Progressive AFT – News – How to Watch & What To Watch: ZO CBD Arizona SuperTT presented by RideNow Powersports
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Event Recap: Yamaha Senoia Short Track I Main Event Highlights
Can anyone beat TT Superstar Beach at Arizona Super TT?
The 23er Progressive AFT season is about to start again with this weekend’s Arizona SuperTT. Continue reading
Last week we discussed the increasing relevance of the mental aspects of the game DallasDaniels (No. 32 Estenson Racing Yamaha MT-07 DT) threatened to upset the established pecking order.
A significant shift in the DEFCON level of a potential mind game war has been avoided (or at least delayed). Jared Meis (No. 1 Indian Motorcycle/Rogers Racing/SDI Racing FTR750) defeated Daniels in a spectacular duel at Senoia.
While this nascent rivalry remains to be watched, it’s equally intriguing how the pressure could play out on two other title contenders this weekend: JD Beach (#95 Estenson Racing Yamaha MT-07 DT) and Briar Baumann (#3 Parts Plus/Jacob Companies KTM 890 Duke).
Beach has somehow lived up to the unrealistically high expectations when the series has arrived at a TT in recent seasons, winning six out of seven TTs going back to his maiden Mission Super Twins Victory scored here at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park in 2019.
That year was also the last time Beach was beaten in a TT, a feat Bauman accomplished in the season’s edition of the storied Peoria TT.
Each time Beach clinches another TT win, he looks both relieved and overjoyed, and afterwards admits he felt the weight of those tremendous pre-race expectations – expectations that grow heavier with each successive triumph.
Some of those wins came by blowout. Others were significantly closer, a couple of times, as Bauman Beach gave it all it could take.
Meanwhile, Bauman must overcome his own expectations. He went into the season knowing that it would likely have its ups and downs as his team grappled with an entirely new platform.
However, understanding it intellectually is not quite the same as living it. And for a rider who previously viewed a prolonged string of seconds and thirds as a dry spell, those peaks and troughs may need to be recalibrated.
Of course, the peaks are easier to accept than the troughs, and this weekend has a pretty good chance of bouncing back after back-to-back runs to seventh at DAYTONA ST II and Senoia ST.
To understand the premier class power hierarchy, it is only right to think of the current generation of elite drivers as a collection of five instead of four: Brandon Robinson (No. 44 Mission Roof Systems Indian FTR750) has earned its inclusion in this group.
While the Indian independent riders generally took a little more time to adjust to last year’s rule changes, after the Mission Roof System team got a handle on things, Robinson produced at championship level, particularly on ovals.
In the last 11 oval races – starting with Robinson’s Lima HM win and including last weekend’s Senoia ST (a total of six short tracks, four half miles and a mile) – only Mees has a better average finishing position than Robinson, by a slim one Margin (3.18 vs. 3.36).
Daniels isn’t too far behind at 3.72, followed by Bauman (4.63) and Beach (5.18).
However, those numbers shift from Robinson’s favor when you include the TTs, which were never his strongest discipline. He’s worked hard to round out his game and hasn’t done too badly at TTs lately, finishing 8th, 7th and 11th this decade.
However, Robinson’s title chances in recent seasons have been aided by the fact that there have only been three TTs since the 2020 season, combined with a relatively fewer riders’ entry list. Both will remain on schedule in 2023 with four TTs and a significantly increased squad in the premier class.
Robinson has the ability to become a Grand National Champion. But to realize that potential he needs to perform at a pretty high level in right turns, jumps and braking.
One time chance
While some riders suffer in the TTs, others thrive. Beach and Robinson may be on the opposite end of the spectrum of the series’ elite, but there’s also an opportunity for drivers outside the list of expected title contenders to exceed or undercut their usual standard.
One driver to keep an eye on is Ben Lowe (#25 Rackley Racing/Mission Foods Indian FTR 750). Lowe’s 10th place finish last weekend didn’t quite reflect the impressive form he had shown for most of the evening. He’s also a pretty solid TT rider and could make some waves in Arizona.
Kody Kopp (#1 Red Bull KTM Factory Racing 450 SX-F) will find himself in the now rare position of being the hunter rather than the hunted.
Sure, he’s still expected to be near the top, but for a change, he won’t be the rider most are predicting to win. This can be a mistake. The last time Kopp was able to ride relatively stress-free – at last year’s Volusia HM Finale I after securing the championship a lap earlier – he weaved through the field and pulled away with his seventh win of the season.
Kopp isn’t the most decorated TT rider in the field, but he has race-winning form in the discipline. He only needs one full race to go his way.
A national road racer and childhood amateur dirt track star, Hayden Gillim (No. Comstock Energy/Vance & Hines KTM 450 SX-F) has unique capabilities that translate perfectly to TT racing. He made that all too clear in 2016-2017 when he dominated the Peoria TT, Springfield TT and Buffalo Chip TT victories in Parts Unlimited AFT singles.
Not only does Gillim have a similar racing background to Mission SuperTwin’s race favorite Beach – the two are like family, having grown up and spending much of their lives together.
A Beach Gillim double wouldn’t go down in the record books like Cory Texter and Shayna Texter-Bauman’s doubles at the 2019 Texas Half-Mile, but it wouldn’t be too far off either.
Beach’s six career wins in Mission SuperTwins TT puts him in a four-way tie Joe Leonard, Bart MarkelAnd Ricky Graham for the sixth most of all time.
Six wins also leaves him well short of the top spot on the list “King” Henry Wiles top of the order at 19 followed by Chris Carr (15), Steve Eklund (9), fat man (8) and gary scott (7).
However, a shift in how those wins are counted does much to underscore Beach’s full TT championship.
The huge numbers that Wiles and Carr posted were built in large part from their iconic Peoria performances. Overall, Wiles has won at three different TTs (Peoria TT, Castle Rock TT and Springfield TT) while Carr has won at two different TTs (Peoria TT and Castle Rock TT).
Beach, meanwhile, is tied with Eklund for having five wins at most TT venues (for Beach, Arizona Super TT, Buffalo Chip TT, Atlanta Super TT, Peoria TT and Castle Rock TT).
Throw in his Parts Unlimited AFT Singles win at the Springfield TT and Beach exists in a category all of his own.
Climb up the ladder
While Kopp is still chasing his first TT win, his two closest championship contenders are – Dalton Gauthier (#79 D&D Racing/Certified KTM 450 SX-F) and Max Wal (No. 18 Red Bull KTM Factory Racing 450 SX-F) – are among the most accomplished TT riders in the Parts Unlimited AFT Singles field.
Both are part of a five-way tie for sixth all-time with two each. The only rider in the field with more is the aforementioned Gillim, who sits third all-time with three.
And unlike Mission SuperTwins, there’s an opportunity to quickly climb the ranks. Should either Whale or Gauthier somehow win this year’s TTs, they would rank #1 on the all-time list, a position currently held by Jess Janisch at five o’clock.