American Flat Track is an American motorcycle racing series.[1] The racing series, founded and sanctioned by the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) in 1954, originally encompassed five distinct forms of competitions including mile dirt track races, half-mile, short-track, TT steeplechase and road races.[2][3] The championship was the premier motorcycle racing series in the United States from the 1950s up until the late 1970s.

Fast and Left
Brandon Robinson

Following the 2016 season, AMA Pro Racing, the sanctioning body of the series, announced a restructured class system as well as a re-envisioning of the event format. The restructured class system consists of the AFT SuperTwins premier class, the AFT Singles class for young rising stars and later on the AFT Production Twins class featuring production-based, 649-800cc twin-cylinder engines.

History edit

Harley versus Indian edit

In 1932, the AMA sanctioned a racing class called the Class A Dirt Track championship allowing for motorcycle manufacturers to enter prototype machinery.[2][4] In 1933, the AMA introduced a new class called Class C which featured street-legal motorcycles in an effort to make motorcycle racing less expensive for ordinary motorcyclists.[2][5] When manufacturers cut back on racing budgets during the Great Depression, it spelled the end of Class A competition and the Class C championship became the most important championship.[2] AMA crowned Indian-mounted Woodsie Castonguay its first Class C National Champion in 1935, and the final Class A champion was crowned in 1938.[citation needed] In the years prior to World War II, the Class C championship helped fuel an intense rivalry between Harley-Davidson and Indian, the two major American manufacturers of the period.[6] During the Second World War there were no championships held between 1942 and 1945.

From 1946 to 1953, the AMA Grand National Champion was crowned based on the results of a single race, the Springfield Mile held at the Illinois State Fairgrounds Racetrack.[2] Side-valve engines had a maximum displacement of 750cc, while overhead valve engines were limited to 500cc.

In 1954, the Grand National Championship series was introduced, featuring five different types of competitions: four of the competitions (Mile, Half-mile, TT, and Short Track) were held on dirt tracks, while the fifth was held on asphalt-paved courses.[2] With the demise of the Indian motorcycle company in 1953, the Harley-Davidson factory was left to dominate the series. Harley-Davidson rider Joe Leonard won the first Grand National Championship in 1954 and won the title twice more before moving on to a career in auto racing. Carroll Resweber became the first four-time champion, winning four consecutive championships for Harley-Davidson from 1958 to 1961. Since 1961 short-track events became part of the Championship; those races had a 250cc displacement limit.

British invasion edit

In the 1960s, British manufacturers seeking to bolster sales in the burgeoning American motorcycle market, began to compete in the championship. Dick Mann won the national title for BSA in 1963, marking the first victory for a foreign manufacturer.[7] Triumph would win three Grand National championships in four years with Gary Nixon winning back-to-back titles in 1967 and 1968, and Gene Romero taking another title in 1970.[8][9]

The Japanese arrive edit

New regulations for 1969 eliminated the displacement penalty for overhead valve engines; in dirt track events brakes were permitted for the first time. Mann would win a second crown for BSA in 1971 before the British motorcycle industry collapsed in the face of stiff technological competition from Japanese manufacturers. In 1973, Yamaha's Kenny Roberts would win the first Grand National championship for a Japanese company.[10] Since 1973 the displacement limit for short-track events was increased to 360cc, but multi-cylinder two-stroke engines were still limited to 250cc.

In 1975 the championship gained full sponsorship from R.J. Reynolds Tobacco and became known as Camel Pro Series.[11] Between 1979 and 1982 the series was named Winston Pro Series, reverting to Camel brand in 1983.[12][13]

In 1976 dirt track engines were limited to a maximum of two cylinders; in 1977 the short track engines were limited to 250cc and limited to one cylinder. When the Yamaha team withdrew from the Grand National championship after the 1977 season, Harley-Davidson was left once again to dominate the series.[10] By 1983, the Grand National Championship had become the best attended form of dirt track racing in America, either on two wheels or four wheels.[14] This would be the high point for the championship as, other forms of motorcycle racing such as motocross and road racing began to overtake dirt tracking in popularity.[15]

Tammy Jo Kirk became the first woman to score GNC points in 1983. In 1984, Honda entered the championship and broke the Harley-Davidson stranglehold with Ricky Graham winning the championship. Honda followed with three consecutive national championships by Bubba Shobert before they withdrew in 1987, leaving Harley-Davidson once again as the sole major manufacturer in the series.[16] In 1984 short-track rules granted a 500cc displacement limit for four-stroke engines.

