The 2019 American Flat Track season got off to a rousing start on Thursday with the Daytona TT and, at the end of the night, Jake Johnson ran a calculated race in tough conditions to put the Estenson Racing Yamaha MT-07 DT in the famed Victory Lane at Daytona International Speedway. On the other side of the tent, it was a roller coaster night for both JD Beach and Kolby Carlile with Beach not making the Main Event and Carlile’s night ending early with a mechanical.
Johnson started slow in the practice sessions but ultimately qualified sixth. When it came time to race, though, the “Squadfather” continued to work his way up, finishing fifth in his Heat, and second in his Semi. In the Main Event, there were some early battles, but Johnson was able to establish himself firmly in third position. Looking for more, the two-time Grand National Champion went to work chasing down second place, but he unfortunately broke his shifter in the dirt berm of the chicane. Johnson was then in full conservation mode and crossed the line third on his Estenson Racing Yamaha MT-07 DT in its maiden AFT Twins race.
For most of the Main, it looked like the team would have two riders take the checkers in the top five, with Johnson solidly in third and Carlile in fifth. However with five laps remaining, Carlile had a bobble, which resulted in him slipping back to sixth. And then, on the final lap, disaster struck for Carlile when he suffered a mechanical and was unable to finish the race.
As heartbreaking as the situation was for Carlile, the third AFT Twins rider on the team, Beach, suffered an even bigger heartbreaker. Beach, who looked to be one of the favorites to win the AFT Twins Main, qualified fourth and took the win in his Heat race. Unfortunately for Beach, it all went pear shaped with a first turn crash. He remounted and made a valiant effort to still try and make the Main Event, but he had too much ground to make up.
One rider per Main or Semi has the option to use a provisional card to advance in the program, but unfortunately for Beach that is based on points standings. As this was the first race of the season, that defaulted to last year’s points when Beach only raced three events in the series, so he was unable to use his in Daytona.
Jake Johnson – AFT Twins #5:
“I dug the shifter into the dirt in the chicane after the jump and bent it around backwards. Then it was kind of panic mode for the last 12 laps, just trying to get that thing to shift. I was hitting neutral, missing gears. I was just trying to be calm and bring it home on the box. The way the track was, it kind of helped because when you would come through turn one on the dirt, you could see the guys coming off the banking. So I kind of had a gauge. I had a good gap but I could kind of tell they were getting closer, but not fast enough to get me. I was able to bring it home third. After all the work that’s gone into this deal over the winter – not that we had any doubts, but there were a lot of questions coming in: brand-new bikes, brand-new crew, brand-new everything – so, to be able to put it on the box the first time out feels pretty good.”
Kolby Carlile – AFT Twins #136:
“I really can’t be too mad about anything that happened. We did have a DNF at the end of the day with two laps to go, but there are not a lot of rookies right now that are running top five in their first Main Event, so I’m really happy about that. The team and I are gelling really well. We had a really good package today. We didn’t make a bunch of changes, but the changes we did make, I was confident with, and they always helped. So that was good. I’m just happy. It was good to sit up in the top five, top six basically the whole race and to know I can be there now. The TT was kind of tough. Hopefully I can just keep carrying this momentum on for the rest of the year, and to all the ovals. I know I have a lot to learn, but I think we got off to a good start.”
JD Beach – AFT Twins #95:
“It was a good day for sure leading up to the Semi, but I just made a mistake with the front brake. I think the track kind of caught me off-guard because the moisture started to come up a little bit, and I lost the front. We got the bike back going again, but of course by then I was too far back. We’ll just try again next weekend.”