American Flat Track fans, new and old, who turned out to attend the series' inaugural race at the Red Mile in Lexington, Ky., were treated to a good old fashion showdown in the AFT Twins presented by Vance & Hines Main Event.
After the dust had cleared, it was Jared Mees who took the victory lap with checkered flag in hand aboard his No. 9 Indian Motorcycle Rogers Racing Scout FTR750 in front of the sold out crowd of 6,500 people.
As the evening's program wore on, it become apparent that, for all of Bryan Smith's Mile heroics in recent weeks, it was actually Mees and Sammy Halbert (No. 69 Estenson Logistics Yamaha FZ-07) who were set on a collision course at the Red Mile.
Prior to the Main Event, the two backed up convincing Heat race wins with blowouts in their respective Semis – Halbert topping his by almost five seconds, and Mees his by a massive 13 plus.
As expected, in the Main the two separated themselves from the pack almost as early as it started, even if they were rarely separated from each other by more than a tenth of a second for the next 25 miles.
An action-heavy opening half saw the leaders repeatedly trade aggressive passes. However, after Mees was satisfied with his end-game preparation, the position swapping for the lead halted entirely. Instead, the Indian-mounted ace tucked in close behind Halbert's Yamaha and waited until the final lap to strike.
It was the practical application of a hard lesson in Mile strategy learned under the tutelage of Professor Smith; in his three recent consecutive Mile victories, Smith sat back and overtook his way to victory on the final lap each time out. And in the most recent two of those, Mees himself had been victimized on that pivotal circulation.
However, Mees' strategy very nearly fell apart when Halbert anticipated his desired move entering Turn 3. A perfect launch off the tricky Turn 4 provided Mees a second chance to make the pass stick, and he slipstreamed past by 0.013 of a second at the checkered flag to steal away the win.
It was the fourth Mile victory of Mees' career, and his first in almost a full year.
After the race he said, "I basically just sat behind Sammy. He was getting through 1 and 2 so much better than me. I was thinking on the last lap if he got through there good enough I wasn't going to be able to do anything with him. I tried drafting him around the outside, but I didn't have enough on him. I just played my cards right. I'm surprised I got him at the line, but I got there.
"It feels so good to get one of these Mile wins. Bryan has been beating up so bad on us lately, so to get one of these Mile wins and move forward is awesome."
Jared Mees Upsets Bryan Smith at Springfield Mile II
September 4, 2017
Mees unbeatable at Black Hills Half-Mile
August 9, 2017
Jared Mees earns third Grand National Championship in four years
November 21, 2015
Mees ends season on top at American Flat Track Finals in Perris, California
October 8, 2017
Jared Mees takes win and title in front of the home crowd at Williams Grove Half-Mile in Pennsylvania