In the 1970s and on into the 1980s, the Grand National Championship proved to be a fertile training ground for world champion road racers as, AMA dirt track racers such as Kenny Roberts, Freddie Spencer, Eddie Lawson and Wayne Rainey all went on to win the 500cc road racing world championship.[17] The motorcycle road racing technology of the late 1970s featured engines with power in excess of what the frames and tires of the day could handle.[18] The resulting tire spin created a style of riding more reminiscent of dirt track riding, where sliding the rear tire to one side is used as a method to steer the motorcycle around a corner. This proved to be a great advantage to American dirt track racers who were accustomed to sliding their motorcycles. As Grand Prix motorcycle racing evolved into its current MotoGP formula with electronic traction control limiting rear wheel sliding, the advantage once held by former dirt trackers has been diminished.

Harley returns to dominance edit

After the departure of the Honda team in 1987, the Harley-Davidson factory racing team dominated the series with rider Scott Parker winning nine national championships within an eleven-year period.[19] During this period, dirt track racing continued its decline, partly due to the fact that motocross and road racing motorcycles could be purchased directly from the manufacturers, whereas dirt track racers had to be hand-built.[15]

Restructuring edit

In 1986, the AMA recognized the changing nature of motorcycle racing by making the Grand National Championship into a dirt-track-only series; road-racing rounds were branched off into a separate championship which eventually became the AMA Superbike Championship. In that season Camel sanctioned both series which were named Camel Pro Dirt Track Series and Camel Pro Road Racing Series.[20]

In 1987 and 1988 the sponsorship strategy changed again and the Camel Pro Series name referred to a particular series based on selected rounds from both Grand National and Superbike championships.[21]

New rules for 1987 banned two-stroke engines from dirt track races; single cylinder engines had a maximum displacement of 600cc, while twin-cylinder had a 750cc limit. Since 1989 only twin-cylinder engines were allowed in mile and half-mile events. Since 1989 the Camel Pro Series reverted as title sponsor for the Grand National Championship; the sponsorship lasted until the end of 1992 season.[22] New dirt track classes were also introduced designed to attract young riders to the sport and, new rules for machinery were adopted in an effort to make it easier for motorcyclists to compete with motorcycles readily available from manufacturers.[15][23][24] While the Grand National Championship is no longer the premier racing series in the United States, it continues to have a loyal following.[15]

In 2002 the single cylinder engines were limited to 550cc (push-rod) or 505cc (OHC); the twin-cylinder class was expanded to include production-derived engines up to 1250cc.

In 2006 the Grand National Championship was split into two separate series: Grand National Championship Singles (for short track and TT events) and Grand National Championship Twins (for half mile and mile events); no overall title was awarded, although in 2007 there was a de facto champion by virtue of winning both championships. Single-cylinder engines were limited to 450cc.

Since 2010 the Grand National Champion title was reinstated and awarded to the rider who scores the most combined points. New manufacturers began to enter and find success in the sport. In 2010, Ducati earned its first GNC win. On August 24, 2013, three different OEMs finished on the podium for the first time since 1972. One week later, Harley-Davidson failed to make the podium for the first time since 1987.

For 2017, the Grand National Championship was rebranded as the American Flat Track Championship. Changes were also made to the classification of motorcycles, logo, race format, and rules. NBCSN will air the championship tape-delayed in prime weekend time slots and all live event coverage is available via TrackPass on NBC Sports Gold.

Events edit

  • The Mile: A race held on an oval-shaped dirt course approximately one mile in length. The races became popular because of the availability of horse racing venues around the country, and are typically held during the off-season for horse racing.[3] These events usually favor motorcycles with larger engine displacements such as the Indian Motorcycle FTR750 and Harley-Davidson XG750R. The races usually feature numerous lead changes with speeds of up to 140 miles per hour.
  • The Half-Mile: An event similar to a mile race, also held on an oval-shaped dirt course with a shorter lap distance. Despite the distance, tracks may vary in length, because they are often held on the same venues that hold World of Outlaws car events.
  • Short Track: A race held on an oval-shaped dirt course approximately a quarter mile in length.[3] These tight courses have been held indoors at venues such as the Houston Astrodome and favor lighter motorcycles based on two-stroke motocross machinery.
  • TT Steeplechase: A race held on an irregularly shaped dirt course which usually features one right hand turn and one jump.[3] This event also favors lighter motorcycles, but larger motorcycles have also been successful. The initials TT stand for Tourist Trophy, taking its name from the days when street-legal motorcycles were known as touring motorcycles hence, a tourist trophy (TT) signified a race classification for street-legal motorcycles.[25]

