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Indian Dominates King of the Baggers Opening Round at Daytona

McWilliam’s first weekend racing the Indian Bagger was a big success.

No, MD will not be covering MotoAmerica’s King of the Baggers series, but we found the opening round at Daytona newsworthy for a couple of reasons. First of all, the Daytona track is notoriously high speed and dangerous, with heavy banking and the correct line taking you close to the outside wall at triple-digit speeds. Frankly, it was hard to imagine baggers racing there. They did last weekend.

The other thing we found interesting was the debut in the series of Jeremy McWilliams as a factory Indian rider. McWilliams is now 57 years old, but he is one of the most naturally gifted riders MD has ever seen (he actually tested a couple of bikes and provided feedback to MD through our European correspondent at the time, Tor Sagen).

That natural talent of McWilliams saw him gain two pole positions in the premier GP series (when they rode 500cc two-strokes rather than the current four-strokes) on largely uncompetitive machinery. He won a 250cc GP and has a total of six GP podiums (two in the 500 class and four in the 250 class). He actually raced in the Moto2 World championship in 2014 at the age of 50.

So Indian hired him to race the King of the Baggers series this year with teammate Tyler O’Hara. The double-header this weekend saw McWilliams finish fourth in Race 1 and first in Race 2. Indian leaves Daytona with O’Hara and McWilliams ranked one and two in the points.

Here is a press release from Indian regarding the Daytona results, followed by video highlights of Race 2:

Indian Motorcycle Racing dominated Bike Week in Daytona Beach and kicked off its 2022 race season in dramatic fashion. With factory teams competing in flat track and bagger racing, Indian Motorcycle captured two wins and four of six podium spots at the King of the Baggers opening double-header at Daytona International Speedway, along with a victory at the 2022 American Flat Track season opener at the Volusia Half Mile.

Intent on reclaiming the title of King of the Baggers for its Indian Challenger, Round 2 saw an all-Challenger podium sweep led by new factory rider, Jeremy McWilliams, with Tyler O’Hara and Bobby Fong taking 2nd and 3rd respectively. In Round 1, it was all about inaugural King of the Baggers Champion O’Hara who put the Indian Challenger on top of the box with a dramatic last-to-first victory. O’Hara finished 1st and 2nd in the opening rounds to take an early lead in the 2022 series points race. Meanwhile, the opening round of the 2022 American Flat Track season saw Indian Motorcycle Wrecking Crew rider Briar Bauman deliver a masterful performance on his Indian Motorcycle FTR750 to take the win at the Volusia Half-Mile.

McWilliams (R) and O’Hara (L) finished first and second in Race 2.

This weekend was a dramatic display of the incredible level of preparation, determination and skill that powers our teams and riders every time we line up on the grid,” said Gary Gray, Vice President Racing, Service & Technology for Indian Motorcycle. “Considering the stiff competition and unique challenges we’re facing in both flat track and bagger racing this season, we’re certainly happy to get off to such a positive start, but we know full well that this is merely the beginning. There’s a lot more racing ahead of us, and we expect every race weekend to be a dogfight to the finish.”

KING OF THE BAGGERS
Opening weekend of MotoAmerica’s King of the Baggers was nothing short of exhilarating.
In his third year piloting the Mission® Foods S&S® Indian Challenger, O’Hare overcame considerable obstacles in Round 1 to capture his third bagger racing victory. Thanks to a penalty imposed during post-qualifying inspections, O’Hara was forced to start the race at the back of the grid in 13th position. Seemingly unphased by the misfortune, O’Hara literally catapulted off the start, launching his way past more than half the field before entering turn one. From there, he smoothly made his way into third, where he ran for the majority of the race until perfectly timing an incredible move in the final lap, drafting out of the chicane to slingshot his Indian Challenger into first place and take the checkered flag.

