Bryan Smith was chasing history. Saturday night at the Cal Expo track, the Flushing, Mich., resident caught it.
Smith held off Jake Johnson by just .030 seconds to win a record fourth consecutive Sacramento Mile. A three-race win streak has happened only three times in the event’s 49-year history. Smith has won every Sacramento Mile since 2011, when it returned after an 11-year absence.
“It hasn’t set in yet and probably won’t until my good friend Scotty Parker buys me a beer since I beat his record,” said Smith, who also won his heat race. “This was definitely the toughest race of the four.”
Parker won the Sacramento Mile in 1996, 1997 and 1998. Stockton native Chris Carr won the two Sacramento Miles held in 1991 and the first one in 1992. From 1984 through 1994, the Sacramento Mile was held in the spring and fall..
The record for a winning streak at one track is nine and is current. Henry Wiles of Winn, Mich., has won the Peoria TT Nationals every year since 2004. The 2007 event was rained out. His win last year broke Carr’s record of eight straight at the Peoria TT. Carr still holds the record for Peoria TT wins at 13. He’s won the Sacramento Mile nine times. Parker owns the all-time Sacramento Mile win record with 13.
Tourist Trophy, or TT, races combine flat-track racing with left and right turns with at least one jump. It’s closer to motocross than pure flat-track racing that’s seen at the Sacramento Mile, where drafting plays a huge role in determining the winner. But Smith didn’t do much drafting Saturday, surrendering the lead just once during the 25-lap race. He was especially dominant on the back stretch and going into Turn 3.
“In Turn 3, you got to either be brave or not very smart,” Smith said. “I don’t know which.”
“I like miles a lot,” said Smith, whose previous two victories this season were both mile races. “Sacramento has long straightaways and tight corners whereas some other miles we ride on, such as Springfield (Ill.) are more round. I like riding the corners hard, so Sacramento suits me well.”
Smith’s win gave him the overall points lead halfway through the season, overtaking Jared Mees 150-148. Smith became the first rider with three victories in the first eight races. Mees, aboard a Harley-Davidson, finished third Saturday. Brandon Robinson was fourth, and Kenny Coolbeth took fifth.
Kyle Johnson won the earlier Pro Singles race, his fourth win in the last five races.
Last year, Smith beat Mees to the Sacramento Mile finish line by just .083 seconds.
Every Sacramento Mile main event since the 2011 return has been won by less than a tenth of a second.
Harleys don’t have to use intake restrictors this season, which boosts horsepower. The American brand of motorcycle used to be so dominant in flat-track racing that several years ago the AMA instituted restrictors to entice more manufacturers into the sport. Now that Kawasaki, Suzuki and Triumph have caught up to the Harleys, the playing field is level, or the flat track is finally flat.
Smith’s first victory at the Sacramento Mile in 2011 was aboard a Harley. He caught Carr on the backstretch on the final lap and held him off at the line. He switched in 2013 to the Villa Esparza/Crosley Radio team and finished second in points last season to Brad Baker.
Smith was born and raised in Flint, Mich., the birthplace of flat-track legends Parker and Jay Springsteen. Like Parker and Springsteen, Smith grew up racing motorcycles on frozen lakes during the winter. He said he watched with great interest the exhibition race held earlier Saturday between Carr and Springsteen. Both retired riders were honored by the Sacramento Mile fans for their contributions to the sport, and “Springer” drafted Carr, then just got past him at the line to win by half a wheel length.
“Chris only retired a few years ago, and ‘Springer’ looks to be in good enough shape to still ride competitively,” Smith said. “Luckily, neither one of those guys entered the race this year.”
Note – The AMA Flat Track Grand Nationals is still looking to make history when Nichole Mees, wife of Jared Mees, and Grand Nationals rookie Shayna Texter qualify for the same main event. So far that hasn’t happened.
Mees did her part Saturday by automatically qualifying into the main after a sixth-place finish in her heat. Texter has struggled recently with her Triumph motorcycle and switched mounts just before the first Expert heat and had to start in the back row. She finished 12th of 13 riders and later failed to qualify for the main when she pulled off less than a lap into the semi-final.
Mark Billingsley covers local motor sports for The Bee. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.