Bryan Smith Masters the Arizona Mile
The widely acknowledged "mile master" of the American Flat Track Series, Michigan's Bryan Smith, lived up to his reputation by claiming the Law Tigers Arizona Mile, presented by Indian Motorcycle, coming out on top of a gun-fighter style, five-lap showdown with his teammate, Brad Baker.
Baker looked like the man to beat all day, setting the event's quickest qualifying lap, winning the qualifying race that put him on the pole, and leading all but the last two laps of green flag racing on his Indian FTR750 Scout. But a spill in turn four by Harley Davidson rider Brandon Robinson created a lengthy repair to the air fence, setting up a race between the event on the track and Mother Nature.
With the sun low on the horizon and darkness looming, AFT officials called for a five lap shootout when the race resumed. On the restart, Baker quickly jumped up to continue his race-long lead and looked like he was headed to his first win of 2017.
But with two laps to go, Smith went from stalking Baker to pulling the trigger, sliding inside the race leader and taking over the top spot as the pair dove into turn one and and held on for the win as Baker came up just inches short at the line. "It was a little bit of strategy," Smith said. "I just sat on Brad's rear tire and luckily it worked out to where I got by him with two to go. I had just enough to hold him off in parts of the track where he had been better than me."
The win at Arizona marked Smith's sixth victory in a row on mile ovals and the 20th of his career, putting him fifth in that category in the AFT record books. It was also Smith's 28th career win, putting him tenth on the all-time list, tied with Bart Markel and Henry Wiles.
A frustrated Baker was clearly disappointed, but acknowledged Smith was the better rider on this day. "I don't think I wanted a win more in my life," said the Washington state native. "This was definitely a heartbreaker because I was the guy to beat all day," Baker said. "We're on identical equipment so it's not like either of us had more horsepower," he added. "It was all about who was the best rider and today Bryan proved his experience and craft on the miles."
Shayna Texter, recovered from a long slide on a slippery track in which she nearly lost her Honda CRF450, to win the companion AFT Singles race at the Law Tigers Arizona Mile, presented by Indian Motorcycle. The victory was the ninth in her career but the first in four years as she makes a comeback in flat track racing, returning to the Singles to regain her racing form after a few unsuccessful years in the Twins. The win put her on top of the AFT Singles championship point standings after four of 18 races on the 2017 schedule.