AFT Twins riders were met with atypical track conditions at the 100th running of the Springfield Mile this Labor Day weekend. Leading the way for the Estenson Racing squad was Jake Johnson, while veteran Ronnie Jones and rookie Kolby Carlile both struggled.
Going into the race, Johnson said he preferred a rougher track than the characteristically smooth Springfield surface. Well, be careful what you wish for. Although Johnson didn’t struggle as much as others, he was not able to take advantage of it, either. He got a bad start in the Main, but was able to charge his way up to sixth. While a sixth-place finish was not what he was hoping for, the team’s AFT Twins regular left Springfield Mile II smiling with a much better result than earlier this spring. The two-time Grand National Champion and his crew also made more progress with the Indian Scout FTR750 and Johnson looks to build on that progress with strong results on the big tracks these last three races of the season.
As for the reigning AFT Singles Champion Carlile, the handling issues with his Twin made for a steep learning curve. It was also day two on a physical racetrack, and Carlile just couldn’t find the comfort zone to push the envelope and run with the front-runners. Although disappointed that he didn’t meet his goal of making the Main, he learned something from it and is eager to get more time on the Twin and continue his education.
It wasn’t just the rookie who struggled Sunday at Springfield. Veteran Ronnie Jones had the same handling issues, albeit intermittently. Unfortunately for Jones, those issues reared its ugly head in the Main. As experience teaches that discretion is the better part of valor, Jones pulled off towards the end of the race rather than ride around in circles and risk crashing. At the end of the day, the 57-year-old was happy with his fifth and final race of the season, making his third Main event in 2018.
Jake Johnson – AFT Twins #5:
“I kind of got a bad jump off the line but I’m pretty sure the first two laps I never shut the throttle off. I just went to the top and just tried to mow around as many guys as I could. For a little while it was just kind of me and [Jake] Shoemaker going back and forth. I was able to clear him. Then for the whole second half of the race I was pretty much just by myself. So, I just kind of rolled around by myself basically in that second half of the race and came home sixth.
“I would have liked to have been in that top-four pack, going for it. But we made progress all day. We went from watching the Main event in the spring, to finishing sixth, so It’s not bad. I still feel like we should be better. We are better. But we’re still learning and figuring things out with this bike. We’re climbing our way up the ladder in the points, not that it really means anything but we’re at least steadily in the first practice session every week, which is good. Obviously, I’d like to finish these last three rounds off with some wins or podiums or whatever, but if we can stay in the top five these last three rounds, I think that will be good.”
Kolby Carlile – AFT Twins #36:
“Yeah. The track was pretty rough today. I had quite a few handling issues with the bike. The bike was shaking a lot and it was really tough for me to ride it super-hard. I definitely learned a lot about the pace and running up with those front guys, but with the bike, I didn’t feel safe enough to push it and go for it to run with those guys. Sadly, it wasn’t the result we wanted, but I think I learned something about the pace and the aggressiveness. Hopefully for the next time we can get the bike dialed in and I can learn quite a bit more and we’ll be better off.”
Ronnie Jones – AFT Twins #266:
“The track wasn’t the typical Springfield Mile – the beautiful, perfect racetrack that it normally is – but it was the same for everybody. We kind of had issues all day with just suspension, settings, and I had the steering head shake, the same issue other guys were having. Mine was kind of intermittent during the day until the Main event. When I went out in the main event, every straightaway the thing was just shaking so bad I couldn’t reach up to remove a tear-off.
“You usually relax on the straightaway so you can kind of wrestle it in the corners, but I wasn’t getting any rest on the straightaways and wrestling it in the corners and it finally just wore me out. Once I got to where I realized I wasn’t able to really race anybody, I just said, no point in being out there so I pulled off. But all in all, I’m just so thankful to Tim Estenson for giving me the opportunity to come out here and do this. It’s been a lot of fun.”
Relive the action of the Springfield ST and Springfield Mile II on NBCSN, September 22 at 2:30 p.m. ET.