“We took a lot of motivation from the disappointing outcome in 2021 and poured it into intensive off-season testing and preparation to ensure we came back strong in 2022, and this weekend was a testament to the dedication, expertise and commitment of our entire team,” said O’Hara. “We’re confident we have the best bike in the paddock, and we intend to prove that again in 2022. We’re off to a good start; but our competition is fierce, and our work has only just begun.”

Powered by its Round 1 victory, Indian Motorcycle Racing took its success to an even higher level in Round 2 with an all-out Indian Challenger podium sweep. After just missing the podium in his Round 1 bagger racing debut, veteran road racer and newest Indian Motorcycle factory rider Jeremy McWilliams battled head-to-head with fellow Mission® Foods S&S® Indian Challenger teammate, O’Hara, ultimately edging him out by mere .025 seconds to capture his first King of the Baggers win and first career win at Daytona.

But O’Hara wasn’t the only threat in this race, while leading into the final lap, McWilliams went high, leaving the door open for Indian Motorcycle privateer Bobby Fong, piloting Steve Delorenzi’s S&S-built RSD Indian Challenger. Fong took full advantage and led most of the final lap, and it wasn’t until the final sprint when McWilliams, along with O’Hara, drafted Fong and made a last-minute pass. While both McWilliams and O’Hara were able to slingshot past Fong, it was McWilliams who was able to hold off O’Hara and cross the finish line by slightly less than a bike length.

The Race 2 podium included an Indian privateer in third position, Bobby Fong (R).

60 Comments

  1. Hugh says:

    Is this the only coverage of Daytona for 2022? No stories about the 200 or any other races?

  2. Redbirds says:

    That was a gas to watch and a close finish. Throwing these big bikes around on a track is just as exciting as any good racing. Thanks for posting.

  3. VLJ says:

    If the upper age limit for this series is 55, why was 57-year-old Jeremy McWilliams allowed to come in and clean their clocks?

  4. motorhead says:

    Those of us who love the baggers are too old to be privateers.
    Rider Age Limit: 18-55

    From the class rules of Mission King of the Baggers, MotoAmerica:
    Motorcycle Specifications:
    Harley-Davidson FL Touring (All Years)
    Indian Bagger or Touring (All Years)

    Minimum Weight:
    620 pounds

  5. tom arline says:

    Why not cover the Bagger series? It’s good, fun, and motorcyclists I know like it. The squids aren’t going to get it, I know. They can’t appreciate how fast these bikes are, and the talent it takes to ride them. I’d love to see O’Hara at Deals Gap or Blood Mountain embarrass the pimply face kid on his MT09. And the Hooligans are even much faster…P.S. They’ll all be at Road Atlanta next month.

  6. Stayed in Mexico says:

    Hats off to MotoAmerica for televising such a cool race program of Big American V twins

  7. EZMark says:

    I’m hoping for a Bagger Flat Track series.
    That would be fun to watch.

    • TimC says:

      I’m somewhere between “I love the way you think” and “you sick, glorious bastard.”

    • Mick says:

      There are a number of places that you can race just about anything on a flat track.

  8. Hot Dog says:

    Air cooled V- twin? Why no Yamaha? This is like picking up a EASY RIDER magazine in the 70’s and they would proudly proclaim that Harley won Daytona. I guess you’d have to read the article very closely to determine that it was the “Battle of the Twins” class. Just tell me what I want to hear.

    • Tom says:

      Uh, the Challenger is water cooled.

      • Hot Dog says:

        Uh, okay. Is Harley running their water cooled heads? Is it American only or are other mfgrs not coming to the dance?

        • motorhead says:

          From the class rules of Mission King of the Baggers, MotoAmerica:

          Motorcycle Specifications:
          Harley-Davidson FL Touring (All Years)
          Indian Bagger or Touring (All Years)

          Minimum Weight:
          620 pounds

          Rider Age Limit:
          18-55

          Most bagger owners are too old to be privateers in this class!

