How to Watch & What to Watch: Memphis Shades DuQuoin Mile

DAYTONA BEACH, FL – July 6, 2024 – (Motor Sports NewsWire) – FloRacing is the live streaming home of Progressive American Flat Track. Complete coverage of this Saturday’s Memphis Shades DuQuoin Mile at the DuQuoin Sate  Fairgrounds will kick off with the day’s first practice session at 4:30 p.m. ET (1:30 p.m. PT). Sign up now and catch every second of on-track action live at http://flosports.link/aft. 

FOX Sports coverage of the Memphis Shades DuQuoin Mile, featuring in-depth features and thrilling onboard cameras, will premiere on FS1 on Sunday, July 14, at 12:00 p.m. ET (9:00 a.m. PT). 

Lima Half-Mile Recap

Event Rewind: Lima Half-Mile Main Event Highlights

What to watch

Speed Not Seen ‘Round Here in Decades

This past weekend’s Lima Half-Mile was always destined to be a pivotal round for Mission AFT SuperTwins championship leader Dallas Daniels (No. 32 Estenson Racing Yamaha MT-07 DT).

While he had amassed a points lead via a perfect season’s podium record, Daniels came to Lima after being beaten in a straight fight at the Bridgeport Half-Mile, the very same venue where he’d earned arguably his most impressive premier-class victory to that point.

The Allen County Fairgrounds set up as a difficult place to settle scores; while he had dreamed of conquering the Lima Half-Mile pretty much his entire life, title rivals Jared Mees (No. 1 Rogers Racing/SDI Racing/Indian Motorcycle FTR750), Briar Bauman (No. 3 Rick Ware Racing/KTM/Parts Plus KTM 790 Duke), and Brandon Robinson (No. 44 Mission Roof Systems Indian FTR750) had all actually done so, and on more than one occasion.

In need of a momentum swing back in his favor, the performance Daniels ultimately delivered was simply special. That was clear to anyone who watched, whether be it on FloRacing, from the grandstands, or from on track, where his opponents were treated/subjected to only a fleeting glimpse before he moved clear of sight… at least until circling back around to provide more than half the field with a second look as he put them a lap down.

Special, sure, but exactly how special? A thorough study of the annals proves that the eye test did not lie.

In his first flying lap, the Estenson Racing pilot blasted around the pea-gravel Half-Mile in 25.293 seconds, the first of eleven consecutive circulations in the 25-second range. For reference, Mees and Robinson were the only other two Mission AFT SuperTwins riders to break into the 25s all day long.

For even better reference, Daniels’ 25.293 stands, flat-out, as the fastest race lap turned at the Lima Half-Mile in recorded Progressive AFT history.

To find a faster lap, you need to go back to a qualifying session from 17 years ago. In 2007, then-future Grand National Champion and current Progressive AFT Series Director Bryan Smith laid down an epic succession of laps that included times of 24.875, 25.205, and 25.252 seconds.

In fact, Daniels’ flier was the first time anyone has lapped within a half-second of Smith since he recorded that 24.875, despite an astonishing 406 nationally licensed riders turning 40,898 laps in the interim.

Even after digging further back through the ages, only two other laps that better Daniels’ best were unearthed. In 1984 – at Lima’s inaugural Grand National Championship round – the iconic Scott Parker clocked a 24.994 lap during qualifying. Prior to that, DeWayne Howton recorded a time of 24.987 all the way back in 1978 in the days before the GNC visited the venue.

Of note, Smith, Howton, and Parker were all armed with Harley-Davidson XR750s, while, of course, Daniels turned his lap on a Yamaha MT-07 DT.

Incidentally, the fastest ever lap at Lima for the Indian FTR750 – winner of the last seven Grand National Championships running – belongs to Jeffrey Carver, Jr., who turned a 25.421 in 2018.

Robinson registered a blistering 25.529 this past weekend in his futile attempt to keep Daniels in sight, although he actually went a tick faster here on his Indian back in 2021 (25.475).

