If you’re a motorcycle fan and you weren’t at the 2010 Lucas Oil Indy Mile, you missed a piece of motorcycle history. Monster Energy Kawasaki‘s Bryan Smith (#42) put his 650cc twin on the top box in the AMA Pro Flat Track Twins race. A first for the Japanese factory, marking a shift in the balance of power held by Harley-Davidson for nearly 40 years. Team owners Bill Werner and Jay Springsteen became legends under the Harley-Davidson Bar and Shield, amassing 16 Grand National Titles between them. Now, they are fast becoming Harley’s chief competition in the series. Is the historic win at Indy the first chapter in a developing rivalry, or is it a poke in the ribs of a sleeping giant?
Bill Werner can turn a wrench, analyze dynamometer print outs, interpret rider input about the bike, read track conditions, court the media, function on four hours of sleep, beat Chicago traffic and just about everything else you need to do on a race team. More importantly, he understands how to combine all of these qualities and formulate a strategy to beat the pants off of you until you give up. Jay Springsteen is simply magic with anything on two wheels. His presence at the track gives rider, Bryan Smith, nearly 30 years of Grand National experience draw from, and a reference for any conceivable racing scenario. Who else can tell you the fastest way around the track is kissing the hay bales with your rear tire, but a man who has done it and won? 27yr. old Smith has been hand selected to develop the side-by-side twin. He is a cool, collected rider who knows his role is to be consistent, and communicate what he feels on the track to Werner. You probably think one win isn’t such a big deal, much less a turning point in AMA Pro Flat Track history. The Ducati in Arizona and Kawasaki at Indy is probably a fluke, right? Well, lets break down the numbers from this year and take a look at the big picture for 2010.
Kawasaki began to free up funding for other race programs after pulling out of MotoGP in 2009 and AMA Road Racing in 2010. To deny that teams who compete on the dirt did not benefit from a direct injection of cash from the disbanded road racing programs would be foolish. As Ryan Villipoto and Chad Reed nurse injury and illness in Motocross/Supercross, the “Green Machine” needed a spark. The Werner-Springsteen Team and Expert Singles #1 Henry Wiles are the bright spot of the 2010 race season. Werner-Springsteen and Bryan Smith have steered Kawasaki from an “also ran” to serious contender in the twins class. They are taking on the might of the factory Harley-Davidson team, not in a secret race lab high in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, but out of Werner’s garage in Milwaulkee. Henry Wiles has dominated the Expert Singles events, winning three of five contested. With their performances combined, Monster Energy Kawasaki is the only constructor to score points in all twelve GNC Mains, winning four. Harley-Davidson has won five GNC events in 2010, all in the Expert Twins class. This raises an important question, who will win the AMA Pro Flat Track Manufacturer’s Title?
Unofficially, the points battle breaks down like so (wins):
Kawasaki – 191, (4)
Harley-Davidson – 153, (5)
Honda – 96, (1)
Yamaha – 76, (1)
Suzuki – 68, (0)
Ducati – 60, (1)
Rotax – 7, (0)
Triumph – 6, (0)
KTM – 2, (0)
Wood-Rotax – 1, (0)
Kawasaki and Harley-Davidson are the only manufacturer’s providing full-time factory support in AMA Pro Flat Track at the time of publication. The other brands listed are privateer efforts by independent teams. Harley-Davidson lags in the overall points standings because they do not manufacture a bike eligible to compete in the six Expert Singles rounds, limited to production framed 450cc bikes. If we compare only the twins class H-D maintains its 153 points, while Kawasaki has only scored 91. Don’t forget H-D outnumbers other manufacturers in the twins class 4-1 and outnumbers Kawasaki 10-1. The stats also show the size of the contribution Henry Wiles has made on his KX450, scoring 101 points alone. Johnny Lewis (#10) also contributed 12 points to Kawasaki’s bid for the title by riding to a seventh place finish at the I-96 Speedway after Bryan Smith crashed during the race.
Five GNC rounds remain, and Kawasaki is on pace to earn its first AMA Pro Flat Track Manufacturer’s Championship. No one at Monster Energy Kawasaki has popped the cork, but they are certainly shaking the bottle.