Just as in the perfect storm, everything came together: On the night before the Indianapolis GP, in front of a packed grandstand and everyone who’s anyone in motorcycle racing, Bryan Smith, on a mile bike powered by a Kawasaki 650 Twin, edged Harley-mounted, seven-time national champion Chris Carr by a fraction of a second and won the showpiece Indy Mile. Why a milestone?
Because for 10 years at least, the AMA and now DMG have struggled to find rules that would give production-based engines a chance against Harley-Davidson’s evergreen XR-750. (Not to downgrade anyone involved, but the win earlier this season by Joe Kopp and Ducati was a combination of skill, guts, luck and guile. Smith and Carr are both national winners and fought it out lap after lap, head to head and hand to hand, each very much aware of the other.)
It was only a matter of time for Kawasaki to take its first Twins-class victory. With 13-time Grand National Champion tuner Bill Werner (pictured) and three-time GNC champ Jay Springsteen in his corner, Bryan Smith had all the right ingredients in place.
Ducati and Triumph teams also made the national, and BMW-powered bikes have proven competitive. The win, Kawasaki’s first in the Twins class, should inspire, make that justify, more money, time and work from other brands, bringing, in turn, better racing, more fans and a new golden age for dirt-track.
Not that it would take all that much. Smith is fielded by Werner-Springsteen Racing—yes, the Willy and Jay of 30 years ago, except now it’s owner and coach, not tuner and rider. The main sponsor is Monster Energy, and Kawasaki supplies parts and cash for wins. Henry Wiles has the same deal. He won the iconic Peoria TT earlier this season on a Kawasaki 450 MXer, so the system works.
And, of course, the rest of the racing world got to see American racing at its best, hard-fought bring-it-on every lap. ”If you’re gonna win one,“ chortled Werner, ”this is the one to win.“ Two weeks later, at the legendary Springfield Mile, Smith and the Kawasaki again edged Carr and his Harley. Flat-track’s new Golden Age has arrived.