The Springfield Mile: My Love of Things That Go Fast, Continued

Words and photos by Duane Clawson
This year I had the privilege of returning to the Springfield Mile to photograph some of the craziest athletes I’ve met and yet another excuse to satisfy my love of things that go fast!  At the end of 2016 AMA Pro Racing announced the official rebranding of the all-new American Flat Track (AFT) series – formerly known as AMA Pro Flat Track.  The rebranding includes an expanded schedule, rule changes, and race structure.

The rebranding, of course, has in no way affected the speeds at which these guys and ladies travel.  How about 34.7 seconds to complete one lap at this famed speedway!  The day begins with practice sessions for all riders.  These sessions give riders a feel for the track and its condition and gives mechanics a chance to tune the bikes accordingly.  The practice sessions are proceeded by qualifying sessions, heat races, semi-finals, and the eventual 25-lap AFT Twins 1 grand finale.

Two big races are held at this track annually, one on Memorial Day Weekend and the other on Labor Day Weekend.  This Sunday before Memorial Day finds those in attendance remembering those that have given their lives for this country, and fallen rider, Nicky Hayden.  Hayden had deep roots in the sport, that began with him competing in American Flat Track events.  This popular rider and champion had recently succumbed to injuries he sustained two weeks prior after being struck on his bicycle by a car while training in Italy.  The passing of another young up and coming rider, Jamison Minor, was also recognized by the AFT family.  Minor passed away earlier in 2017 from injuries related to a crash he was involved in at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

At the end of the day, the AFT Twins Race 1, met or surpassed everyone’s expectations.  All of the sport's heavy hitters ran near the top of the pack of 18 riders.  This Harley Davidson-sponsored race only found one Harley Davidson finishing in the top ten.  The Indian motorcycles were the ones to beat on this warm May afternoon.  A clean race was ran up until the 19th lap, when riders Jake Johnson and Brandon Robinson collided, forcing the red flag halt to the race.  Once the track was cleared it was a six-lap shootout to the finish.

Bryan Smith saved all of his riding skills to the very end, barely jumping into the lead off of turn four on the final lap.  From turn four on, it was a three-bike race to the stripe between Smith, Sammy Halbert, and Jared Mees.  After the checkered flags flew, race officials looked at a replay of the finish; Smith was the winner by the narrowest of margins, 0.005 seconds to be exact.  Jared Mees took the close second spot and Halbert’s Yamaha took the third podium spot, finishing 0.039 seconds behind Mees and Smith.  In honor of Nicky Haden, Smith took the checkered flag in hand and did a reverse victory lap.  Post-race, Smith said he wasn’t sure who had won until they handed him the flag.  Thanks to American Flat Track for allowing us to cover the great racing spectacle that is the Springfield Mile!

Photos of the event are below:

Contributed by Duane Clawson
The Springfield Mile: My Love of Things That Go Fast, Continued The Springfield Mile: My Love of Things That Go Fast, Continued Reviewed by Scott Rowe, Editor on June 10, 2017 Rating: 5
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