Danger Zone

With all due apologies to Robinson – who has performed brilliantly this season and very much remains in title contention – one can make a strong argument that he has only the third best odds to claim the 2024 Grand National Championship despite ranking second in the points.

That’s not meant as a slight, but rather the acknowledgement of the relative strengths of Daniels’ and Mees’ respective candidacies. It’s hard to argue against Daniels, who now boasts a 21-point lead, a perfect podium record, and his continued upward ascension. As for Mees, we’re talking about the reigning series king – winner of the last three titles in succession and nine in all – who is looking ahead to a very favorable second-half slate.

And aligned with that notion, this weekend’s showdown at DuQuoin could have massive championship implications.

There are seven races remaining – three Miles, two TTs, one Half-Mile, and one Short Track. Daniels will be favored in the two TTs, while Mees will be favored at the Black Hills Half-Mile. You could make a case for either at the Lake Ozark Short Track season finale – Mees’ is one win away from a tie for most ST wins all-time, while Daniels has earned four ST wins in the past season-and-a-half alone – but we’ll give it to Mees for this exercise in order to keep things balanced.

That leaves the three Miles for Mees to make up a 23-point difference. Fortunately for Mees, his Mile mastery has been well documented (numbers we’ll dig into further down below), and he’ll be viewed as the favorite this weekend as well as at the Springfield doubleheader.

While Daniels will be looking to steal a win (or three) at the Miles – and it’s worth remembering that his first two premier-class victories came at Miles – it’s nearly as important for his championship hopes that he merely minimizes the damage done should Mees win.

Let’s do the math. As we just stated, Daniels leads Mees by 23 points with seven races to go, four which we have declared a wash. So, 23 points in three races? Yes, it’s a big ask, but too big? Well…

Daniels’ podium propensity suggests that he’s generally only going to give back four, or at most, seven, points even on a “bad” day. That’s not enough. But, the Miles are different. There, even finishing 0.1 seconds off the victory can result in a fourth- or fifth-place finish and resultant nine- or ten-point swing.

Spoiler Warning

Continuing this line of thought, if Mees is able to win this weekend, he can also realistically hope for both Bauman and Robinson to push Daniels off the box completely.

Both riders have three career Mile victories, and Robinson, as we mentioned, is in top form. Bauman, meanwhile, has been off the box in the last two races, but he comes to DuQuoin as the winner of the series’ most recent Mile (last year’s Springfield Mile II finale), and the KTM Duke platform has been a threat at the bigger tracks since its introduction, predating its being blessed with Bauman’s sublime skills.

Who else should be viewed as an opportunity/threat from the contrasting perspectives of Mees and Daniels?

Since Daniels first stepped up to the premier-class in 2022, there have been eight Miles. And in those eight Miles, there have been five occasions where a rider other than Mees, Daniels, Robinson, or Bauman finished on the podium.

Three of those five podium finishes belong to a pair of riders no longer in the paddock (JD Beach and James Rispoli). Still, their efforts remain as solid evidence that it can be done, and there are plenty of others with the talent to fill that void.

But the other two Mile podiums – a second-place and a third-place – belong to a rider still very much in the hunt. Keep an eye on Davis Fisher (No. 67 Rackley Racing/Bob Lanphere’s BMC Racing Indian FTR750), who enters DuQuoin on the strength of two consecutive top fives.

This Just In

We’ve received late word that Max Whale (No. 18 Latus Motors Racing/Liqui Moly Harley-Davidson XG750R) is hoping to make his return from injury this weekend. The Aussie broke his left ankle during qualifying (despite staying upright) for this year’s Orange County Half-Mile.

Five screws and a plate later, Whale is planning to race this weekend just three weeks later.

Role Reversal

You could tell from his body language while in pursuit of Tom Drane (No. 59 Estenson Racing Yamaha YZ450F) that Kody Kopp (No. 1 Rick Ware Racing/Parts Plus KTM 450 SX-F) relished that challenge. And after having racked up a massive points lead with five wins in the season’s opening eight races, it’s not too difficult to understand why.

