Jared Mees knew what he had to do Saturday night at the AMA Pro Flat Track finale to wrap up the Grand National Championship overall title, and he did just that.
Mees rode his No. 9 Rodgers Racing Harley-Davidson to a fourth place finish at the Flat Track Finals at the LA County Fairplex in Pomona, Calif., and claimed the No. 1 plate by three points over Bryan Smith (279-276), who took the checkered flag in convincing fashion on his No. 42 Villa-Esparza/Crosley Radio Yamaha for the fifth time this year.
The championship is the second overall for Mees after also claiming the No. 1 plate in 2012.
“It was a great year, a lot of fun, and I can’t say enough for everybody (on my team),” Mees said. “This one was cool because I battled it out with my good friend.”
Mees, a Michigan resident, was methodical rather than dominant all year. Outside of a 12th place showing in the second race of the season-opening double header at Daytona, he never finished worse than fifth. While he won only two races, he was on the podium 10 times.
He was outstanding at every stop. His two wins came on half-mile tracks, but Mees was runner-up at the Peoria TT and third in four of the five races of a mile or further.
Jake Johnson put his No. 5 Ramspur Winery Harley-Davidson in second, and Brad Baker, the defending GNC champion, was third on his No. 1 Factory Harley-Davidson.
In his heat race, Mees had a great start and led the first few laps before Johnson took the top spot and cruised to the win. But Mees was second in his heat, punching his ticket to the Dash for Cash, where he was second to Smith. Mees then needed to only finish sixth or better in the main to clinch.
“I knew Bryan and Baker were going to be the two toughest guys,” Mees said. “Bryan did what he had to do today, he had to go out there and dominate, and he did.
“And I knew I had to get into that Dash, I knew that, mentally, I needed to get into that Dash, and I knew I either needed to beat him or be right there on him in the Dash, and I did it. I knew that would give me a good cushion in the main event to be able to run my own race.”
Smith’s shot at the title took a sudden turn two weeks ago at the Calistoga Half-Mile. He was leading the championship and riding at the front when his bike began to smoke and he was black flagged. He was later disqualified for failing to heed the black flag. Mees took second and had the points lead coming to Pomona.
That meant even his series-best fifth victory of the year wasn’t enough for Smith to grab the title.
“Jared’s one (heck) of a competitor,” Smith said. “He’s been a thorn in my side the last half of my career. He’s a good friend of mine, he did what he had to do. And I did what I had to do tonight, he did what he had to do this year, don’t want to take anything away from him. It was a hard-fought year. I know I did everything I could all season long and we came up a little bit short. But everybody knows I’ll be back strong next year.”
Johnson finished the season comfortably in third in points, 15 behind Mees.
AMA Pro Flat Track Pro Singles
It didn’t happen the way he might have scripted it, but the end result was a dream come true for Kyle Johnson.
Johnson finished second behind Davis Fisher at the Flat Track Finals and claimed the overall Pro Singles title by a single point (191-190). It’s the first professional title for the promising 20-year-old from Michigan.
Coming into the event, Johnson’s points lead was cut to just six points over Fisher following a crash at Calistoga, so the pilot of the No. 77J Parkinson Brothers Honda really had to earn the title.
“It feels great,” Johnson said. “Two weeks ago (at Calistoga) definitely didn’t go as planned, didn’t get the points we wanted, lost a lot to Davis. Coming in here, we knew Davis was going to be fast, he’s been fast all season, just like we were. I knew we had to stay close, we didn’t have to beat him. I got up to second place and I had a little bit of breathing room, I wasn’t going to push, I knew we had the championship, and that’s what our goal was.”
After a run of four wins in five races in the summer, Johnson looked to be running away with the title. Then bad luck began to come his way. He also crashed hard at Peoria and finished outside the top 10 in three of the last six races coming into Pomona.
But Johnson handled his business in the finale. He was the second-fastest qualifier for the main, behind Fisher on the No. 67M T.J. Burnett Farms Honda, but only by .031 seconds. In the main, Fisher jumped out to the lead and never looked back.
Instead, Johnson was really racing with third place finisher Jarod Vanderkooi on the 17F Johnny’s Vintage Cycle Honda. As the race progressed though, Johnson began to gap Vanderkooi and the title was his.
Fisher said his season exceeded his expectations, and the strong finish is something to carry into next year.
“It’s not disappointing at all,” Fisher said. “My goal was to get top 10 this year. To finish the season off a point behind Kyle is a pretty good feeling. I did the best I could the last two races.”
AMA Pro Flat Track Pro Singles Top 5 finishers
1. Davis Fisher (TJ Burnet Farms/Honda)
2. Kyle Johnson (Parkinson Brothers Racing/ Honda)
3. Jarod Vanderkooi (Johnny’s Vintage Motorcycle/ Honda)
4. Ryan Wells (KTM/KTM)
5. Ryan Foster (Thresher Communications/ Honda)
AMA Pro Flat Track Pro Singles Top 5 in standings
1. Kyle Johnson (191)
2. Davis Fisher (190)
3. Ryan Wells (171)
4. Jarod Vanderkooi (150)
5. Bronson Bauman (148)
AMA Pro Grand National Championship Top 5 finishers
1. Bryan Smith (Villa-Esparza, Crosley Radio/ Kawasaki)
2. Jake Johnson (Ramspur Winery/ Harley-Davidson)
3. Brad Baker (Harley-Davidson Motor Company/ Harley-Davidson)
4. Jared Mees (Rogers Racing/ Harley-Davidson)
5. Henry Wiles (Zanotti Racing/ Harley-Davidson)
AMA Pro Grand National Championship Top 5 in standings
1. Jared Mees (279)
2. Bryan Smith (276)
3. Jake Johnson (264)
4. Kenny Coolbeth (208)
5. Brad Baker (202)