Smith Keeps Indian Perfect at Charlotte Half Mile

Indian factory rider Bryan Smith ups the brand’s win streak to three in a row with an impressive performance at the American Flat Track Charlotte Half Mile.

The Indian Motorcycle flat track race team continued it’s blitz of the American Flat Track series with yet another convincing win. This time it was defending series champion Indian Motorcycles/Allstate Motorcycle Insurance’s Bryan Smith stepping forward to collect the checkered flag at round three of the series at Charlotte Motor Speedway Saturday night.

2017 Charlotte Half Mile
Reigning American Flat Track Champion Bryan Smith (1) scored his first win of the season–and Indian’s third win–at the 2017 Charlotte Half Mile. Jared Mees (9) finished second give Indian a 1-2 finish. PHOTO BY DAVE HOENIG/FLAT TRAK FOTOS.

Smith has been off to a solid start in 2017 with two podium finishes and came to the Dirt Track at Charlotte Motor Speedway with a lot of confidence. The champ won here in 2015 and an errant skid shoe cost him the shot at another win last year.

The Indian team of Smith, Woodstock Short Track winner Jared Mees and Brad Baker looked poised to repeat their podium sweep of last week when the 25 lap AFT Twins main roared off the line.

After the race had to be restarted because of a lap-two crash, Mees took the lead on his Indian Motorcycle/Rogers Racing FTR750 Scout, only to be passed by Baker and Smith. Smith was able to take over on lap six and lead the remainder of the race. Mees recovered to finish second after Baker’s bike went silent with electrical problems.

“Once I got past Brad I kind of settled in,” Smith said. “I think I went faster once I chilled out a little bit. It’s hard on a track like this because you want to go so hard, but if you let off just a little bit sometimes, it’s faster. It’s hard when you’re battling somebody to check up a little bit.”

Mees was stuck in some what of a “no man’s land,” unable to close on Smith, but comfortably ahead of Halbert.

“There really wasn’t any chasing him [Smith] down,” Mees said. “Bryan got in front of me and Brad quick. Brad and I started dicing and that allowed Bryan to get away. After Brad broke, I felt like I ran the same pace with Bryan. I felt like all I was doing was maintaining and I needed to search. I started to search a little bit and lost some. I wanted to at least try something.

With the series moving to the larger more traditional venues the revered Harley-Davidson XR750 is making a return. After his strong run last week, Sammy Halbert (Estenson Logistics) once again had his Harley-Davidson XR750 in the hunt at Charlotte.

“The Indians were really strong tonight,” Halbert said. “I was behind the Indians right off the get go. I just stayed in that position. I was fortunate that I got to go onto the podium at least.”

2017 Charlotte Half Mile
Sammy Halbert (left) finished third to join Smith (center) and Mees (right) on the Charlotte podium. PHOTO BY DAVE HOENIG/FLAT TRAK FOTOS.

For the first time this year, 2016 AMA Pro Racing GNC2 champion Ryan Wells was aboard a Harley-Davidson XR750, the Johnny Goad Harley. Wells came from the second row and a slow start to finish an impressive fourth at Charlotte.

“I knew my starts were a little skeptical on the Harley,” Wells said. “At the end of the day, I don’t think I could have come forward like that on the Kawi. To get up and run with those guys is exactly what I wanted to do, no matter what place I got.”

Jeffrey Carver had also come from the back on his Carver’s BBQ backed Kawasaki to finish fifth after a few laps of heated competition with Wells.

“I had to come from the second row, ” Carver said. “It felt good. I had some really good dive-bomb lines, cutting off a lot of racetrack. I was really happy with it. I felt really good about being the highest place Kawi. My goal today was to be in the top five.”

The Harley-Davidson Motor Company’s Kenny Coolbeth had his best ride on the XG750R yet this year. After running as high as fourth he slipped back, but still finish a solid sixth.

“My bike was all right, but still it was a little off,” Coolbeth said. It’s a little bit of everything, motor and chassis too. It’s just learning. We have all the tools. We’re making strides in the right direction. It’s learning. It’s frustrating, but I knew it would take a little time.”

Davis Fisher (Kaw), Jarod Vanderkooi (Kaw), Brandon Robinson (H-D) and Danny Eslick (H-D) completed the top 10.

2017 Charlotte Half Mile
Dalton Gauthier (22) has yet to be defeated through three rounds of AFT Singles racing. The Yamaha rider scored win number three at Charlotte. PHOTO BY DAVE HOENIG/FLAT TRAK FOTOS.

Dalton Gauthier stayed unbeaten in the AFT Singles class as he led every lap of the crash-marred fifteen lap race on his Estenson Racing YZ450F Yamaha. Gauthier is quickly becoming the odds on favorite every time his yellow Yamaha is on the track.

“Three in a row is definitely a dream come true,” Gauthier said. “I just can’t thank all my sponsors enough, Estenson Racing, McCandless Trucking, Truline, Sleep Wellness Center, Flat Track Live, just everybody that’s been helping me. Woody Kyle has built me some really good motors that stay together really well.”

Don’s Kawasaki’s Brandon Price had his best finish, holding onto second just ahead of RMR/McElroy Packaging’s Shayna Texter and Ben Lowe (Bruce Lowe excavating).