AFT SuperTwins edit

Championship edit

Briar Bauman leads the AFT SuperTwins pack at the 2020 Springfield Mile. Photo: Brian J Nelson

AFT SuperTwins is the pinnacle of dirt track motorcycle racing globally, and has been since the professional ranks were formalized as the Grand National Championship in 1954. Riders in this class represents a unity of elite teams and the most-skilled athletes who compete at every round of AFT competition. Each will race on custom-built, twin-cylinder motorcycles generating 90+ horsepower race bar-to-bar at speeds in excess of 140 mph, often drafting to the finish line and requiring a photo finish to determine the race winner. The motorcycles in this class contain the latest in motorsport technology and will be piloted by the fastest two-wheeled athletes on dirt.

Specifications edit

  • Horsepower: 90+
  • Minimum weight: 310 lbs.
  • Top speed: 140+ MPH
  • 0–60 mph: Under 4 seconds
  • Tires: Dunlop, 19-inch, purpose-built flat track tires
  • Fuel: VP Racing Fuels C10 Unleaded
  • Eligible engines: Only 4-stroke twin-cylinder engines with prior, written approval by AMA Pro Racing are eligible for competition in AFT Twins. This includes both production engines designed for street motorcycles and racing-only engines.
  • Engine displacement: 649cc – 900cc with restrictions
    • Production engines: Engines that were originally under 750cc may be bored and stroked but may not exceed 750cc as a final displacement.
    • Racing-only engines: Engines may not exceed 750cc with a maximum allowable overbore of 0.045” per cylinder. Liquid cooled racing-only engines may not exceed 750cc. There is no provision for overbore.

AFT Singles edit

The AFT Singles class is geared for cultivating young dirt track talent as riders hone their skills en route to the AFT Twins ranks. Up-and-coming competitors make their mark aboard production-based 450cc single-cylinder motorcycles offering upwards of 60 horsepower. Racing at speeds faster than 115 mph, the stars of tomorrow battle it out on motorcycles produced by Honda, Husqvarna, Kawasaki, KTM, Suzuki, Yamaha and Zaeta.

The AFT Singles at the 2021 Springfield Short Track.

Specifications edit

  • Horsepower: 60+
  • Minimum weight: 230 lbs.
  • Top speed: 115+ MPH
  • 0–60 mph: Under 4 seconds
  • Tires: Dunlop, 19-inch, purpose-built flat track tires
  • Fuel: VP Racing Fuels C10 Unleaded
  • Eligible engines: Only 4-stroke single-cylinder motorcycles homologated by AMA Pro Racing may be used in AFT Singles competition. AMA Pro Racing will only review applications for homologation from motorcycle manufacturers or their distributors or designated representatives. Once a motorcycle has been approved, it may be used until such time that it no longer complies with the technical rules.
  • Engine displacement: 251 – 450cc 4-stroke single-cylinder engines.
  • All single-cylinder engine displacements are absolute, with no overbore allowances.
  • Single-cylinder engines must maintain stock bore and stroke.

AFT Production Twins edit

As AFT Singles riders progress and set their sights on becoming an AFT Twins rider, the AFT Production Twins class gives up-and-coming athletes the opportunity to race an AFT track on a twin-cylinder race bike without competing against the heavy hitters in contention for the AFT Twins championship. This class serves as a transition between the AFT Singles and AFT Twins classes.

James Rispoli on the No. 43 Latus Motors Racing Harley-Davidson XG750R in the AFT Production Twins class.

Specifications edit

  • Horsepower: 90+
  • Minimum Weight: 310 lbs.
  • Top speed: 140+ MPH
  • 0–60 mph: Under 4 seconds
  • Tires: Dunlop, 19-inch, purpose-built flat track tires
  • Fuel: VP Racing Fuels C10 Unleaded
  • Eligible engines: Only 4-stroke twin-cylinder mass-production engines with prior, written approval by AMA Pro Racing are eligible for competition in AFT Production Twins. The original engine crank cases or OEM replacements must be utilized to qualify as a production engine.
  • Engine displacement: (649cc – 800cc with the following restrictions):
    • Production engines: Production engines may not exceed 800cc. Bore and stroke may be modified to meet this maximum displacement limit.

Broadcasting edit

American Flat Track race broadcasts are produced by NASCAR Productions LLC.

