Following almost ten months of anticipation, preparation, lockdown, and limbo, the 2020 American Flat Track season is at last set to commence. The long-awaited opener will kick off the resurrected campaign in spectacular fashion with the first of a season of doubleheader events, the Volusia Half-Mile I & Volusia Half-Mile II presented by Russ Brown Motorcycle Attorneys on Friday, July 17, and Saturday, July 18, at Volusia Speedway Park in Barberville, Fla.
The global pandemic that pushed back the season by four months has changed the world in any number of ways, including a heightened awareness of the safety precautions needed for spectators and participants alike. As a result, tickets will be available in limited numbers, there will be a pre-entry health screening to ensure fan safety, and enhanced sanitation and cleaning protocols will be followed.
While the practice of social distancing is highly encouraged outside the air fences, the action on track promises to be as close and intense as ever.
The dawn of the AFT SuperTwins presented by Vance & Hines era comes alongside a reconfigured schedule that features a heavy dosage of Half-Miles, starting AFT’s first-ever visit to Volusia Speedway Park for Rounds 1 & 2. That altered reality will force new Grand National Champion Briar Bauman (No. 1 Indian Motorcycle/Progressive Insurance FTR750) to defend his #1 plate against a field stacked with heavy hitters who sense this season may be the best chance of their careers to earn the coveted title themselves.
It’ll be vitally important for Bauman to get out the gates quickly to reestablish himself as the rider to beat, especially considering the past three GNCs went to the winner of the season opener.
Bauman’s stiffest challenge will likely once again come from his fellow Indian Wrecking Crewmen. Future Hall of Famer Jared Mees (No. 9 Indian Motorcycle/Progressive Insurance FTR750) is angling to return to his commanding ways, while Briar’s younger brother, Bronson Bauman (No. 37 Indian Motorcycle/Progressive Insurance FTR750), seems primed to take the next step and emerge a genuine championship threat.
While the factory Indian Motorcycle squad has proven to be a series juggernaut in recent seasons, the series’ historic dominator enters the 2020 fight rebuilt, refocused, and more powerful than its been in years. Now overseen by title-winning crew chief Ricky Howerton, the Harley Factory Flat Track Team is loaded with talent. Former Grand National Champion Bryan Smith (No. 4 Harley-Davidson/Vance & Hines XG750R Rev X) spearheads the effort, flanked by the up-and-coming Jarod Vanderkooi (No. 20 Harley-Davidson/Vance & Hines XG750R Rev X) and supremely gifted rookie Dalton Gauthier (No. 79 Harley-Davidson/Vance & Hines XG750R Rev X).
Yamaha has a pair of aces of its own in 2019 two-race winner JD Beach (No. 95 Estenson Racing Yamaha MT-07 DT) and ‘17 AFT Singles champ Kolby Carlile (No. 36 Estenson Racing Yamaha MT-07 DT).
In addition to the Wrecking Crew, Indian Motorcycle will again be represented by a deep bench of potential race winners on private FTR750s, including the likes of Brandon Robinson (No. 44 HCRR/Ben Evans Racing Indian FTR750) and Sammy Halbert (No. 69 Coolbeth-Nila Racing/Roof Systems of Dallas, Texas Indian FTR750).
Roof Systems AFT Singles presented by Russ Brown Motorcycle Attorneys
The 2020 Roof Systems AFT Singles presented by Russ Brown Motorcycle Attorneys class is once again a wide-open affair with reigning champion Gaultier, ‘18 champ Dan Bromley (No. 62 Roof Systems of Dallas, Texas Indian FTR750), and ‘17 champ Carlile all graduating to the AFT SuperTwins class for 2020.
The aforementioned schedule reshuffle should seriously elevate the title chances of the category’s all-time winningest rider, Shayna Texter (No. 52 Red Bull KTM Factory Racing 450 SX-F). But even without a bevy of TTs to bring her back to the pack, Texter figures to be pushed to the brink by a pair of former premier class standouts in Mikey Rush (No. 14 Estenson Racing Yamaha YZ450F) and Henry Wiles (No. 17 RMR Honda/Honda Talon CRF450R).
Rush made his transition to AFT Singles competition a year ago with the RMR squad and came through in a huge way, scoring four wins and finishing as the championship runner-up, just six points removed from the title.
