Four rounds into the 2017 American Flat Track championship a TT, a Short Track, a Half Mile and now a Mile have been run. All four have been won by the new Indian Scout FTR750. For the second time the podium was swept by the powerhouse Indian team.
Defending Grand National champion, Bryan Smith won his second in a row on his Indian Motorcycle/Allstate Insurance backed Indian Scout FTR750. Smith dominated last year’s Phoenix round, but this time it took late-race heroics to steel the victory from his Indian Wrecking Crew teammate Brad Baker on April 13.
After two red flags coupled with long delays in getting the track race ready, the scheduled 25-lap main event was shortened to 15 laps because of the threat of darkness on the long, mile oval.
Baker had held a narrow lead when the red flag came out the second time on lap 10. Harley-Davidson factory rider Jake Johnson and Baker Racing’s Ryan Foster were the cause this time, and neither would return for the restart.
Baker had been dominant most of the day, and looked to have Smith covered as there would be just a five-lap dash to the finish. But Smith tapped into his “Mile” race experience and dashed the hopes of his young teammate.
“On the restart with only five to go you worry about somebody going inside and stuffing you and you don’t have much time to make it up,” Smith said. “The biggest thing that concerned me was getting pushed off the groove, with somebody making a bonsai move on the first lap. It was definitely a little nerve wracking.”
With two laps to go, Smith saw his chance as the pair entered turn one. Baker still had confidence that he could strike back.
“My plan was just to put the hammer down,” Baker said. “I had only followed one time and I was able to draft right back by. When he got by me I thought, ‘Okay, that’s fine.’ I thought I could get right back on him.”
All-important “track position” came into play and Smith is a master of his craft.
“Luckily it worked out just perfect where I was able to run a little bit low down the front straightaway and keep him from drafting on the inside of me,” Smith said. “The plan was to sit behind whoever was leading, and I figured it would be Brad. I wanted to sit behind him and let him kind of set the pace. I planned to just push him, push him, push him until he messed up. I think I got him to get a little antsy there at the end. It worked out just perfect for me.”
Baker later admitted that he badly wanted the win. Just How badly?
“I don’t think I’ve wanted a win more in my life,” he said. “This type of track is one I typically struggle at where you kind of have to go slow to go fast and ride with a lot of discipline. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed and angry. But they call Bryan the “Master of the Miles,” and he’s great at this. This is definitely a heartbreaker because I was the guy to beat all day. We’re on identical equipment so it’s not like I had any more horsepower than him or he had any more horsepower than me. It was all about who was the best rider, and today Bryan proved his experience and craft on the Miles.”
The third member of the Indian team, Jared Mees, was just off the pace in third place.
“We were third place hands down, so that’s the way it was,” Mees said. “I had a shifter fall off, so I couldn’t really get it into gear off the line. We struggled with that. Hey, you know, it’s racing.”
Fourth fell to Sammy Halbert.
“My first time riding the Estenson Racing Yamaha on the mile was a good run initially,” Halbert said. “Especially going into this long stretch on miles. Knowing that I have something to work with to try and see what we can do with those Indians. After all is said and done, it feels good to be the first of the production bikes.”
Rounding out the top five was Richie Morris Racing’s Jarod Vanderkooi (Kawasaki).
Smith and Mees are now tied atop the AFT Twins leaderboard as each have two wins, a second and a third.
Shayna Texter (Richie Morris Racing / McElroy Packaging Honda) captured her first win since returning to the AFT Singles class with a wire to wire win in the 15 lap main event. Even though Texter led every lap, she was under constant pressure throughout.
First it was Brandon Price (Don’s Kawasaki / DPC Racing Kawasaki), then Tristan Avery (Ron Ayers Honda) taking shots at the lead. Texter stayed focused and never gave either rider the opening they needed.
“The guys definitely kept me honest. I had to ride really hard, a lot harder than I think I’ve ever had to ride on a mile to just keep them behind me,” said Texter. “The conditions of the track we deteriorating every session that we went out. I kind of had my hands full a little bit with turn three struggling all day. It tried to pitch me off about three or four times. I just tried to be a little bit smarter and use my head a little bit and just try and hit my marks. I think mile experience always helps, but I think more so just being calm and patient and just ride the race track to it’s potential.”
With the win Texter is the AFT Singles points leader, with Kolby Carlile just five points back.