Winner’s Circle: Brandon Price, Atlanta Short Track

Amid all the well-deserved hullaballoo regarding Kolby Carlile’s amazing consistency on his way to the 2017 AFT Singles title, or Shayna Texter’s eye-opening five Main Event wins last year (more than any other AFT Singles rider) while posting 3rd in the championship chase, there was Maryland’s Brandon Price – quietly hammering his way to a runner-up spot in the 2017 championship while showing consistency and the ability to win, as his three Main Event wins last year clearly show.

The quiet, low-key kid from White Hall, Maryland, whose first bike was a Honda 50 and whose first race was on the indoor concrete slab in Timonium, MD as part of the BCTRA (Baltimore County Trail Riders Association) series, has quickly and quietly risen in the AFT ranks. Price finished 7th overall his rookie season in 2016, with eight top-ten finishes, and came within a whisker of winning the 2017 AFT Singles title (he finished second). He won the 2017 finale at Perris, with only a mechanical DNF at the penultimate round in Texas keeping him from the number one spot.

Price’s performance at the 2018 DAYTONA TT wasn’t exactly what he expected, managing just seventh in the Main. But just like last season, where he recorded a disappointing 14th at the Daytona opener and a 13th at Atlanta in race number two, he rebounded quickly with a win at Charlotte in race number three.

And that’s exactly what happened at round number two at Atlanta last weekend – a dominant win on a challenging racetrack. So you might just say Brandon Price is already ahead of schedule.

Price readies for the start of his Semi, and tries to block out the butterflies in his gut.

“Yeah, it felt great,” Price told us a few days after his Atlanta Short Track win on Sunday (pushed back due to rain on Saturday). “I was happy to get back on top of the box. I felt like I needed to back up my wins and runner-up spot in the championship last year, and this does that. It’s a big shot of confidence for me going forward. It’s Wednesday, just three days after the race, and it still hasn’t sunk in. Seems like all the Singles riders congratulated me afterward, and being in victory circle was really exciting. It’s a great feeling.”

Brandon Price (92) blasting away in Sunday's Semi race, which he won easily.

Price’s road to victory at Atlanta had a few large potholes, however. He qualified just 20th on Saturday, a full half-second off the fast time put in by Ferran Cardus. “We were way back,” he says. “Our setup was off, especially gearing, but wow, the track was really fast, really hooked up. Everyone seemed to be getting to the rev-limiter early.”

Price’s dad Phillip, who does most of the wrenching on Brandon’s Hondas along with his grandfather Charles, made some changes to the bike, primarily gearing-related. They worked, too, as Price’s runner-up spot in Saturday’s heat race made clear. “I started in the second row but got a good jump and was able to ride pretty aggressively. The track allowed you to really banzai,” he says. “You could toss [the bike] around a lot, run it in deep, with no worries.”

And then the skies opened up, luckily after all the heat races in both classes had been run. This caused some consternation among some riders and teams, but Price wasn’t worried. “I was fine with the rain and the delay,” he says. “The track started to get a little bit slick late in the day, before the rains came, and we knew it was likely to be nice on Sunday, so I wasn’t bothered.”

Sunday morning dawned cloudy but dry, and after some track prep things got rolling again with a short practice session for each class and then a pair of Semis. Price was fastest in that morning practice. “I attacked [that session] like it was a race,” he told us. “The other riders were maybe a bit more cautious, but that attitude just seemed right at the time for me. I knew I’d gone fast; I didn’t check my times right away, but I wasn’t surprised to find [I was quickest] when I finally did. It’s funny; I’m not usually aggressive in practice; but late last year I started trying to be more so, and it’s worked out.”

Still, despite the rain and prep, the track turned slick and technical quickly on Sunday, which became evident in the Semis. “The race track got trickier for sure,” Price says. “You couldn’t just run it in there, or crack on the gas; you had to ride more smoothly, and more technically, and keep your wheels in line.”

In the AFT Singles Main on Sunday, Price was in control for much of the race, winning by a good margin.

Price did just that, winning Semi number one by nearly a full second over Oliver Brindley. Kevin Stollings and Dan Bromley went 1-2 in Semi number 2. “I felt really good in the Semi,” Price says. “I ran consistent laps and didn’t worry about what was going on behind me. I’ve stopped looking back during races these days, but I did take a little peek exiting turn 4 on the last lap; I was surprised the guys were that far back.”

In the Main it was more of the same, although it didn’t quite start out that way. “I got a crappy holeshot,” Price told us. “I think I was fourth or fifth. I thought, ‘Uh, oh, I’m in trouble.’ But I picked a couple guys off pretty quickly, and then, after I got by Morgen [Mischler], I knew I’d be ok. I took my time, and it was smooth sailing until the red flag. On the re-start I got a good jump, and then just picked off the laps one by one. I was surprised I had that much of a gap. Every race I won last year was super close! I wasn’t used to being that far ahead.”

Despite rain Saturday evening, conditions for the Atlanta Short Track were excellent both days.

Price has been at the top of his game for a long time, compiling an impressive list of wins and championships in his years of competition. At the local level he won just about every race he entered in the 85 and 250 classes, and was the Northeast National Champion for several years in the 65 and 85 classes. At the Amateur Grand Nationals, from 2010-2015, Price won 31 Amateur Grand National races and 11 Grand National Championships. He was also the 2010 youth dirt track rider of the year, and also won the Rodney Farris award from District 7.

“I’d really like to thank my parents, siblings and grandparents,” he told us. “This really is a family team. I grew up racing, and they’ve all been involved and supportive. We’ve always traveled to the races together. I’d also like to thank Parkinson Brothers Racing, and all my other sponsors, including County Line Inn Bar and Grill, DPC Racing, Bryan and Tina Trippe, TCX Boots, Arai Helmets, Lightshoe and Rekluse. We couldn’t do it without all of you.”

Brandon Price (92) leads the Semi field out of Turn Two on the opening lap.

Last year, the Texas round – which happens in just two weeks, April 28 – was a heartbreaker for Price. He qualified third fastest and was running in the lead pack when a coil wire broke, causing a DNF and essentially taking him out of title contention, seeing as how he won the following – and final – race in Perris, Ca.

“Yeah, it was a bummer, but I like the [Texas] track,” Price says. “It’s another slick car track, and having grown up racing on them, I feel pretty comfortable there.”

With that sort of circuit coming up, a going-away win in Atlanta already under his belt, and that quiet speed and effectiveness seemingly in full bloom, it’s hard to count Brandon Price out of round three at Texas Motor Speedway – or this year’s AFT Singles championship, for that matter.

Just listen for that quiet hammering...

Photos: Scott Hunter, American Flat Track