CONCORD, N.C. — Bryan Smith has been dealing with a lot of change in the last few months, but none of it has seemed to phase the reigning American Flat Track Grand National champion.
Smith, 33, is sporting a new number this year, carrying the No. 1 that identifies him as the reigning Flat Track kingpin. The other change, which is much more significant, is that Smith is no longer riding the Kawasaki he piloted to the championship.
Smith is now a part of the Indian Motorcycle Wrecking Crew alongside new teammates Jared Mees and Brad Baker. So far, Smith says, the transition has been extremely smooth.
“The transition to Indian has been fairly smooth,” said Smith, who has finishes of second and third in the first two races aboard the Indian Scout FTR750. “I’m still trying to get a 100 percent handle on it from a ride standpoint myself. Even Jared Mees, who has won (the first two races), I’m sure he is still trying to find every last nook and cranny for the feel that you’re looking for on a race bike.
“It’s kind of like the back of your hand. You get to know that bike and you know its every move,” Smith noted. “I think maybe something that has sped up my process is I switched from Harley to Kawasaki (which he won the championship on in 2016) and had to adapt to a different power band and a different bike. I had to adapt a bike to my style as well. We’re still kind of going through the same thing with the Indian now.”
Entering the season as the defending Grand National champion, Smith is happy to be off to a fast start following his move to Indian. Still, he said he wants to get to victory lane as quickly as possible to help him as he attempts to defend his championship.
“I was obviously fortunate to win the championship last year, but where I had lost it before was lack of consistency at the smaller tracks,” Smith explained. “The first two tracks were some of the tightest and treacherous ones of the year, so to come out of there with a second and a third, that obviously leaves me second in points. So that was very successful.
“On the same hand, I want to get a win here pretty quick.”
Smith may have his best chance at finding victory lane this Saturday when American Flat Track visits The Dirt Track at Charlotte for the Harley-Davidson Charlotte Half-Mile. Smith won at the Charlotte oval in 2015 and he said he felt like he could have won last year had he not lost his steel shoe from his left foot early in the 25-lap feature.
“It is a great facility, great dirt. It is a bigger half-mile, one of few miles where you can really ride hard on a 750 flat track bike,” Smith said. “Charlotte is banked and it is always prepped good and you can just haul ass around there.
“It fits me good just because you can ride hard and I like the tracks where you can ride hard,” Smith continued. “I think this year being on equal equipment with Jared Mees and Brad Baker and I think better equipment then the rest of the field, we’ll be right there in the hunt to win again.”
Saturday’s Harley-Davidson Charlotte Half-Mile is the third race of the expanded American Flat Track schedule. Mees is the defending winner of the event, most recently held last August.