          • SVGeezer says:

            “Minimum Weight:
            620 pounds”

            I know the riders tend to be heavier but that seems a bit much…

  9. My2cents says:

    Definitely exciting racing and those tires must be really working to slow down and corner that weight. The whole issue of what defines a Bagger is interesting and obviously open to a wide range of opinions. I believe truly only Indian and Harley-Davidson make baggers. There are other motorcycles that claim that status but Moto Guzzi, Honda GoldWing’s, Yamaha , Kawasaki, and good grief BMW that are trying to cash in on the niche market. None of those manufacturers can dial in to this segment, besides a big part of the attention is about the historic rivalry between Indian and Harley-Davidson. I don’t expect to see Harley-Davidson on the Moto GP grid soon nor a Indian with a supercharged inline 4 street bike. This is just having a good time for good times sake.

    • todd says:

      This is just a load of crock. If your definition of “bagger” is an American V-twin, then I guess there aren’t a lot of options for you. The fact that nearly every manufacturer has produced some sort of touring bike with luggage is lost on some people. I’m pretty confident that luggage and possibly a large fairing (sounds like almost every BMW ever made) is what makes a bagger a bagger. “Bagger” isn’t a “status” but an option that’s even available through the aftermarket.

      • Dusty says:

        baggers have nut’n ta-do wit luggig, but all’s got ta-do wit a compinsatin’ big front wheel ‘n them woofers in the ‘bags’

  10. Jose Soledad says:

    Was Frankie Garcia a disappointment or what? I don’t think he can even compete anymore.

  11. joe b says:

    Its misleading when they call it “King of the baggers”, and will only let 2 brands participate. It should read, “King of the Indian and Harley Baggers”. Throw in a KTM and a Gold Wing in there, that would be honest “racing”. This is a dog and pony show. Take the bags and fairings off, would be even better. I think. just sayin.

  12. badChad says:

    It is fun to watch, maybe its a bit more so because they don’t look like every other race bike. It’s terribly contrived, they are so far removed from any street going bagger, that it’s just a wee bit more authentic than NASCAR. But that being said, it’s still fun.

    Two suggestions, open it up to all manufactures.
    Wouldn’t it be cool to see the winner of a race pop into the winner circle pull off his helmet, open a saddle bag and then pull out and down a sponsors drink!!

  13. Tom R says:

    If lawn tractors can be raced, then so can Baggers. More power to them.

  14. Grumpy farmer says:

    So when do the Goldwings arrive and clean up?

  15. skortch says:

    It would be interesting to see these guys race against the SV650s, MT07s, and RS660s in the Lightweight Twins Series…

  16. dt-175 says:

    King of the Old Guys!!

  17. Doc Sarvis says:

    MotoGoP sponsored by AARP

  18. Mick says:

    I wonder what the rules are in this series. Isn’t the Challenger basically the Indian version of a Sprtster with bags? If so, shouldn’t it win all of these races given the Harley entries are on an FLH platform? Should they ever need a guy like McWilliams to ice the cake? They must be letting Harley get away with running some evil fire breathing engine crafted from unicorn bone. They probably have blind scrutineers who scrutinize by feel and smell.

    Will Buell be allowed to run their bagger with its much more race ready platform with kind of an afterthought tour kit and windscreen?

    Whatever, a sideshow series. I remember watching a Buell/Harley sideshow series at BIR in the nineties. The Buells were winning handily but then they all started to fall apart. I was at turn three watching the parts fall off. The guy who won lost his seat there and rode several laps without it. They should have dipped the whole bike in Loctite before every race. That’s probably what a lot of the Harley teams did because their bikes lost less parts along the way.

    • Jeremy says:

      Well, other than having side cases, the Buell doesn’t even come close to meeting the market definition of a bagger any more than an H2SX does, so my guess is, no, it wouldn’t be allowed.

    • fred says:

      The rules are available online. It’s an easy search.

  19. L. Ron Jeremy says:

    Wow! Amazing racing with a fully packed grid of nine total racers, oh hum… The true excitement was the Twins race – now that was exciting and amazing with a full grid.

  20. Anonymous says:

    I had initially thought this class would be like sumo wrestlers on ice skates, but then you watch and learn. The tires alone must be under such loads and braking isn’t for the faint of heart. The whole event was superb in all classes and the baggers fit right in.

