Wiseco racer Jared Mees is actively writing his legendary American Flat Track story aboard his Indian Scout FTR750. We caught up with Mees to get his outlook on his flat track journey thus far.
Jared Mees is the type of person who was likely always picked first in any schoolyard game. That’s because Mees is a fierce and relentless competitor with otherworldly talent. Moreover, the 32-year-old seemingly wins with regularity. Need proof? In the past two seasons Mees has earned 20 victories in 36 tries (or 55% of the time). When he doesn’t climb the top step of the podium, the Pennsylvania native uses the loss as motivation. Tenacious and strong, Mees has a “Never say die” attitude that fans adore and fellow racers abhor.
Mees has given his life to flat track racing. As a result, flat track racing has given back to Mees. He has etched his name in the American Flat Track Racing [AFT] history books, met his wife (former racer Nichole Cheza), and became the promotor of the famed Lima Half-Mile.
The two-time defending AFT Twins Champion has been busy preparing for the start of the 2019 season, which kicks off in Daytona Beach on March 14th. We caught up with Mees to talk about the evolution of American Flat Track, jumping a 325-pound motorcycle, the possibility of completing a perfect season, and what performance factors he looks for out of his Indian Scout FTR750. Put on your leathers and hold on!
What attracted you to flat track?
Mees: My father got me involved in the sport when I was five years old. It was pretty much love at first ride. We started going to the track every weekend, and I was hooked. I went to my first race and did well, so we went to the next one and so on. As far back as I can remember we went racing every weekend.
What kind of opportunities has flat track created for you that might not have been possible otherwise?
Mees: It’s hard to say, because everything I have done in my life has been racing related. Having done flat track since I was five years old, it’s all I have ever known. I turned Pro when I was 16. In a sense, I can chalk up every opportunity that has been given to me to flat track. I eat, sleep, and dream about flat track racing. My whole life is dedicated to this sport.
Where is the most interesting place in the world that you have raced?
Mees: The overseas races stand out in my mind. Australia has always been a fun place to visit. I went to Barcelona, Spain, as well. Those two places stick out in my mind.
What’s it like jumping a short-travel Indian Scout FTR750 on a TT track?
Mees: [Laughter] It’s a 325-pound motorcycle soaring through the air, and you land like a ton of bricks. We do the best we can to account for those situations. At the end of the day, it’s a twin-cylinder 325-pound motorcycle getting launched in the air and landing to flat. It can hurt sometimes, that’s for sure.
Do you hone your flat track skills by doing any cross-over two-wheeled motorsports?
Mees: I ride a lot of motocross, especially during this time of the year. I go out two to three times a week here in Florida.
Of all your accomplishments in racing, which victory is sweetest?
Mees: Any one of the Lima half-mile race wins have a special place in my heart. I felt like those were huge victories. My first win came in Lima, Ohio.
Between the four course lengths, which is your favorite?
Mees: I like the half-mile and mile courses. Those types of courses seem to agree with me the most. I guess that’s because of my bike setup and also my riding style.
What’s more difficult, racing at the highest level, or operating your own business?
Mees: The business side of things takes the most work. It isn’t as fun as racing. I promote the Lima half-mile race, and I run my own flat track team. Between those ventures and racing, I’m definitely a busy person.
In 2017 you said, “The scary thing for me is that I don’t know if I can ever repeat such a historical, fun year.” Yet you raised the bar in 2018. Does success from the past two years put added pressure on you for 2019?
Mees: No, I wouldn’t say there’s added pressure. At the end of the day, I want to win the championship. That’s the goal. If I can win the championship, then I’m all set.
Ricky Carmichael and James Stewart completed perfect AMA Pro Motocross Championship seasons by going 24-0. In fact, Carmichael did it twice. Do you think a perfect season is possible in American Flat Track?
Mees: Anything’s possible. You just have to go and win them all, right? [laughter] I don’t see anyone ever going 18-0 or 24-0 in Flat Track. The tracks are so much different from one to the next. We don’t get a whole lot of practice time on the track to figure out bike setup. Often, if a guy shows up the day of the race and he’s going fast right out of the box, there’s a really good chance he’s going to have a good rest of the day. I don’t see a perfect season happening. Is that a goal of mine? It’s really more or less a dream. The goal for 2019 is to win my seventh championship.
Indian Motorcycles recently took American Flat Track by storm with the Scout FTR750. How did they become so successful so quickly?
Mees: Indian came into the sport in 2016. I spoke to Paul Langley [President of S&S Cycle] at a trade show of that year. Paul was a big part of the program. He handed me a confidentiality agreement, and I spoke with the people from Indian Motorcycles about a month later. I initially signed on as a test rider. I had a lot of input into the FTR750, as did my mechanic, Kenny Tolbert. The Scout FTR750 came out in June, and around the middle of August I realized that the bike could be a huge threat in racing. Towards the end of the racing season, we were making big progress. Then we started negotiating plans for 2017, and I officially signed the contract in September of 2016 to race for Indian Motorcycles.
What are your thoughts on the American Flat Track rule change allowing other OEMs with production engines an additional 150cc’s and 40mm throttle bodies?
Mees: It is what it is. The only place where it will really help anyone out is on the mile-long tracks. There are only six courses on the schedule this year that are a mile long, which is one-third of the schedule. I’m not too worried about it. The Indian wasn’t the fastest or biggest horsepower number motorcycle on the track in 2018. Having said that, you have to get the power to the ground. Flat track is not like drag racing or road racing, where you have pure traction and long straightaways. Those are big differences. It’s all about getting hooked up and driving out of the corners.
How has American Flat Track evolved since you turned Pro?
Mees: It has really grown, and there are a few reasons why. Indian Motorcycles coming in and building a purpose-built flat track bike was huge. That hadn’t been done in four or five decades, really not since the Honda RS750. A lot of the dealers got excited and stood behind the movement because of the Indian Scout FTR750. Also, the X Games have played a big role in featuring flat track at their event. It also helps that guys like Valentino Rossi, Marc Marquez, Nicky Hayden, and Troy Bayliss have done flat track and raised awareness.
As a six-time champion, your accomplishments speak for themselves. Part of your winning strategy has to be aligning with key brands. Wiseco helps you get added performance out of your Indian Scout FTR750. How long have you been a Wiseco-sponsored athlete?
Mees: I have been with Wiseco since 2013. My mechanic, Kenny, has a big relationship with them. What’s cool is that we run off-the-shelf products from Wiseco. We push right around 100-110 horsepower out of the FTR750. The engine package changes a little bit, depending on the length of the tracks that we’re racing on. We use different gear ratios and change piston compression. In racing, I prefer smooth delivery and, of course, good power [laughter]. I’m really picky about wanting the throttle to turn easily. We use a light return spring so I have better feel for the throttle. Brake pedal location is also important.
How do you want to be remembered?
Mees: I want people to remember me as being persistent, relentless, a hard worker, with lots of hustle, and a real pain in most people’s ass.
Select photos courtesy of American Flat Track.