Chopping the throttle on a 110-hp, 310-pound Indian FTR750 barreling headfirst into the first turn at the Springfield Mile on a windy Sunday afternoon will jumpstart your heart. Hayden Gillim, Cycle World's Man in a Van with a Plan, learned swiftly that 130-mph momentum was more manageable and the bike turned more easily if he rolled off the throttle smoothly as he approached the apex of the corner.

Gillim finished 10th at Springfield—round 15 of the 2018 American Flat Track series—and he couldn't have been more pleased with that result. Fifteen Indians and three Harley-Davidsons XG750Rs started the 25-lap main event. Bryan Smith won the last-lap slugfest with Jared Mees, whose second place solidified the Twins class title three rounds early. In classic Springfield Mile style, margin of victory was 0.013 second. Jeffrey Carver Jr. was third.

Gillim actually crossed the line 11th, but the FTR ridden by Bronson Bauman—younger brother of fourth-place Briar Bauman—blew the mandatory exhaust sound test and was disqualified, pushing Gillim up one spot in the final standings. Gillim raced a Suzuki SV1000-based twin at Springfield in 2016, finishing 10th in the now-defunct GNC2 class, but the part-time flat-tracker and full-time roadracer said his Indian experience was completely different.

Springfield was the fourth of four AFT Twins-class events Gillim had on his race calendar this season with the MVP 3.0 program and only the second oval. At the Buffalo TT, Black Hills Half-Mile, and Peoria TT, Gillim finished fourth, 12th, and fifth in the respective main events. For the 100th running of the Springfield Mile, Gillim had a crew of current and past racers: JD Beach, Tyler Porter, Rob "Robby-Bobby" McLendon, and Jon Cornwell.

Even with his earlier experience on the FTR750, Gillim didn't have a base setting for the mile. In fact, he wasn't even sure where to start. "We started with the front end pushed out, but the bike wasn't turning," he said. "We ended up swapping stuff around quite a bit. These weren't little changes either; they were pretty big." Early in the day, Beach joked, "He's been out three times, and we changed the gearing six times. He can't figure out what he wants."

Recent precipitation was partly to blame. "With all the rain they had earlier in the week, the track was quite a bit different than what they usually see," Gillim explained. "Normally, the track is glass-smooth with a 10-to-15-foot-wide groove. Going into turn 1, the track was pretty rough right on the guardrail, where the line was in the race. And then coming off the back straight into turns 3 and 4, the track was broken up as well.

"Coming out of turn 4 and heading onto the front straight there were little rollers that would upset the bike. And there was a massive headwind. I think that combination was giving the bikes a little head shake all the way down the straightaway. It was a pretty big process just trying to figure out how to ride the track and use the draft. I thought it would be like roadracing, but it was a lot different."

Throughout the day, Gillim said, the track continued to change. "The line went from the middle of the track to the top to the bottom back to the middle and then back to the bottom. It's even tougher if there are a few races before the next time you go out. You always have to be watching and talking to people to see what's going on. If somebody comes by going faster, you have to follow so you so you can pick up speed."

Twenty-fifth in practice, Gillim qualified 17th, shaving nearly a second from his previous best lap time. He finished seventh in his heat and ninth in his semi. "Once I got into a race situation with some fast guys," he said, "I was able to learn quite a bit. The Indians are so closely matched that a good rider can put them up front pretty quickly. I think that's why I was able to come in and do as well as I did."

At ease racing the world's fastest mile? "For the most part, I felt really comfortable on the bike and with how everything was going," Cycle World's "Man in a Van with a Plan" Hayden Gillim said about his first American Flat Track Twins-class race at the legendary Springfield Mile. "It was a big, big learning curve, that's for sure."Andrea Wilson

Head shake was visible from much of the field. "If you grew up racing flat track, you've experienced head shake more than once," Gillim said. "By the time you get to this level, you know if you let off the throttle, it's going to get a lot worse. You just hold on, wait until the corner comes up, and start leaning in. That's when you know you can shut off. It wasn't too hard to stay focused on Sunday. You knew what was coming."

Gillim (169), Jarod Vanderkooi (20), Bronson Bauman (37), and Kenny Coolbeth Jr. (2) battled in the main event of the Springfield Mile II. "Whenever we got around each other, we were able to work together to go faster," Gillim said. "It's actually easier when you're riding with other people to figure out things."Andrea Wilson

Gillim spent most of the main event battling with series regulars Chad Cose, Jarod Vanderkooi, and Bronson Bauman. "That was the first time I really got to mess with the draft," he said. "We had a tailwind down the back straightaway, and I went into turns 3 and 4 pretty hot a few times. We were all trying to go under the loose stuff. If you touched it, you'd lose grip and slide right up the track."

Gillim finished just ahead of three-time AMA Grand National Champion Kenny Coolbeth Jr., who is retiring from competition at the end of the season. "I grew up looking up to those guys and wanting to race with them," he said. "Being out there with them on that stage is pretty amazing. Those guys make everything look effortless, like they're barely even riding the bikes—sitting up going into corners, not even fighting the things."

Springfield rewards experience. "Everybody else had raced this track a few times," Gillim said. "They knew what their bikes could do and how they should feel. I was still trying to figure that out. After every session, we were plugged into the computer and looking at everything." In AFT Twins, traction control remains in the rider's right hand.Andrea Wilson

"When I found out I was 11th, I was really happy, especially after barely transferring to the main," he said. "I had no idea at one point I got up to eighth; I thought I was still in the back of the pack. I wish I could do a couple more races. I know these guys aren't going to make it easy, but I think I could keep fighting for top 10s on the bigger tracks and maybe even work our way into the top five."

Racers believe they can accomplish any goal to which they set their minds, Gillim noted, but sometimes expectations are impossibly high. That's when mistakes happen. At Springfield, Gillim took a measured approach. "In the first session," he said, "I didn't take my left hand off the handlebar until the very last lap. I was working through all the things I needed to figure out about the track, the bike, and how to ride on a mile.

"I knew that I had enough speed to get into the show. Then I had to put the learning curve aside and try to race. Every corner of every lap, I was trying to make sure I did everything right. Whenever I got into a little bit of battle and tried to outbrake someone going into a corner, I would mess up and chop the throttle. I thought I did really well for one of my first races on a mile, but it was a very, very big learning experience."