Brad Baker Talks About the Highs and Lows of Racing

The 2013 Grand National Champion has had a rollercoaster start to the 2017 American Flat Track season, but Baker is looking to come back swinging after the break.

Brad The Bullet Baker interview
Brad Baker’s had some bad luck at the start of the 2017 American Flat Track season, but he’s staying positive and ready for the upswing.Photo: Andrea Wilson

Navigating the highs and lows of racing is all a part of the job of being a racer. Brad Baker knows that. After all, the American Flat Track racer has lived it ever since he won his Grand National Championship at the young age of 20 back in 2013. After that crowning achievement, it's been a wild ride between injury, mechanical woes and success for one of the sport's top riders.

Going into the new era of American Flat Track – an all-new twins class structure for the premier class, new tracks and a new race format – Baker was looking forward to a fresh start with his new team.

He ended his career with the factory Harley-Davidson squad at the season finale at the Santa Rosa Mile on top form, dominating the field with over a 10-second margin of victory. So there was a lot of hope in carrying that momentum to his new factory Indian Motorcycle backed by All State squad, even though there were a lot of unknowns and little time on the Indian Scout FTR750 before the season's start with three-straight races.

Brad Baker on the Indian FTR750
The 2013 Grand National Champion has shown great speed on the Indian Scout FTR750.Photo: Andrea Wilson
Atlanta Short Track podium
: It was an Indian Motorcycle sweep at the Atlanta Short Track with (left to right) Baker, Jared Mees and Bryan Smith. Photo Courtesy of American Flat Track/Scott HunterPhoto: Andrea Wilson

“Atlanta was the first time I’d really ridden a motorcycle on these types of racetracks that we typically ride a twin on, so it was a complete learning curve,” Baker said. “To come back in second there and also to come here (Charlotte), I knew that I liked this racetrack and it had quite a bit of grip in it, which usually suits my style. The motorcycle was running great. I was having fun. I was having a great time. The semi when the track is probably the fastest it had been all night, I had a lot of people come up to me like, ‘I just wish I was riding along with you. You looked like you were having fun.’ So that’s cool that people can notice that, and I’m having fun.”

Unfortunately for Baker, it hasn’t been all fun and games. It’s been more of the same: an injury at the Daytona TT season opener, a strong second-place finish the following week at the Atlanta Short Track, and at the Charlotte Half-Mile he had a near perfect day until he suffered a mechanical, a problem with the charging system that took him out of the Main.

Brad Baker racing in Charlotte
Baker (6) was in the hunt for another podium finish in Charlotte, battling with teammate Smith (1); and then awhile later, his bike broke.Photo: Andrea Wilson
Indian FTR750 dnf
It was a disappointing end to a good day when Baker’s steed fell ill to an electrical issue.Photo: Andrea Wilson

“Just unfortunate luck, but it’s part of racing,” Baker said. “I just hope for my luck to turn around. I’ve had a lot of bad luck. Ever since I’ve won a championship, it’s pretty much been bad luck, whether it’s injury or breaking motorcycles or you name it. It’s just a constant rollercoaster of down, bad luck, and I go way down. I stay strong and I bring myself back up, and then it never fails for something stupid to happen to take me back down again. But I can guarantee we’re going to be back up. To win a championship, you got to be up.”

Brad Baker crash and injury at DaytonaTT
Baker had a rough start to the year at the season opener at the Daytona TT, sidelined after a crash in his Heat race.Photo: Andrea Wilson

At the same time, Baker’s also a realist. He’s also a champion. The end goal for a champion is to add more championships to their resume and it’s hard to win championships with two DNFs to start the season. Especially when you’re going against two very top competitors – defending Grand National Champion Bryan Smith and three-time Grand National Champion Jared Mees. Guys who are on the same machinery and guys who have been the only guy not named Brad Baker to win a Grand National Championship in five years.

“You can’t have too many downs, and I’ve already had two Did Not Finishes this year. That’s not good,” Baker said. “It’s not over because it’s a long series, but that means that my competitors, especially Bryan (Smith) and Jared (Mees), have to have some really bad luck and I’ve got to be spot on, which is not characteristic out of riders at that level and teams at this level to have bad things happen.”

One of the advantages of having the experience of highs and lows is knowing that if you keep fighting, success will follow. It also helps to have some good people behind you and a five-week break before a string of five Mile tracks.

“All I can do is just move on and look forward to the Miles coming up here,” Baker said. “Just try to win races and do the best I can and have fun. The team’s great. The motorcycle’s great. I feel at home here. When you look at it in hindsight, everything’s positive. So it’s all good.”