Saddlemen Racing/Lancaster Harley-Davidson's Jared Mees proved that he has the mettle to mingle with the best short trackers in the business by scoring his first career Formula USA National Dirt Track Series victory in a thriller of a National at the Skip VanLeeuwen Short Track at the Del Mar Rodeo Arena on October 4.
In a frantic race, the 17-year-old Mees prevailed in a seesaw battle that had him trading the lead with Team Kawasaki/WKR's Tommy Hayden from about the halfway point onward in the 30-lap National. Mees was able to work the outside to protection while Hayden clung to the pole, the two swapping positions off every corner; Mees was better in turns one and two, Hayden in three and four. In the end, Mees was able to swing the battle in a way that allowed him to lead the race across the stripe during the last few laps. He won the race by a mere bike length on the tight Del Mar Rodeo Arena circuit.
"Man, I still can't believe what happened," Mees said after winning the race. "What a great race. My bike worked good everywhere. Right off the bat I went up high and just tried to keep my momentum going. It feels so good to win in my first [Formula USA] main. I race a lot of short tracks back at home, and that was one of the best ones I have ever been in. It was so cool to be able to battle with Tommy."
Hayden finished second, followed by Memphis Shades/Parts Unlimited Yamaha's J.R. Schnabel, who came from the second row to finish third. Schnabel pulled closer to the Hayden/Mees battle in the late going, when the two front-runners were swapping the lead, but he ran out of laps before he could mount a challenge to Hayden. Team KTM/Jones Powersports' Joe Kopp also came from behind to finish fourth, ahead of Zanotti Racing/Hlebo Brothers Honda-mounted John Hlebo III.
By virtue of his 10th-place finish in the main event, 1st Racing Honda's Bryan Smith was able to clinch the Formula USA K&N Filters National Dirt Track Championship, wresting the title away from his teammate and defending National Champion Terry Poovey, who finished eighth in the main event.
The Formula USA season concludes with the K&N Filters Del Mar Mile tomorrow. Here are the results and series points standings after the Del Mar Short Track:
NATIONAL (30 laps; 16 riders): 1. Jared Mees (Hon); 2. Tommy Hayden (Yam); 3. J.R. Schnabel (Yam); 4. Joe Kopp (KTM); 5. John Hlebo III (Hon); 6. Kenny Coolbeth (KTM); 7. Roger Lee Hayden (Hon); 8. Terry Poovey (Hon); 9. Rod Spencer (Hon); 10. Bryan Smith (Hon); 11. Jethro Halbert (Hon); 12. Kyle Ragsdale (Hon); 13. Kevin Varnes (Suz); 14. Willie McCoy (Hon); 15. Johnny Murphree (Hon); 16. Rob Pearson (Hon).
Time: No time, due to red flag.
FORMULA USA K&N FILTERS NATIONAL DIRT TRACK SERIES POINTS STANDINGS (After 8 of 9 rounds): 1. Bryan Smith (178/2 wins); 2. Terry Poovey (178/1 win); 3. Willie McCoy (154); 4. Dave Durelle (152/1 win); 5. Kenny Coolbeth (148/1 win); 6. J.R. Schnabel (134); 7. Jared Mees (128); 8. Rob Pearson (126/1 win); 9. Nick Cummings (126); 10. Joe Kopp (122); 11. Dan Stanley (120); 12. Jethro Halbert (108); 13. Kyle Ragsdale (98); 14. Logan Myers (90); 15. Rich King (78); 16. John Hlebo III (74); 17. Greg Teague (62); 18. Merle Scherb (56); 19. Jake Johnson (48); 20. Henry Wiles (44).