Newly crowned AMA Grand National Champion Brad Baker capped off what has already been a dream season by slotting himself into the most coveted position in all of flat track racing for 2014 – the factory Harley-Davidson team.
The 20-year-old Washingtonian signed the deal last week, finalizing a program that will put him on the factory XR750s for the Twins races. Baker takes over from three-time AMA Grand National Champion Kenny Coolbeth Jr., the rider who has been a part of the factory Harley-Davidson team since 2006.
“It’s kinda crazy,” Baker said. “Let alone being a Grand National Champion at 20 years old and then coming home and enjoying myself and getting ready to wind down… and now this. It was before the season was over that I started talking with factory Harley and we’ve just been going over things and getting our program together and we signed the contract last week. It’s amazing. The thing is that I will still be riding XR750s and I still have to remember all the basics that got me to be a Grand National Champion. There’s nothing different other than the exposure and basically the bank account at the end of the year.”
One big change is that, as a factory rider, Baker won’t be crisscrossing the country all summer in a van with his motorcycles in the back.
“That is going to be a big difference for me,” Baker said. “One thing I’ve always felt that would take me to the next level is actually not having to do all the grunt work as far as driving and working on the bikes. Now I can just go out and train, ride my mountain bike, practice and focus on my job – which is to go out and ride the motorcycles. It’s going to be what I needed to take my level of skill to the next level and just put all the pieces of the pie together for what I’ve need to excel.”
And Baker has some experience with the factory team after filling in for two races in 2012 when Coolbeth broke his leg.
“I got some experience working with them and we all worked really well together,” Baker said. “I think we got a sixth and a seventh and kind of proved to them [Harley] that I was an up and comer and we all worked well together and got along. This year I put the icing on the cake by carrying the torch for Harley-Davidson and being the only one inside the top five at every race and putting Harley on top in the record books one more time when there were some pretty hot Kawasakis right behind us and ready to take it away.”
Baker won this year’s Grand National Championship using a combination of his Dodge Bros Racing XR750 and his Specialty Fabrication/Schenk Racing Honda CRF450. He earned two wins, five podiums and there was just one race in which he didn’t finish in the top five and that was the Colonial Downs Twins race where he suffered a DNF. For 2014, Baker will ride a KTM 450 in the Singles races.