Jake Johnson was hoping to carry his X Games medal momentum into the first round of American Flat Track’s Sturgis Rally doubleheader at the Buffalo Chip TT on Sunday, August 5. Well that momentum picked up in a big way as the two-time Grand National Champion put on a great performance in front of a packed house at the Buffalo Chip Campground to take home his first win in over two years and Estenson Racing’s first-ever Grand National victory.
It was easy to see straight away that Johnson was back in true form, looking much more comfortable on the bike. But still, the veteran rider had his work cut out for him. There were some heavyweight TT contenders to go up against and on a track that was far easier to make mistakes than to make passes. Johnson scored a pair of second-place finishes in the Heat and Semi, but unfortunately got off to a bad start in the Main.
As he did at the X Games, Johnson was patient and let the race come to him. As riders in front of him made costly errors, Johnson worked his way up to second and eventually passed reigning AFT Twins Champion Jared Mees. Once Johnson got up front he put his head down and opened up a gap to take a convincing victory on his Estenson Racing Indian Scout FTR750. A win that not only ended his drought in the class, but also marked his first win on a Twin since the 2011 Pomona Half-Mile.
Jake Johnson – AFT Twins #5:
“It was a little up and down. I got a horrible start, and I thought it was over. Just got a bad jump, it was so tough to pass, everybody was kind of jamming up in the corners and there was nowhere to go. So I went with the same strategy as X Games, just kind of be patient and let the chaos happen; and it did.
“Catching Jared Mees is one thing but passing him is another. I was kind of searching all over. We had a little gap behind us so I didn’t have to be defensive. I got a run on him coming out of the right-hander, saw an opening and went for it. I then just tried to put my head down and put some good laps in and get a little bit of a gap. When the five-to-go board came out, I was just counting them down, ‘don’t crash, don’t do anything stupid.’ I kind of opened my lines up a little bit and stayed away from all the hazards and brought it home.
“It feels good, but it really hasn’t set in. It’s been so long… It’s been over two years since I’ve won a race, which was on a 450, but it’s been since Pomona 2011 since my last win on a Twin. So yeah, it’s been a long time coming and I was happy to be able to repay Tim [Estenson] for his support this year and give Estenson Racing their first win on a Twin.”
Catch the race on NBCSN, August 11 at 8:30 p.m. ET.