With Rush moving over to the Estenson Racing outfit for ‘20, his slot at RMR has been filled by Wiles. That’s a momenuntal development for the class’ balance of power, as Wiles -- who boasts the 2009 and 2010 GNC1 Singles crowns and 26 career premier-class victories aboard four-stroke singles -- is arguably the greatest single-cylinder racer in American Flat Track history.
While Texter, Rush, and Wiles have been doing the business at the sharp end for years, the class has historically been a venue for young riders to showcase their abilities at the professional level. And it will remain so in 2020 if 17-year-old prodigy Dallas Daniels (No. 32 Estenson Racing Yamaha YZ450F) has anything to say about it. In just a half-season of competition, Daniels lit the class up in year ago, exploding onto the scene with a win, three podiums, and five top fives in the final seven races of ‘19.
AFT Production Twins
Reigning AFT Production Twins king Cory Texter (No. 1 G&G Racing/Roof Systems Yamaha MT-07) is back to defend his title. Texter opened his ‘19 campaign in scintillating form, tearing off three straight wins to start the year and then rode the wave of fast start to the throne.
He was pushed down the stretch by four challengers who each won two races apiece. While two of them, Gauthier and Carlile, have since moved on to the premier class, 2019 runner-up Ryan Varnes (No. 68 Varnes Racing/RoyBuilt Don’s Kawasaki Ninja 650) and fifth-ranked Chad Cose (No. Wally Brown Racing Harley-Davidson XG750R) are back for another shot at the title.
The versatile James Rispoli (No. 43 Latus Motors Racing Harley-Davidson XG750R) promises to be a factor as well. After successfully transitioning back to dirt track racing following a decade focused on pavement, Rispoli should only be that much stronger in 2020 with 2000 GNC Joe Kopp serving as his crew chief.
Safety has been placed at a premium and, toward those ends, AFT has worked closely with Volusia County health and government officials. For more on the specific precautions being taken at Rounds I & II, please view the event FAQ sheet.
While ticket sales are being limited to promote a safe atmosphere and allow for proper social distancing, fans looking to attend the highly anticipated 2020 American Flat Track doubleheader opener can purchase tickets for the Volusia Half-Mile I at store.americanflattrack.com and the Volusia Half-Mile II at store.americanflattrack.com.
General Admission tickets start at just $25, and, as always, kids 12 and under are admitted for free in the General Admission area with the purchase of an adult GA ticket. Additionally, fans who purchase both days in advance will be offered a multi-day discount, which takes $10 off each pair of Friday/Saturday General Admission tickets. Multiple upgraded ticket options are also available to choose from.
While the Premium and Reserved Hook-Up camping spaces have sold out, a limited number of General Admission weekend camping passes remain. Fans are encouraged to reserve their spots now at store.americanflattrack.com.
Gates will open for fans at 4:00 p.m. ET/1:00 p.m. PT on Friday and 2:30 p.m. ET/11:30 a.m. PT on Saturday with the Main Event programs slated to begin shortly after 8:00 p.m. ET/5:00 p.m. PT both nights. Live coverage of the entire weekend’s racing activities will be available on any device for less than $1 per event via TrackPass on NBC Sports Gold. Live streaming for Friday, July 17 will begin at 4:30 p.m. ET (1:30 p.m. PT) and Saturday, July 18 at 3:30 p.m. ET (12:30 p.m. PT).
The Volusia Half-Mile I & Volusia Half-Mile II presented by Russ Brown Motorcycle Attorneys will air back-to-back on NBCSN on Thursday, July 23, starting at 11:30 p.m. ET/8:30 p.m. PT. The feature broadcasts will include exclusive features, cutting-edge aerial drone and onboard footage, and the expert commentary of AFT legend Chris Carr.
For more information on American Flat Track visit www.americanflattrack.com.
To get the latest American Flat Track clothing and merchandise visit www.americanflattracker.com
AFT Returns to Racing with Volusia Speedway Park Doubleheader
Adam has been a race fan since the first time he went through the tunnel under the Daytona International Speedway almost 30 years ago. He has had the privilege of traveling to races all across the state of Florida (as well as one race in Ohio), watching nearly everything with a motor compete for fame and glory, as well as participating in various racing schools to get the feel of what racecar drivers go through every week.
Adam spent several years covering motorsports for Examiner.com., where he had the opportunity to see the racing world from behind the scenes as well as the grandstands. He invites everyone to follow him on Twitter, Facebook, and Google Plus, and looks forward to sharing his enthusiasm for all things racing with the readers of SpeedwayDigest.com.
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