The Price of Victory

September 2, 2019

Late in a rookie season in which Brandon Price had finished outside the top ten more often than not, he found himself very much in the mix of a wild Springfield Mile II. Sprinting down the back straight for the final time, Price had no one in front of him. He did have, however, four big-name pilots in Jared Mees, Sammy Halbert, Henry Wiles, and Briar Bauman flanking him to either side. Price ultimately finished fourth, just 0.169 seconds short of a shocking maiden win, in an epic that saw ten riders take the checkered flag within 0.7 seconds. The victory went to reigning Grand National Champion Mees.

September 7, 2019

Just five days later, Price was at it again. Following an early head-to-head confrontation, Bauman cleared Mees and set off to a seemingly victory. Price reeled in Mees and dispatched him before engaging in a relentless pursuit of Bauman. The two waged a war on the timing boards, but Price never quite drew to within striking distance. In the end, Bauman scored his fifth win of the season by 0.878 seconds, positioning him to clinch his first career Grand National Championship in his next outing. For Price, the race represented his first career premier-class podium.


October 3, 2020

A little over a year later, Price was still seeking his second as the Mission SuperTwins lined up for the Atlanta Short Track II. While he hadn’t yet returned to the podium, Price was in the midst of an upgraded sophomore effort with four fifth-place finishes on the season. But none of those performances hinted at his Atlanta showing, as he controlled the bulk of the race, leading 32 laps -- 31 of which in succession. Unfortunately for Price, Mees led the other three, including the final two. Price successfully kept Mees locked behind him as the multi-time GNC threw a bevy of overtaking attempts at him. But in the end, the living legend finally delivered a decisive block pass that interrupted Price’s flow just long enough for Mees to slip away for a 0.339-second victory.


July 24, 2021

Price was in his most powerful form yet when Progressive American Flat Track made its inaugural stop at the Port Royal Half-Mile. He held a clear pace advantage over the field throughout an entire day of testing, and then made good on that threat by dashing his way up to the lead on lap 4 and dominating the Main Event for the next 21 laps. Reigning back-to-back champion Bauman was unwilling to concede the race, however, coming at Price with two aggressive passing attempts as the race neared its conclusion. After the first failed to stick, Bauman came even harder the second, taking the line away and stalling Price’s drive, allowing the champ to get to the stripe 0.242 seconds earlier at the flag.

In each of Brandon Price’s three Mission SuperTwins seasons, the Mission Roof Systems rider has clearly demonstrated the capacity to win at the sport’s highest level. All that remains is to actually do so.

“That first win is at the top of my priorities,” Price admitted. “I guess I could say looking back on those races, I feel pretty good. But as they’ve happened, I felt gutted every time. Most of the time, I'm leading the races and then lose it right at the end. But I know I have the speed and the ability, it's just keeping everything together and putting it all together to come away with the win.”

To his credit, Price has proven that on his best day, only the likes of all-time greats Mees and Bauman have been able to get the better of them. And the trend of the near-misses works in Price’s favor too. It’s required increasingly desperate moves to beat him, and every time he’s been on the receiving end of one of them, he’s taken a mental note and added it to his expanding repertoire of late-race tricks and tactics.

“There's different passes that people have put on me in those races,” he said. “I just put those in my toolbox and always think ahead. Briar made that pass toward the end and it kind of slowed my momentum so I couldn't really go back and get him, which sucked, because I feel like I was pretty quick. I didn't have enough drive to get back by him. I've already watched it a few times -- I've put his pass in my toolbox. It's something to watch out for.”

Interestingly, Bauman later explained that his winning move was something of a preemptive strike. He claimed that Price had shown a propensity to come up the inside and meet riders at the exit. And in order to avoid that from happening to him, it’s effectively what he did to Price to create the separation he needed.

The situation represents something of a catch-22 for the up-and-comer. He’s been on the receiving end of some relatively aggressive maneuvers from the sport’s established superstars and that’s just sort of how it goes. However, it’s fair to imagine that he might have received some degree of criticism had things had played out in reverse, especially with his opponents’ championship hopes included in the discussion.

That ties into what Price views as a larger misperception of his style and approach. He’s commonly -- and unfairly to his mind -- cited as an prototypical example of the gifted-yet-overly-aggressive rider who’s still polishing the rougher edges of his game.

“I think I'm one of the smoothest, cleanest riders out there,” Price said. “I know I'm a very aggressive rider, but I've gotten into one person in my career, and it was an accident and I apologized after. I don't want to be called the ‘jammer’ or the ‘slammer’ -- I take pride in how I ride -- aggressive but clean.

“And I have a smooth throttle. I don't know where I got this reputation as a throttle ripper. I've always been smooth on the throttle. I think it showed this past race because it was a slick track and I was up front all day, both days.

“I guess it's just because I'm still the youngest guy in the class. A lot of young guys give it a lot of gas, I guess, but I've never rode like that.”

By the same token, he’s not about to let that talk get in his head and prevent him from using the edges in his game that remain to his advantage.

“I guess it is a tricky situation, but at this point, I'm going for wins. I don't care if you're going for a championship or not. I feel everybody is trying to go out and win. If you ride aggressive like that, I can ride aggressive like that back. That's how I feel.”

So long as he stays on his current trajectory, Price will have more opportunities to earn vindication via victory.

Perhaps obscured by the relative success of his Mission Roof Systems teammates -- Brandon Robinson, who’s taken two wins and four podiums this season, and Jarod Vanderkooi, who’s finished inside the top-four in six straights races while on his own quest to score a maiden victory -- the most recent of Price’s runner-ups comes as the latest evidence that he’s now taking another step forward.

He had built up to his Port Royal performance with two fourths, a fifth, and two sixths in the season’s opening seven races. But perhaps the most important result was one off the GNC schedule. Price celebrated his Fourth of July by defeating the likes of Cory Texter, Dan Bromley, and Ryan Varnes to win the 100th annual Barbara Fritchie Classic in his home state of Maryland. Successfully capturing that checkered flag provided a boost of confidence needed to raise his game even further.

After enduring an up-and-down start to 2021, he said, “Now I have the right attitude every race. I just go into it with an open mind, feeling good and confident, and push it every race. I think that's what it really takes. I feel that racing is more of a mental game even above natural talent.

“I'm actually really excited about (the New York Short Track doubleheader). I wouldn't say it's the same surface as Port Royal, but it is a slick track, and you have to really know your throttle control and get your bike hooked up.”

Half-way through his third season as a Mission SuperTwins pilot, Price realizes that potential and projection only take one so far before a career gets measured strictly based on the end results.

“Yeah -- it's pretty much how I feel at this point. It's, I guess, ‘put up or shut up.’ I'm just ready to go for it and go for wins.”