5 American Flat Track Twins Riders To Watch In 2018

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One year into the unknown—new rules, new class structure, new racetracks, new manufacturers—American Flat Track has a different sort of unknown in 2018. What is known is the sport is continuing its upward trajectory with another 18-round schedule, three new venues, and an improved television package with NBCSN.

Jared Mees

There’s no question Jared Mees (9) is on top of his game, so the real question is, can the factory Indian rider top his title-winning performance from 2017?

Andrea Wilson

AFT has also undergone a shuffling of the deck, so to speak, with several top premier-class riders switching teams. There are further questions surrounding the factory Harley-Davidson effort and the impact the newly available-to-privateers Indian Scout FTR750 will have on the competition.

Bryan Smith

For every action there’s an opposite and equal reaction. Bryan Smith is more motivated than ever to get that number-one plate back on his bike in 2018.

Andrea Wilson

Here is a breakdown of the riders to watch in AFT’s Twins class, plus a few dark horses.

Number 1: Defending champ Jared Mees is the number-one threat to win the title again. He had a dominant performance in 2017, with 10 wins and 17 podiums. His only blemish was failing to make the main event at the Lima Half-Mile after twice jumping the start in the semi. Mees is known for his consistency, but setting the record for the most podiums in a single season has raised the bar. Only question is, can Mees improve on ’17?

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Brad Baker

Brad Baker is young, talented, and has taken his lumps. With more experience under his belt, “The Bullet” is aiming to lead the way and bring home his second title.

Andrea Wilson

Number 2: Bryan Smith and Mees have finished either first or second for the past four seasons. Smith took the number-one plate from Mees in 2016 in epic fashion: in the fourth and final corner on the last lap of the season finale. Mees responded by leaving Smith and everyone else in the dust. Now it’s Smith’s turn. With two new miles added toward the end of the race calendar, the “Mile Master” may have an edge if he stays in the game.

Kenny Coolbeth Jr.

This could be the year that Kenny Coolbeth Jr. gets his groove back. The veteran champion is reunited with tuner David Atherton and feels he has something to prove.

Andrea Wilson

Number 3: Completing Indian’s sweep of the 2017 AFT point standings, Brad Baker returns as a triple threat. He’s young. He’s fast. He also has no fear, a lot of talent, and a Grand National title on his résumé. On the flipside, he’s made mistakes and suffered injuries. “The Bullet” is only happy winning, but even though he came up short last year in that department, he still scored 11 podiums. This time around, there may be no stopping him.

Number 4: It’s easy to look toward youth for flat track’s heir apparent, but you can never count out a veteran, especially when that rider is Kenny Coolbeth Jr. After a rough year on a factory Harley-Davidson, the three-time Grand National champion is once again reunited with David Atherton. The pair proved to be magic after Coolbeth’s previous split with H-D in 2013. Although this a privateer effort, they’re armed with an Indian FTR750.

Sammy Halbert

Sammy Halbert helped put Estenson Racing on the flat-track map. Will he do the same for Harley-Davidson’s nascent XG750R program?

Andrea Wilson

Number 5: Coolbeth’s ex-teammate Jake Johnson is another veteran to watch. He has championship credentials—two, to be precise—and, like Coolbeth, he’s reunited with a tuner with whom he enjoyed previous success, Ted McDermitt. Furthermore, Estenson Racing is considered a leading privateer effort. As such, Estenson has given Johnson three bike options: a Yamaha FZ-07, an Indian FTR750, and a Harley-Davidson XR750.

Briar Bauman

Briar Bauman is often left out of the hype, but he is on a proven privateer team—Zanotti Racing—and showed with a pair of wins in 2017 that he can get the job done.

Andrea Wilson

Jeffrey Carver Jr.

Jeffrey Carver Jr. is another championship dark horse, having scored his first AFT win on a Twin this past season in Texas.

Andrea Wilson

Briar Bauman is the only rider to win more than one race not named Mees or Smith, and Zanotti Racing, while not factory supported, has earned respect in the paddock. Jeffrey Carver Jr.—the only other rider to win a race in 2017—is another one to watch. He smoked the competition at the Lone Star Half-Mile. Carver and his team are coming into 2018 with Indian FTR750s and additional financial support.

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