The 22-year-old Michigander won his heat race and qualified on the front row for the 25-lap main event. He then tucked in between polesitter Kevin Varnes and 2004 Daytona Short Track winner J.R. Schnabel in the early going, the three men getting away from a freight train of riders battling for fourth. Schnabel got around Smith on lap eight at the same time that Varnes suddenly went up high in turn four and dropped back, the Team Suzuki Flat Track man victimized by a sticking rear brake. Varnes managed to get the brake free and went on to finish 12th.
Memphis Shades Yamaha-backed Schnabel’s lead lasted only two laps before he, too, dropped out, after his engine died on the back straightaway. Schnabel’s loss was Smith’s gain. Smith inherited a half-straightaway lead on the rest of the field and went on cruise to claim the win by 1.009 seconds over White’s Harley-Davidson/Iron Valley Harley-Davidson’s Sam Halbert, the Washington youngster pulling clear of the aforementioned train of also-rans to land his first career AMA Flat Track Championship podium. Latus Harley-Davidson/Renton Honda/Beaverton Honda’s Joe Kopp finished third, .504 seconds behind Halbert and 1.513 seconds behind Smith.
Coziahr Harley-Davidson’s Johnny Murphree, who jumped the start and had to fight his way from the back row, finished fourth, just ahead of charging Team Suzuki Flat Track’s Jake Johnson, the man who won the 2005 edition of the race and might have had a good shot at repeating had he not also jumped the start and been sent to the penalty line.
The was restarted completely after Bartels’ Harley-Davidson/TNT Harley-Davidson’s Shaun Russell crashed by himself off turn four before the race was two laps old. Also starting from the penalty line, Russell managed to work his way back up to seventh, behind Bettencourt Honda’s Kenny Coolbeth, before the checkered flag. Continental/WKR’s Greg Tysor finished eighth, with Scott Powersports’ Raun Wood and Maxxis/Rod Lake Racing’s Jimmy Wood (not related) rounding out the top 10.
Daytona Municipal Stadium
Daytona Beach, Florida
Results: March 8, 2006 (Round 1 of 5):
SINGLES NATIONAL: 1. Bryan Smith (Hon); 2. Sam Halbert (Rot); 3. Joe Kopp (Hon); 4. Johnny Murphree (Hon); 5. Jake Johnson (Suz); 6. Kenny Coolbeth (Hon); 7. Shaun Russell (Hon); 8. Greg Tysor (Rot); 9. Raun Wood (Hon); 10. Jimmy Wood (Hon); 11. Ricky Marshall (Hon); 12. Kevin Varnes (Suz); 13. Bryan Bigelow (Hon); 14. Rich King (KTM); 15. J.R. Schnabel (Yam); 16. Jared Mees (Hon).
Time: 8 min., 31.668 sec.
Margin of victory: 1.009 sec.
AMA FORD QUALITY CHECKED SINGLES CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES POINTS STANDINGS (After 1 of 5 rounds): 1. Bryan Smith (23/1 win); 2. Sam Halbert (19); 3. Joe Kopp (16); 4. Johnny Murphree (15); 5. Jake Johnson (14); 6. Kenny Coolbeth (13); 7. Shaun Russell (12); 8. Greg Tysor (11); 9. Raun Wood (10); 10. Jimmy Wood (9); 11. Ricky Marshall (8); 12. Kevin Varnes (7); 13. Bryan Bigelow (6); 14. Rich King (5); 15. J.R. Schnabel (4); 16. Jared Mees (3).
Time: 8 min., 31.668 sec.