One of the racers in Thursday’s Barbara Fritchie Classic hailed from Australia, and another one came from England.
As usual, the annual Fourth of July motorcycle race in Frederick drew competitors from several faraway places.
The unusual thing this year was, someone from the Fritchie Classic’s very own state ended up winning the event’s most prestigious checkered flag.
Brandon Price became the first racer from Maryland in 30 years to win the Barbara Fritchie Classic’s main event, surging to victory in the All Star Twins race during the 98th running of the Fritchie at the Frederick Fairgrounds.
After a lengthy delay caused by rain, Price overtook frontrunner and four-time Fritchie champ Sammy Halbert on the second lap and led the rest of the way to win the 12-racer final.
Born in Sparks and residing in White Hall, Price is the first Maryland racer to win the Fritchie Classic main event since the late Rodney Farris accomplished the feat in 1989.
That achievement was announced over the PA system, but Price’s victory was noteworthy for yet another reason. He was the first racer in at least 50 years to win the Fritchie Classic main event on an Indian motorcycle — the precise year that last happened couldn’t be determined as of press time.
“Very fast, very manageable power, that’s what I’ve noticed,” said Price, referring to Indian bikes. “Like the Kawasakis, you have all the power at once, they’re kind of hard to control.”
Price, 19, has seemed to have firm control of bike this year after moving from singles to twins. He’s 11th in the American Flat Track Twins series standings and is in prime position to win rookie of the year honors. He was coming off a fourth-place finish in the AFT Twins race at Lima, Ohio on Saturday.
Price started racing at the Fritchie Classic when he was 12 but didn’t come to Frederick last year because he was recovering from a crash suffered during a race in Springfield. He got knocked out and suffered a broken scapula, bruised lungs and a lacerated liver, according the American Flat Track website.
He bounced back to race again in the 2018 season, returning to a sport he first tried during an event at the Timonium Fairgrounds as a kid.
“My dad brought me there. I’ve been hooked ever since,” said Price, who said his favorite aspect of racing is “getting sideways” on turns.
Price won the last time he was in Frederick, claiming the 2017 Pro Singles title on a Kawasaki. But this time, he was up against racers like Halbert, who won the main event the last time he raced in Frederick in 2017, and defending champ Cory Texter.
Halbert took the early lead on his borrowed Harley-Davidson, but Price was lurking, looking for another win on a day when he also won the Twins Dash for Cash.
“Sammy got a really good jump. I just stayed right there and I just waited for him to make a mistake, and it just so happened it was on the second lap,” Price said. “He drifted wide a little bit, so I just took my shot and went up inside.”
“He ducked under me in turn one, and I just followed him around,” Halbert said. “I didn’t have anything for him today, but my props to him, and I’m always stoked to come out.”
Halbert couldn’t run last year’s Fritchie Classic because he didn’t have a bike. Being a member of Harley-Davidson’s factory team, Halbert must always race on a bike by that manufacturer, but he can’t use the motorcycle he competes on in AFT events.
“So many people came together to get this Harley-Davidson ready for me,” he said. “The first time I rode this bike was today. It’s the first time this bike’s ran in years.”
Texter is in first place of the AFT Production Twins points standings, winning his first three races and finishing a close second in the other one. He was pleased with his third-place finish on Thursday, especially racing on a Yamaha production bike, which differed from the bikes Price and Halbert rode.
“The two engines that were in the first two spots, they’re built for this sport,” Texter said. “And mine is essentially a street bike engine in a frame.”
Most of the racers thought the rain helped the track, which had to be worked on for over two hours after getting soaked.
“Earlier in the day, the track was a little too deep and sandy in turns one and two,” Halbert said. “And all the rain kind of settled that down, to where it was more packed in and a much better and safer track.”
Trent Lowe, a 16-year-old from Guilford, Indiana., won the All Star Singles and Super Singles races. Both were come-from-behind victories.
“Both times, I was able to work my way back up and make the pass,” he said. “One was on the last lap, the other had a couple laps to go.”
The last-lap pass came in the All Star Singles race against Max Whale, who is from Queensland, Australia and won the Singles Dash for Cash. He said motorcycle racing isn’t extremely popular in his country, but he got into the sport because his father and mother both raced.
Jeffery Lowery, who bounced back after crashing in an All Star Twins elimination heat, was third in the All Star Singles race, which also featured English racer Oliver Brindley.
Other winners were: Aidan Roosevans, Open Singles Amateur and 450 Amateur; Richard Winsett Jr., Senior 40+; Logan McGrane, 250 Amateur; Darryl Jakubowski, Open Vintage.