Although Harley seemed ready for the challenge, also unveiling its own new racing bike for the 2017 season, the first new model it had built in 44 years, it was the Indian Scout that dominated the track. And hinting at the superiority of the Scout, privateer Johnny Lewis earned his only podium appearance of the racing season in his very first race aboard the FTR750.(Privateers are racers who aren’t officially or directly backed by one of the manufacturers like Harley or Indian that are entered in a race. It’s those riders the contingency programs will support.)

For each of the 18 races in the American Flat Track 2018 season, Harley-Davidson is offering a total of $31,250 to privateers riding either its XG750R or XR750. A first-place finish will garner a $10,000 prize, with lesser amounts for lower-place finishes.

Polaris is offering $18,500 per race, with a $5,000 award for a first-place finish and, like Harley, incrementally lower amounts down the list. However, it’s also offering a $25,000 award if a privateer wins the championship aboard the Scout FTR750.

The future of motorcycling

The flat-track circuit is more than just about bragging rights. There are two tiers of racing: the big V-twins produced by the likes of Harley, Indian, and other major bike manufacturers, but also races for smaller single-cylinder engine bikes, where younger riders are just getting a taste for the sport.

That’s important not only for the sport but for the industry as well. The 18-to-24-year-old segment of the population is a key demographic for both, and American Flat Track racing is seeing its popularity surge. It certainly won’t hurt if there’s a true Harley-Davidson vs. Indian Motorcycle rivalry once again.

It may not be all about bragging rights, but Harley’s contingency program is signaling that it intends to be the one doing the boasting. A bigger purse, however, may not be enough to overcome the Scout FTR750’s many apparent advantages — after his last win of the season, Mees said the bike was “like nothing I’ve ever competed on” — even if Harley-Davidson is unleashing a host of privateers to go after it.