Tom Drane P2 on Flat Track Singles debut at Lima Half-Mile
Images by Tim Lester
With each successive race, Kody Kopp (KTM 450 SX-FFE) continues to further the case that he’s the odds-on favorite to claim this year’s Parts Unlimited AFT Singles presented by KICKER crown.
At Lima, Kopp scored a second consecutive blowout victory, his fourth win among six top-twos in just seven attempts this season. The emerging superstar gapped the field within a single lap and then piled it on from there, ultimately winning with more than four seconds in hand.
“Two-in-a-row! We had another great day of riding and the bike was pretty dialed in from the start. It got pretty gnarly, the track conditions were deep, and I just used my ability to ride through rough tracks to my advantage. We had a good battle in the dash with Australian Tom Drane and he actually edged us out, and that fired me up pretty good for the Main Event so we put our head down and went to work. We’re at our fourth win of the season, which is pretty crazy if you ask me. It’s an unreal feeling. This team works so well together and the bikes are spot on every weekend. We’ve got a long way to go but we’re going to keep charging and keep pushing because we can’t let up!”
Kopp’s mastery was reminiscent of that of his father, 2000 Grand National Champion Joe Kopp, who won at the circuit three times.
While there was little drama in deciding the podium, the race still proved to be a spectacular showcase for the future stars of the sport. Joining 17-year-old Kopp in the spotlight were a pair of 16-year-old phenoms.
Australian Tom Drane (KTM 450 SX-F) earned a remarkable runner-up result in his Progressive AFT debut while Rookie of the Year hopeful Chase Saathoff (Honda CRF450R) scooped up his second consecutive third-place finish. No other riders had finished within 16 seconds of the runaway Kopp. Drane had crossed the line four-seconds behind Kopp in the Main after staging a remarkable come from behind victory after a great tactical ride in the Dash for Cash event to best Kopp in that one.
The Young Aussie had been taken under the wings of the Waters Autobody Racing Team for the event and they had only taken delivery of a Jamie Stauffer built engine only minutes before the racing got underway!
Dalton Gauthier (Honda CRF450R) came home fourth, while James Ott (KTM 450 SX-F) won out in a tight scrap for fifth ahead of Trevor Brunner (Yamaha YZ450F) and Morgen Mischler (Honda CRF450R).
As a result of Kopp’s win and Mischler’s seventh, Kopp now boasts a rather hefty 31-point advantage (155-134) in a quickly tilting title fight.
Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Max Whale is still recovering from a knee injury sustained earlier this season. Whale’s recovery time is day-to-day at this point and the Australian native hopes to return to racing within the next couple of rounds.
A rejuvenated Brandon Robinson (Indian FTR750) earned his first premier class victory of the 2022 Progressive American Flat Track season in Saturday’s Mission Lima Half-Mile at the Allen County Fairgrounds in Ohio.
Robinson has established himself as the Mission SuperTwins rider most likely to steal the occasional win away from class dominators Jared Mees (Indian FTR750) and Briar Bauman (Indian FTR750).
However, on this night, Robinson had to overcome the challenge of the series’ newest star in Dallas Daniels (Yamaha MT-07) to get to the chequered flag first. The rookie looked to be the race favorite prior to the Main but gave himself a big task by getting shuffled down from pole to sixth at the start.
So instead, it was Daniels’ team-mate, JD Beach (Yamaha MT-07), who took point early on despite searching for pace all day long. Beach actually gapped the field by nearly a second in the early going before the likes of Robinson, Bauman, Mees, and Daniels really got rolling.
Robinson was the first one by and built up a one-a-half-second lead of his own by the time Daniels arrived in second with some six minutes remaining on the clock. The Yamaha pilot steadily ate away at that gap, drawing near enough to crisscross in front of Robinson momentarily with his low-to-high line with less than three minutes remaining.
The Mission Roof Systems rider was up for the challenge, adjusting his line to tighten his grip on the race. Daniels eventually conceded, allowing Robinson to secure the win with a 2.766-second margin of victory.
The breakthrough was Robinson’s second Lima triumph, the first coming back in 2016. Afterward, he said, “We needed this. This year has been an absolute struggle for us… My team hasn’t given up, and they gave me a great motorcycle. All the guys pitch in and make this fun. Man, I needed this big. I can’t wait to go to the next one now.”
Reigning champion and current points leader Mees worked his way past Bauman late to round out the podium, while Beach came home in fifth behind the two works Indian runners. Mees’ championship advantage was reduced slightly as a result; he now leads Daniels 139-127, while Bauman (115) and Beach (112) remain solidly in contention.
Bronson Bauman (Harley-Davidson XG750R) finished in sixth just ahead of Jarod Vanderkooi (Indian FTR750) and Davis Fisher (Indian FTR750).
Cory Texter (Yamaha MT-07) was the top Mission Production Twins Challenge entrant in ninth, while Brandon Price (KTM Duke 890) rounded out the top ten in his first ride aboard the KTM.
Mission Production Twins presented by Vance & Hines
In recent weeks, defending Mission Production Twins presented by Vance & Hines champion Cory Texter (Yamaha MT-07) has been quietly keeping his hopes for a third and final class crown alive by clawing his way to gritty seconds, thirds, and fourths on nights he just didn’t have the speed to contend for the win.
Texter was anything but quiet on Saturday night at Allen County Fairgrounds, registering a lopsided victory to narrow the gap to title leader Jesse Janisch (Harley-Davidson XG750R) to just a single point (132-131).
Texter, Janisch, and Ben Lowe (Harley-Davidson XG750R) exploited the multiple nature of the circuit to each take a turn at the lead on the opening lap of the Main Event. But by lap two, Texter had seized control and he would never relent.
Janisch both kept Texter honest and minimized the damage with a steady ride to second at a track he’s never completely gelled with.
The win was Texter’s second of the season and his (and Yamaha’s) first ever at Lima. He said, “I’ve been coming here since I was two years old – maybe younger. Last year, I was all angry on the podium. I knew I could do better here. I rode really hard at the beginning and then just brought it home. This is my last Lima, and this is one I’m going to miss. It’s such an iconic track. It feels amazing to finally win here.”
Billy Ross (Harley-Davidson XG750R) proved his win at Laconia was no fluke by following up that maiden victory with a second-career podium. It didn’t come easily, however, as he only just managed to fend off a charging Cameron Smith (Yamaha MT-07).
Smith, who boasted terrific speed all day, encountered unwelcome bike issues just prior to the start and was forced to move to the back of the grid. Despite that, Smith powered through the pelting roost of the field to finish in fourth, just over a half-second back of the box.
Cole Zabala (Yamaha MT-07) finished another two seconds back, equaling his best finish of the year in fifth.
The 2022 Progressive AFT season picks right back up next weekend with the Mission New York Short Track presented by Mad Max Indian Motorcycle at Weedsport Speedway in Weedsport, New York, on Saturday, July 2.
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