And if it’s a challenge he’s looking for, it’s a challenge he will have, as Kopp will be placed in the unfamiliar role of underdog this weekend.

Drane, who returns to DuQuoin fresh from defeating Kopp at Lima where the double defending Parts Unlimited AFT Singles champ had been completely dominant the two seasons prior, has been the category’s preeminent Miler since first turning up at Springfield in 2022.

If you need a refresher, he’s a quick rundown of the Aussie’s performance at all six Miles he’s taken part in since joining the Progressive AFT ranks:

Springfield Mile (2022)

Fastest in final qualifying, winner of the Al Lamb’s Dallas Honda Challenge, Main Event favorite before it was rained out

Sacramento Mile (2023)

Fastest in qualifying, winner of his heat, winner of the Al Lamb’s Dallas Honda Challenge, and winner of the Main Event

Red Mile (2023)

Winner of his heat, second in the Al Lamb’s Dallas Honda Challenge, third place in the Main Event (0.178 seconds off the win)

DuQuoin Mile (2023)

Fastest in qualifying, winner of the Al Lamb’s Dallas Honda Challenge, winner of the Main Event

Springfield Mile I (2023)

Fastest in practice, fastest in qualifying, winner of his heat, winner of the Al Lamb’s Dallas Honda Challenge, second in the Main Event by 0.01 seconds

Springfield Mile II (2023)

Fastest in practice, winner of his heat, winner of the Main Event

That’s career Mile finishes of 1st, 1st, 1st, 2nd, and 3rd. And Drane’s three wins in five attempts could very easily be four in six (or five in seven) if not for inclement weather at Springfield in 2022.

That’s the challenge before Kopp. It may seem a bit daunting, particularly after feeling outclassed down the straights at Lima, but he’ll be spurred on knowing that he and his KTM personally delivered one of Drane’s two Mile defeats.

Beyond the challenge of overcoming Drane, the Rick Ware Racing star faces a similar championship dilemma as the one Daniels does in the premier class. Last season, Kopp finished just 0.106 seconds behind Drane in DuQuoin, but that was only good enough for fifth place. While he’s built up a healthy 32-point advantage, it would become just two if he and his Yamaha-mounted rival were to repeat last year’s 5-1 result at this year’s three Miles.

Big Red

Even taking Drane’s remarkable track record into account, it’s actually Honda that has owned the Miles over the class’ history (both all-inclusive and recent… We’ll break down the numbers a bit later in this very column). American Honda-backed riders have stood atop the podium at Miles in every season since it returned to the series in an official capacity in 2019.

It’s up to Trent Lowe (No. 48 American Honda/Mission Foods CRF450R) and Evan Renshaw (No. 265 American Honda/Mission Foods CRF450R) to continue the streak in 2024.

Lowe is already a part of that tradition, having won last year’s Red Mile. Renshaw, meanwhile, is seeking his breakthrough ride. This weekend presents him with perhaps as good an opportunity to make it happen as he’s yet seen.

Still Red

Chase Saathoff (No. 88 JPG Motorsports Honda CRF450R) is not included among the large collection of American Honda-backed riders to have won a Mile in the past five seasons, despite coming as close as humanly possible while running in official Honda colors in 2022 and 2023.

How close? Here’s the distance that separated Saathoff from victory in his most recent five Miles:

  • 0.036 seconds (3rd)
  • 0.089 seconds (2nd)
  • 0.011 seconds (2nd)
  • 0.092 seconds (3rd)
  • 0.043 seconds (2nd)

Still on a Honda but no longer on the official squad, Saathoff comes into this weekend a Progressive AFT race winner and riding better than ever before. And he doesn’t need to be much better – a mere tenth of a second as measured over an entire race’s distance would be more than enough to completely flip the Mile hierarchy in ‘24.

by the numbers

By a Mile

Just a few weeks back in this same section, it was argued that while Jared Mees may rank as the all-time winningest Half-Miler – and by a margin of nearly twice as many victories as his active challengers combined – Dallas Daniels, Brandon Robinson, and Briar Bauman had actually battled Mees to a standstill at HMs in recent seasons.

