcome a mid-race encounter with the wall to take the final spot on the box.
Varnes reeled in Indy Mile winner Ben Lowe and the two then engaged in a scrap for third position. With around four minutes remaining, Lowe ran up the inside of Varnes and the ‘19 class runner-up actually impacted the fence in the melee.
Varnes somehow managed to remain upright, maintained his composure, ran Lowe back down, and beat him to the flag in the end.
Rispoli’s fellow multinational championship-winning roadracer, Danny Eslick, rounded out the top five.