    • TimC says:

      “Sumo wrestlers on ice skates” is probably actually apt and no insult to anyone. Those guys are bad ass in their own right.

  21. SVGeezer says:

    “No, MD will not be covering MotoAmerica’s King of the Baggers series”

    Why not? Good chance they’ll be putting the stupid in stupid fun every race.*

    *Don’t pretend racing baggers on a road course isn’t stupid. (but FUN!)

    • TimC says:

      I scrolled to comment this before even reading the next sentence. Except I was going to phrase it more like “why the flippin farg not?!” or similar!

      I don’t even know if it’s “stupid!”

      MotoGP is mired in aero and shape shifters FFS. Who cares. THIS IS COOL.

      And I don’t even like this style of bike really.

      EDIT – and this McWilliams guy – HUH.

  22. ABQ says:

    Watching that had me somewhere between WOW and YIKES.

  23. motorhead says:

    All I can say is, Wow. Are those bikes too heavy to high-side? That wobbling and noodling had me sweating.

    • motorhead says:

      Did McWilliams go high (letting Fong go ahead) to let teammate O’Hara join him side by side and then together they drafted and blasted past Fong in the end? Intentionally done so they would cross 1 and 2 together for Indian? Serious skill, patience and confidence to make all that happen!

      And come Monday does Indian sell more baggers?? I hope so!

      • Jeremy McWilliams says:

        In answer to the draft on Bobby, the idea was to drop down the bank where I did as I knew that coming from high to low is quicker (we had checked this already in practice). I didn’t know if I’d be 1st or 2nd to Tyler as I knew he was right behind me. I had a pretty good idea Bobby would be 3rd as he was leading at the bus top chicane. Some calculations and a bit of luck. Cheers JM 🙌🏼

        • Dirck Edge says:

          Thanks for posting Jeremy. Wonder if you remember having dinner with me and Erik Buell near Laguna Seca after I tested Erik’s new liquid cooled bike (the 1125R, I believe) you helped develop at the press launch? Never laughed so much at a press dinner. By the way, did you ever get pole on one of Kenny Roberts’ triples?

          • Jeremy McWilliams says:

            Hi Dirck. Yeah I remember and what a good time it was working and devilling with Erik. His passion was for his brand was unwavering and he really wanted the best. He made a great bike and it went on to race in WSBK. Privileged to be part of that era and work with such a passionate group with Buell. In answer to putting KR’s triple on pole, yes in Phillip Island and got robbed in Sachsenring by about 2thousands by Max Biaggi.

        • mickey says:

          Congrats on your win Jeremy. That’s incredible. Were I racing one of those, they’d time my laps by either sun dial or moon phases.

  24. Mike says:

    DAMN!!! That was exciting!!!

  25. VLJ says:

    Yeah…no. I’m still laughing. Or, rather, simply shaking my head.

    This is so Fat American. It’s the obese midwestern tourists who can’t chase a mocking Colin Farrell up the stairs in the movie In Bruges. This series fits every bad American stereotype.

    Pretty much, if Harley races in a series, the series is set up to be a joke, wildly unfair in favor of Harley, or both. Indian is just a better Harley now.

    • TimC says:

      LOL this is amazing considering Jeremy is actually commenting here.

    • fred says:

      That was a really ugly post. You might want to go home and re-think your life.

    • Jeremy says:

      Bagger racing isn’t anything I would take seriously, but that’s probably what makes it fun. I didn’t watch the race because the format doesn’t have any appeal to me, but it would seem from some of the rave comments that I missed something pretty entertaining.

  26. Elam Blacktree says:

    When they announced this series, I laughed. Then I watched the first race, and realized that I was wrong. The whole point of race watching is have to something interesting, and man this sure is interesting. The bikes keep getting better and lapping faster. I will be watching the Daytona races tomorrow on Fox Sports 2 at 1100 and 1130 East Coast time.