The same cannot be said of the Miles. Consider the numbers:

Mees currently stands third all-time in Mile wins with second-placed Chris Carr clearly in his sights:

Career Mile Wins:

  1. Scott Parker: 55
  2. Chris Carr: 29
  3. Jared Mees: 27
  4. 4. Bubba Shobert/Bryan Smith: 25

When we zoom in to consider recent history, Mees has been in a class of his own.

First, here are the Mile wins since the start of the Indian Era:

Winners of the 38 Miles contested from 2017-present:

  1. Jared Mees: 24 (63%)
  2. Bryan Smith: 6
  3. Briar Bauman: 3
  4. Dallas Daniels: 2
  5. Brian Robinson/Jeffrey Carver, Jr./Sammy Halbert: 1

Now, resetting to just the previous five seasons:

Winners of the 24 Miles contested from 2019-present:

  1. Jared Mees: 17 (71%)
  2. Briar Bauman: 3
  3. Dallas Daniels: 2
  4. Brandon Robinson/Sammy Halbert: 1

And finally, here’s how things stack up since Dallas Daniels graduated to the class, marking the era in which the primary four title contenders have competed against one another:

Winners of the eight Miles contested from 2022-present:

  1. Jared Mees: 5 (63%)
  2. Dallas Daniels: 2
  3. Briar Bauman: 1

No matter how you dice it and present it, there is little question who history favors heading into this weekend.

Mile Machine

In contrast to the situation as it exists in the premier-class and as stated above, the Parts Unlimited AFT Singles Miles have been owned more by a manufacturer rather than by a rider.

Here are the all-time Miles winners in the class by manufacturer (note: this includes a limited number of races that utilized twin-cylinder equipment):

Winners of 64 Parts Unlimited AFT Singles Mile Main Events by Manufacturer:

  1. Honda: 35 (55%)
  2. Yamaha: 11
  3. Kawasaki: 9
  4. KTM: 6
  5. Husqvarna/Suzuki/BMW: 1

Honda has only tightened its stranglehold recently, here measured over the past five seasons.

Winners of the 18 Miles contested from 2019-present:

  1. Honda: 11 (61%) (split among seven riders)
  2. Yamaha: 4 (split among two riders)
  3. KTM: 3 (split among three riders)

And to underline the importance of the equipment, you’ll note its 11 wins in 18 races have been delivered by seven different riders representing three different teams. And as pointed out earlier, this does not include Chase Saathoff, who will be in position to increase those statistics to eight and four this weekend.

All that said, riders still do make a very real difference. Tom Drane – just a season-and-a-half into his Progressive AFT career – could actually break a nine-way tie and claim sole possession of second on the all-time class Mile wins list with a victory this weekend:

Career Mile Wins:

  1. Shayna Texter-Bauman: 8
  2. Michael Toon/Stephen Vanderkuur/Tristan Avery/Ryan Wells/Kolby Carlile/Dan Bromley/Mikey Rush/Trevor Brunner/Tom Drane: 3

championship standings

SuperTwins Standings

Singles Standings

About Progressive American Flat Track: 

Progressive American Flat Track, sanctioned by AMA Pro Racing, is the world’s premier dirt track motorcycle racing series and one of the longest-running championships in the history of motorsports. Sanctioned by AMA Pro Racing in Daytona Beach, Fla., the series is highly regarded as the most competitive form of dirt track motorcycle racing on the globe. For more information on Progressive American Flat Track, please visit us on the web, like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, check us out on Instagram and catch all the Progressive American Flat Track racing action on FOX Sports. 

Source: Progressive American Flat Track

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