Daytona Beach, Fla., May 18—American Flat Track is approaching Turn 2 on its dash around four Miles in four weeks as the series heads to the Harley-Davidson Sacramento Mile presented by Cycle Gear at the Cal Expo Fairgrounds in Sacramento, California, on May 20.
Located in one of flat track’s traditional hotbeds, the Sacto Mile is rich with Grand National Championship history and has been the site of many thrilling down-to-the-wire battles. The dominant force over the decades, Harley-Davidson has claimed an impressive 39 victories out of the 51 races held since the event joined the series calendar in 1959.
This year, the decorated Harley-Davidson Factory Flat Track Team of Jake Johnson (No. 5 Harley-Davidson Factory Flat Track Team XG750R), Kenny Coolbeth (No. 2 Harley-Davidson Factory Flat Track Team XG750R) and Brandon Robinson (No. 44 Harley-Davidson Factory Flat Track Team XG750R) heads to Sacramento poised for a comeback.
At the same time, Bryan Smith (No. 1 Indian Motorcycle Racing backed by Allstate Scout FTR750) returns to Sacramento justifiably confident and surrounded by something of an aura of invincibility. Yes, the reigning Grand National Champion recently took a share of the AFT Twins presented by Vance & Hines title lead, and yes, he’s riding a two-race win streak. But Smith’s recent sterling form barely hints at the full extent of his overwhelming status as race favorite this weekend where he’ll attempt to claim a seventh-consecutive Sacramento Mile victory.
Smith, who earned his first Sacramento Mile victory in 2011 on the legendary Harley-Davidson XR750, has proven his mettle with success on multiple manufacturers over the years. If the Michigan native is victorious this weekend, he’ll set a Sacramento Mile record by claiming victories at Cal Expo on three different makes: Harley-Davidson (2011), Kawasaki (2012-2016) and Indian Motorcycle.
Lesser riders might crumple under the weight of those expectations, but Smith embraces the opportunity. He said, “I wouldn’t call it pressure—every race I go to I want to win. I want to win all the Miles. I want to win all the damn races, let alone the Miles. So going there it’s going to be cool if I can get the seventh win. I’ll be going for it just like it’s any other race.”
The primary threats to score the upset and snap Smith’s Sacramento streak are his fellow Indian Wrecking Crewmen, Jared Mees (No. 9 Indian Motorcycle Rogers Racing Scout FTR750) and Brad Baker (No. 6 Indian Motorcycle Racing backed by Allstate Scout FTR750).
Mees retained a piece of the ’17 AFT Twins championship lead by upping his season-long string of podium performances to four with a third-place run last weekend at the Arizona Mile. Perhaps even more encouraging than his actual placement was the fact that he pushed both Smith and Baker to the checkered flag in the Main Event, flashing the capacity to steal one of these upcoming Miles.
“We’re definitely going to Bryan’s hometown place,” Mees said. “That’s his race. I’m pretty excited to go to Sacramento. We’re dead even. I won the first two, he won the next two. It’s going to be fun.”
While some early misfortune cost him dearly in the points race, Baker makes it three factory Indian Motorcycle pilots inside the championship top five in fifth. Despite some inconsistent results in 2017, Baker remains a rare talent, and his two recent runner-up finishes suggest that he’s on the verge of claiming a victory of his own aboard the Scout FTR750. Baker narrowly missed grabbing that win last weekend in Phoenix and will be motivated to get some payback in Sacramento.
Slotting in between the Indian Wrecking Crew in the title fight are third-ranked Sammy Halbert (No. 69 Estenson Logistics Yamaha FZ-07) and fourth-ranked Jarod Vanderkooi (No. 20 Richie Morris Racing Kawasaki Ninja 650).
Halbert has not finished any lower than seventh yet this season while teenager Vanderkooi is knocking on the door of his first-career AFT Twins presented by Vance & Hines podium finish.
Shayna Texter (No. 52 Richie Morris Racing Honda CRF450R) storms into the Sacramento Mile with the AFT Singles championship lead on the strength of her first race victory in years. Texter doesn’t expect to wait so long to claim another win, and the Sacramento Mile should play directly into her strengths as a rider.
Kolby Carlile (No. 36 Parkinson Brothers Racing Honda CRF450R) continues to hold down the runner-up position following yet another steady ride. Brandon Price (No. 92 DPC Racing/Don’s Kawasaki KX450F) is on the rise in third with two podiums, including a win, in his last two outings.
In addition to the racing, the opening ceremonies for the Sacramento Mile will be action packed. Legend Kenny Roberts and Kenny Roberts Jr. will be on hand as the Grand Marshalls of the event. The pair are the only father-son duo to win premier Grand Prix World Championships and be inducted into the MotoGP Hall of Fame.
Also making a special appearance is a legendary machine – the infamous Yamaha TZ750. The legend of the TZ750 was spurred by Roberts Sr.’s epic win at the 1975 Indy Mile. Ray Abrams (A&A Racing), a longtime supporter of Roberts Sr. and instrumental in the TZ750 project, will be on hand with his famous motorcycle. Joe Kopp, the 2000 Grand National Champion, will mount the beast to show off the raw power of one of flat track racing’s most legendary builds. Following Kopp’s ride on the TZ, the action continues with the Joe Leonard Memorial Dash for Cash, honoring the sport’s first Grand National Champion who recently passed at the age of 84. Roberts Sr., a two-time Grand National Championship himself, will wave the green flag to start the race.
Another longstanding tradition—7th Annual Alamo Alarm Night Before the Mile at the Lodi Cycle Bowl – will take place on Friday, May 19. For the first time ever, FansChoice.tv will live stream the event, with opening ceremonies kicking off four hours of coverage beginning at 6:00 p.m. PT (9:00 p.m. ET).
American Flat Track’s on-track action will begin on Saturday, May 20 at 2:00 p.m. PT (5:00 p.m. ET) with the AFT Twins presented by Vance & Hines and AFT Singles practice sessions. Opening Ceremonies will start the night’s racing action at 6:00 p.m. PT (9:00 p.m. ET) and Main Events are slated to begin at 8:30 p.m. PT (11:30 p.m. ET).