Courtesy of Cycle News
Jake Johnson delivered a virtuoso performance to reign supreme in front of a wildly enthusiastic crowd of Sturgis Rallygoers who packed the house for Sunday evening’s Buffalo Chip TT presented by Indian Motorcycle, Round 12 of 18 of the 2018 American Flat Track championship.

But in order to do so, Johnson (No. 5 Estenson Racing/McCandless Truck Center Indian Scout FTR750) was forced to do the impossible – namely, track down and overtake reigning AFT Twins presented by Vance & Hines champion Jared Mees (No. 1 Indian Motorcycle Rogers Racing SDI Scout FTR750).

Mees inherited the lead after last year’s Buffalo Chip winner Briar Bauman (No. 14 Zanotti Racing Kawasaki Ninja 650) crashed and collected second-placed Jarod Vanderkooi (No. 20 Harley-Davidson Factory Flat Track Team XG750R). Mees appeared to have a clear path to his 10th victory of the season, but Johnson chased him down and overhauled him with relative ease at about the halfway point in the 25-lap Main.

From there J.J. controlled the contest en route to his fifth career TT victory. Mees narrowly held second, being forced to defend the position from Sammy Halbert (No. 69 Harley-Davidson Factory Flat Track Team XG750R) to the checkered flag.

Johnson couldn’t have asked for a better environment to return to the top of the podium. In only its second year, the Buffalo Chip TT furthered its near-instantaneous claim as one of the genuine destination events on the AFT calendar. Some 10,000 raucous fans again jammed the fences around the purpose-built TT circuit laid out on the fabled Buffalo Chip Campgrounds to lend the evening a rock concert-like atmosphere.

And that was fitting, because the race action effectively served as the ultimate opening act for Theory of a Deadman, who took to the stage immediately following the podium ceremonies to keep a memorable Sunday at the 78th Annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally rocking late into the night.

Johnson, AFT’s undisputed rock star of the evening, said, “I got a bad start and thought my night was over as soon as the green light went. Still, I was patient. There were guys jamming and crashing up front. But after I caught Jared, I couldn’t wait. The door opened and I had to take it. Luckily I was able to put some good laps in and get a bit of breathing room.

“I’m not going to lie,” Johnson added. “Those last five laps I was holding my breath. It’s been a long time since I’ve won one of these.” The victory was Johnson’s first since the opening weekend of the 2016 season. It was also his first aboard an Indian.

Despite the rare defeat, Mees continues to dominate the championship fight. His Sunday runner-up finish saw him open his points lead up to a head-shaking 85 points.

Jake Johnson (center) celebrates his win on the AFT Twins podium with Jared Mees (left) and Sammy Halbert. Photo: Dave Hoenig

Jake Johnson (center) celebrates his win on the AFT Twins podium with Jared Mees (left) and Sammy Halbert. Photo: Dave Hoenig