By Surj Gish
Photography by Angelica Rubalcaba (pits & infield shots) & Surj Gish (outside shots)
May has been a good month for flat track racing in California with not one, but two American Flat Track events, beginning with the Calistoga Half-Mile on the 5th (read Risa’s coverage of the ‘Stogie here) and culminating Saturday night with the Sacramento Mile.
It’s getting a little too easy to make jokes about how Indian-mounted racers are just owning the Twins class, how it’s even gotten boring at this point. That’s not true—standing trackside as racers in either the Singles or Twins class bomb by is exhilarating even when the first seven bikes each lap are the same brand, as was the case in the Twins Main at The Mile Saturday. But it’s gotten bad enough—or good enough, depending on position and perspective—that I even considered cracking wise about how Indian-mounted racers basically teabagged the entire field in The Sac, before our editorial review board (tried to) shut me down.
Consider that in six races so far this season, there have been three all-Indian podiums: Calistoga, Arizona, and now Sac, where Indian occupied the top seven places in the results. Harley-Davidson, a long-running dominant force—and sponsor on the Sac Mile as well as Daytona and Atlanta—has gotten on the podium just twice: Jeffrey Carver Jr. put his XR750 (yes, the old bike) on the second step in Atlanta, with Jarod Vanderkooi putting the new school XGR750 on the third step. Vanderkooi rode an XGR in Sacramento, and didn’t make the main.
Like I said, it’s still far from boring but it did feel like there were a couple different races running simultaneously in the Twins Main: Jared Mees and Kenny Coolbeth, Jr. vying for first up front with Bryan Smith close behind, and then the rest of the field a ways back. Mees ultimately took first, with Coolbeth just 0.018 seconds behind, followed by Smith at 0.252.
Incidentally, Smith, who’s won the last seven Sac Miles, managed a solid, respectable, and presumably maddening third place after breaking his leg at the Texas Half-Mile on April 28th, just three weeks ago. Smith was born in 1983, so him racing the Mile less than a month after busting his left fibula really throws a wrench in that whole “Millennials are whiny little bitches with no toughness” thing that the old timers (and occasionally I) love to grouse about. I was really hoping he’d win it again just because it’d be an awesome feat, but it didn’t happen and Smith must now find a way to cope with the ignominy and shame of putting a third place Sac Mile trophy in his van.
Brutal. Maybe we’ll start a GoFundMe to help with his therapy bills.
Beyond the totally-not-surprising Indian dominance, there were some curiosities: first, it wasn’t hot as Satan’s balls like it usually is at the Sacramento Mile—there was even a breeze! Second, Jeffrey Carver Jr’s FTR750 started billowing smoke and was subsequently black flagged in the first Twins Semi, perhaps keeping the top ten in the Twins Main from being 8/10 Indian.
Even more interesting: according to AFT’s press release Sunday morning, Ronnie Jones “reestablished his own record as the oldest rider to make an AFT Twins Main Event. 57-year-old Jones is the owner of 10 career AFT Twins victories, the first of which came almost four decades ago and the most recent nearly a quarter century back.” Jones has qualified for Mains in every decade since the Seventies and finished 14th at The Mile, although he was second to Coolbeth in the third heat.
Speaking of old timers, there was a vintage invitational race in the early evening, just after the opening ceremonies, featuring riders on machinery that made Harley’s still-sorta-competitive XR750 look at least marginally modern. Four riders finished, and “Racer George” Willis took first on an Indian Scout.
The Singles Main was a lot less predictable. We’re big fans of Shayna Texter here at CityBike, and given her second place finish at the ‘Stogie and decent performance in Arizona, I hoped she’d get her new Husky on the podium in The Sac for a fourth Sac Mile win. Based on the volume of cheering when she was introduced, I wasn’t alone, but she took seventh—one step up from her eighth-place showing in Arizona.
The top of the Singles Main was tight, with Kolby Carlile taking first, followed by Brandon Price and Dan Bromley just 0.013 seconds back.
AFT racers now head to Springfield for a proper TT—much more than a day’s ride away, so CityBike won’t be there in person.
That’s ok—we have lots of pictures from the ‘Stogie and the Sac Mile to stare at longingly until Western Flat Track’s Santa Rosa event on June 30th, followed shortly by the Humboldt Half-Mile. Here’s a bunch more of those Sacramento Mile photos, from the afternoon through the Mains. Clickity-click and arrow through ’em—it’ll be just like you were there.
Full results from the Sacramento Mile are available here.