The story of Bryan Smith's second season as an important part of the Indian Wrecking Crew is an interesting one. At this point last year, the Indian team's first full season, it was a toss up between Smith and Mees who was going to be the champion. This season Mees has 7 wins, one second and one disqualification from nine rounds. Smith has none and is sitting in sixth in the title race, behind his team-mate Baker (sitting in third) and three Indian-mounted privateers - Wiles, Coolbeth and Carver.
This has caused the 2016 champion to carry out some radical experiments with a bike that seems to working very well for other riders. So well that Indian riders secured the top eight positions at like weekends Oklahoma Mile. Shawn Baer was ninth on a KTM, Brandon Robinson 10th on the Harley, in case you were wondering...
Look at the two photos below, both from May's Texas Half-Mile (where Mees won and Smith didn't make the main).
Mees bike is #1. It's spannered by the highly experienced team headed by Kenny Tolbert in an autonomous team and free to work independently of the two factory riders - Baker and Smith.
Smith is #4 and has the crew, run by Ricky Howerton, that built his super Kawasaki that he won his title with and was runner-up with three times before that.
The obvious differences are the frame and the low-slung S&S exhaust. Look at the frame below.
And how it differs from the bike that debuted at Santa Rosa at the end of 2016 (and I tested in Sideburn 27)
An Indian insider told Sideburn he thought Smith was trying to make his FTR750 feel like his title-winning Kawasaki. We understand that the Howerton Kawasaki is in mothballs, it wasn't sold at the end of the 2016 season, so the team could return to it, if they wished and had the sponsorship-backing. It's an interesting sub-plot, considering if Smith will return to the skinny green bike to try beat Mees, like he did in 2016 by a scant 5pts after 14 rounds (back when GNC1 riders rode twins and singles in the same season).