Brad Baker finally had the kind of race befitting a national champion Saturday night, winning the AMA Pro Flat Track Expert feature event at Calistoga Speedway to turn around an otherwise disappointing season.
“I really needed that,” said the defending titleholder from Eatonville, WA. about his only win this year. “It’s been an up and down year,” added Baker, who broke his arm earlier in the season and missed part of the AMA Pro tour.
Baker showed his championship form by coming from mid-pack and picking off contenders for this year’s title one by one until he claimed the race lead near the half-way point of the 25 lap event on the half mile oval. He qualified in the bottom half of the field earlier in the afternoon, forcing him to start in the second spot of the second row, with two of this year’s three contenders in the row ahead of him. “I knew we had a good bike, but we needed to put all the pieces together,” said Baker. “We second-guessed ourselves all night on the set-up, but we got it right by the main event. This win felt good because I had to start in the back and pick off the best.
Behind Baker, the championship fight got a new leader with one race left on the tour while Bryan Smith saw his effort to nail down the title literally go up in smoke as he was disqualified by race officials for oiling down the race track, wiping out a run from deep on the grid to what appeared to be a third place finish.
As a result, the only two riders with a chance to unseat Smith finished on the podium, with two-time champion Jared Mees finishing second and Pennsylvania’s Jake Johnson claiming third. Mees, of Clio, MI, turned a nine point deficit in the standings into a thirteen point advantage as the AMA Pro Flat Track series heads to the season finale Oct. 11 in Pomona.
Smith’s disappointment hung in the air as thick as the blue haze that his bike left at the end of each straightaway while he carved his way through the field and ignored official’s attempts to get him off the track. “What! Are you kidding,” said Smith angrily about the swing in the point standings. Immediately after the race, he formally protested the finish to the AMA Pro organization, which will evaluate it before the Pomona finale. “I saw the black flag,” Smith admitted, but said he couldn’t read the bike number displayed by race officials and didn’t know it was for him.
In the junior race for Pro Singles, rookie Davis Fisher claimed his first career victory after claiming a string of five runner-up finishes in his first year as a professional rider. The sixteen year old dominated the Pro Singles event, starting from the pole after setting the quickest qualifying time, winning his heat and running away from the field to win by nearly a full straight-away after his closest challenger, Jarod Vanderkool, fell off the pace in the closing laps.
“I knew Vanderkool was there,” said Fisher, about the rider who hounded him in a two-man race that left the rest of the field to contend for third. “I just put my head down and got the job done.”