The trio of factory riders secured a dominant sweep of the AFT Twins presented by Vance & Hines podium at the Law Tigers Arizona Mile presented by Indian Motorcycle.
Leading the charge around Turf Paradise was reigning Grand National Champion Bryan Smith. Smith drew upon every last ounce of his trademark Mile magic to position his No. 1 Indian Motorcycle Racing backed by Allstate Scout FTR750 ahead of the identical No. 6 Indian Scout FTR750 of Brad Baker at the checkered flag by a scant 0.057 seconds.
Following two red flags and with the sun quickly headed to the horizon, the AFT Twins presented by Vance & Hines Main Event was reconfigured into a dramatic five-lap shootout. At the second and final restart, Baker again resumed his place at the front of the field and appeared well on his way to grabbing his first victory of 2017. However, Smith had other ideas, ducking down the inside at the opening of the penultimate lap and held strong from there.
"It was a little bit of strategy," Smith said. "I just sat on Brad's rear tire, and luckily it worked out where I got by him with two to go. I went on by him and had just enough where I was a little bit better, mostly off of (Turn) 2."
The cagey performance was the 20th Mile victory of Smith's career, good enough to rank fifth most in American Flat Track history. It was also his 28th overall AFT Twins win, which ties him with fellow Michigan natives Bart Markel and Henry Wiles for tenth on the all-time order.
"It's pretty cool at 28 wins that I tied Bark Markel, the original godfather of the Michigan Mafia," Smith said. "And it's pretty special for me to be, I believe, the only rider to win a Mile on three different brands and tie his record. Hopefully next weekend I can break it."
Runner-up Baker said, "I wanted that win so dang bad. I don't think I've wanted a win more in my life. This type of track is one I typically struggle at – one that's dry, slick, one-lined – 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."
Smith now sits perfectly even on top of the AFT Twins title fight with Jared Mees (No. 9 Indian Motorcycle Rogers Racing Scout FTR750) at 87 apiece. Mees retained a share of the points lead by furthering his season-long string of podium results with a close third.
Despite struggling with shifter issues, Mees managed to keep Smith and Baker honest throughout and finished just over a half-second back of the win.
"It was good for Indian Motorcycle, but we just didn't quite have it today," Mees said. "Honestly, we were third place all day… I was pretty much a sitting duck in third; we couldn't really do anything. I was just grateful to get it into gear really quick off the line and kind of latch onto these guys. Brad had a helluva pace early on, but hats off to Bryan – he just put in a veteran move in on that last lap and a half and made it happen. I feel like Brad was probably the fastest, but Bryan out-schooled him."
Thanks to the combined efforts of Smith and Mees early in 2017, the Indian Scout FTR750 has now opened its first full season of American Flat Track competition by claiming a victory in each Grand Slam discipline (TT, Short Track, Half-Mile, Mile).
Sammy Halbert continued to make his mark as the top privateer with a solid fourth-place run aboard the No. 69 Estenson Logistics Yamaha FZ-07. Halbert actually had to put in a charge just to snare the final qualifying position in the LCQ in order to advance into the Semis. But following that early scare, Halbert proved himself to be the only rider capable of reliably keeping the Indian Wrecking Crew in sight in Phoenix, even if only for a handful of laps at a time.
Jarod Vanderkooi (No. 20 Richie Morris Racing Kawasaki Ninja 650) completed the top five, finishing just ahead of the similarly mounted Briar Bauman (No. 14 Zanotti Racing Kawasaki Ninja 650) andJake Shoemaker (No. 55 Weirbach Racing Kawasaki USA Kawasaki Ninja 650).
Harley-Davidson's early-season woes continued at Turf Paradise. Jake Johnson (No. 5 Harley-Davidson Factory Flat Track Team XG750R) was the only rider among the firm's trio of factory-backed talents to make the Main Event. To make matters worse, Johnson's day then ended in a crash which brought out one of the aforementioned red flags.
Texter Takes Title Lead With AFT Singles Triumph
Shayna Texter stepped forward to seize control of the AFT Singles class with a hard-earned win aboard her No. 52 Richie Morris Racing Honda CRF450R.
Texter was hounded throughout the Main by Tristan Avery (No. 16 Ron Ayers Honda CRF450R) and Brandon Price (No. 92 DPC Racing/Don's Kawasaki KX450F), but proved almost impossible to draft by and even more difficult to stay in front of.
Texter said, "It was a long 15 laps. I just tried to stay smooth and make as few mistakes as I possibly could. I knew those guys were on me; I could see them in my shadow going down the back stretch. I just tried to be smart and keep them behind me."
The narrow .041 of a second win was the seventh of Texter's AFT Singles career and her first since the 2013 season. Her 2017 campaign is trending upward in a serious fashion; she's now logged third-, second-, and first-place finishes in consecutive events.
"It feels awesome to get back up there – it's been a rough couple of years," Texter admitted. "I finally get to ride a motorcycle that's stable and allows me to show what I have under the helmet. It's really exciting to get back up here."
The Law Tigers Arizona Mile will air on NBCSN on Thursday, July 27, at 10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT. For race highlights click here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X-PAGlT4c_E
American Flat Track powers right into the second of its run of four Miles in four weeks with the Harley-Davidson Sacramento Mile presented by Cycle Gear on Saturday, May 20. Live coverage can be viewed on FansChoice.tv beginning on Saturday at 6:00 p.m. ET (3:00 p.m. PT). Tickets for the Sacramento Mile are on sale and can be purchased at http://sactomile.com/tickets/.
Fans can also keep up-to-date with race day action by following American Flat Track on Facebook (American Flat Track), Twitter (@AmericanFlatTrk) and Instagram (@AmericanFlatTrack).