HARWINTON, CT – There’s a saying in the news biz that “There’s no rooting in the press box.” It means that reporters – more specifically, sportswriters – should judge and report on events objectively and without favor. But I couldn’t help it last night when watching the Daytona TT on my iPhone (while simultaneously engaged in the weekly card game with the guys) from hoping that Indian’s factory team would do well.
It’s not that I preferred Indian or its riders over those of Harley-Davidson. Heck, I didn’t recognize the names of most of the riders. And, in fact, the one that I was most familiar with was a Harley-Davidson team rider, Kenny Coolbeth Jr. A few years ago, I spent part of an afternoon with Kenny as he rode around an ice-covered pond in Warren, CT. He was extremely gracious, so therefore I logically should have been rooting for Harley-Davidson.
What tipped me in favor of Indian, though, was a belief that a good showing in the inaugural event at Daytona International Speedway would instantly elevate the rivalry between Indian and Harley-Davidson. Rivalries are a good thing, you see. They boost chatter and fuel enthusiasm. Ohio State/Michigan. Yankees/Red Sox. Cowboys/Any other NFL team.
While most motorcycle riders presumably don’t follow motorcycle racing, Indian’s entry into flat track has the potential to not only raise the visibility of flat track, but also to raise the overall profile of motorcycling if a good battle of the brands re-develops. After all, the Indian/Harley-Davidson rivalry does date back to the early 1900s.
Yes, the current incarnation of Indian is owned by corporate behemoth Polaris Industries, but the logo and colors remain the same. Taking the rivalry from the showroom to the dirt can only help to draw spectators and make more people aware of and/or root for each brand. This isn’t like NASCAR where all the cars look identical, regardless of the name plastered in the front. The bikes are brand-specific even if they can’t be purchased by ordinary consumers.
So, there I was, trying to play cards while watching as riders sped around the dirt track in Florida and hoping for a good showing from Indian, and that’s what happened. Indian took first and second place in the AFT Twins competition with its Scout FTR750 model. Kawasaki finished third, Harley-Davidson fourth and Kawasaki fifth. Actually, it was the riders who claimed the spots – Jared Mees, Bryan Smith, Henry Wiles, Jake Johnson and Bronson Bauman.
“You don’t know how special it is to win the first Daytona TT on the Indian,” Mees said. “I’m going to go down in the record books as the first to win on the Indian. I’m so excited just for my entire team and the hard work that everybody put in. It’s unbelievable what we all went through. Indian Motorcycle did an outstanding job.”
Coolbeth finished in 15th place, dropping out on the 12th of 25 laps.
The next flat track showdown is in just eight days – the Atlanta Short Track at Dixie Speedway on March 25. Indian’s big debut at Daytona last night is bound to create a buzz going into the next event. Will Harley-Davidson be able to strike back? Will more motorcyclists become aware of flat track, take an interest and tune in? I’m betting yes.
Photos courtesy of American Flat Track