Bryan Smith: "I need to keep beating him."

Even though chief title rival Jared Mees jumped out to an early advantage following the opening two rounds, there was always a feeling of inevitability that defending Grand National Champion Bryan Smith would strike back (and hard) as soon as the 2017 American Flat Track season arrived at the Mile-heavy section of the 2017 slate.

Smith made good on that feeling by once again demonstrating his mastery of the form by claiming his 20th-career Mile victory at this past weekend's Arizona Mile -- the first of a compact stretch of five such races on the calendar. Despite appearing to lack a bit of pace compared to third works Indian Motorcycle Pilot Brad Baker in Arizona, Smith somehow found a way to both fend off Mees and ace Baker as the three battled for the checkered flag in the Main Event.

Now with momentum on his side and heading into a number of tracks where he'll be considered the odds-on favorite, the question may be exactly how much damage Smith can do before the shape of the season tilts back more in Mees' favor.

Should Smith sweep the upcoming run of Miles, he'll surpass the legendary Ricky Graham in all-time Mile victories and move into sole possession of fourth place on the at 24. If he accomplished that and then adds an additional win at the Springfield Mile II later in the season, he'll tie the one and only Bubba Shobert for third at 25.

That's some pretty lofty company indeed, but there's still plenty of work to be done to transform that possibility into a reality. 

A bit of history made today.

Yeah, it was pretty cool to win on three different brands on a mile. Hopefully it proves it wasn’t just the Kawasaki the last three or four years. Tied Bart Markel’s win record; that was pretty cool. A lot of really cool things. I’m pretty excited about my career.

It wasn’t an easy race either with three red flags... 

It’s pretty minimally straining, especially when they said there’s only five to go now. If somebody runs you off the groove you don’t have time to make it up. So that was pretty nerve-racking, protecting the inside until we got going for a couple laps and I’m like, “All right, we’re good.” Then Jared with about three to go comes up the inside of me going into three and I had to pinch him off because I was like, if he pushes me off the groove I’m out to lunch then. So it was a little bit of conservation and protection there. The beginning of the last couple of laps was just all out, everything I had.

You head to Sacramento tied in points with Jared.

Yeah, that’s good. That’s the goal: to beat Jared. I think he’s going to once again be the toughest competitor. We’re tied. I think we’ve got a good gap over third place in points. I need to keep beating him. Need to beat him at these miles and hopefully we can keep Brad (Baker) up there in second and I can gap him in the points.

Think you can run all five?

Yeah. There’s no reason why I can’t. The bike’s good, I’m riding good. Barring any bad luck or me screwing it up there’s no reason. As long as it all goes my way I think we can do it. Definitely looking forward to Sacramento and going for seven years in a row there, seven wins in a row. Also, if I win that it will be that one track on three different brands, so that will be pretty special too.