NBC Sports held the contract from 2017 to 2021. All 18 rounds air one-hour, tape-delayed telecasts on various nights throughout the summer and fall. Every session was streamed live on NBC Sports Gold's TrackPass.

For the 2022 season, AFT will air on Fox Sports 1 and Fox Sports 2, with NASCAR Productions producing the broadcasts.[26]

Starting in 2022, international broadcasts are now airing in Brazil (Rede Bandeirantes) and Mexico (Fox Sports Mexico) as part of NASCAR media contracts in both countries because of their production of broadcasts. American Flat Track is now included in NASCAR's media rights package in those two countries that also include rights to three national NASCAR series, a regional NASCAR series, and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and the Michelin Pilot Challenge.[27]

Champions edit

Season Class Champion Motorcycle Format
1946 Chet Dykgraaf Norton Single dirt-track race at Springfield Mile[28]
1947 Jimmy Chann Harley-Davidson
1948 Jimmy Chann Harley-Davidson
1949 Jimmy Chann Harley-Davidson
1950 Larry Headrick Harley-Davidson
1951 Bobby Hill Indian
1952 Bobby Hill Indian Harley Davidson
1953 Bill Tuman Indian
1954 Joe Leonard Harley-Davidson Combined road-racing and dirt-track events[28]
1955 Brad Andres Harley-Davidson
1956 Joe Leonard Harley-Davidson
1957 Joe Leonard Harley-Davidson
1958 Carroll Resweber Harley-Davidson
1959 Carroll Resweber Harley-Davidson
1960 Carroll Resweber Harley-Davidson
1961 Carroll Resweber Harley-Davidson
1962 Bart Markel Harley-Davidson
1963 Dick Mann Matchless
1964 Roger Reiman Harley-Davidson
1965 Bart Markel Harley-Davidson
1966 Bart Markel Harley-Davidson
1967 Gary Nixon Triumph
1968 Gary Nixon Triumph
1969 Mert Lawwill Harley-Davidson
1970 Gene Romero Triumph
1971 Dick Mann BSA
1972 Mark Brelsford Harley-Davidson
1973 Kenny Roberts Yamaha
1974 Kenny Roberts Yamaha
1975 Gary Scott Harley-Davidson
1976 Jay Springsteen Harley-Davidson
1977 Jay Springsteen Harley-Davidson
1978 Jay Springsteen Harley-Davidson
1979 Steve Eklund Harley-Davidson, Yamaha
1980 Randy Goss Harley-Davidson
1981 Mike Kidd Harley-Davidson, Yamaha
1982 Ricky Graham Harley-Davidson
1983 Randy Goss Harley-Davidson
1984 Ricky Graham Honda
1985 Bubba Shobert Honda
1986 Bubba Shobert Honda Dirt-track events only[29] Road-racing rounds not counted towards the Grand National Championship anymore.
1987 Bubba Shobert Honda
1988 Scott Parker Harley-Davidson
1989 Scott Parker Harley-Davidson
1990 Scott Parker Harley-Davidson
1991 Scott Parker Harley-Davidson
1992 Chris Carr Harley-Davidson
1993 Ricky Graham Honda
1994 Scott Parker Harley-Davidson
1995 Scott Parker Harley-Davidson
1996 Scott Parker Harley-Davidson
1997 Scott Parker Harley-Davidson
1998 Scott Parker Harley-Davidson
1999 Chris Carr Harley-Davidson, ATK
2000 Joe Kopp Harley-Davidson, Rotax
2001 Chris Carr Harley-Davidson, Rotax, ATK
2002 Chris Carr Harley-Davidson, Rotax, VOR, ATK
2003 Chris Carr Harley-Davidson, Rotax, VOR[30]
2004 Chris Carr Harley-Davidson, Rotax, KTM[30][31]
2005 Chris Carr Harley-Davidson, KTM
2006 Twins Kenny Coolbeth Harley-Davidson From 2006 to 2009, the championship was replaced by two separate series for two-cylinders (Twins) and single-cylinder (Singles) bikes. No overall title awarded.[28]

Twins events were held on mile and half-mile courses, while Singles events were held on short-track and TT courses.[28]

Singles Jake Johnson Suzuki
2007 Twins Kenny Coolbeth Harley-Davidson
Singles Honda
2008 Twins Kenny Coolbeth Harley-Davidson
Singles Jake Johnson Suzuki
2009 Twins Jared Mees Harley-Davidson
Singles Sammy Halbert Yamaha
2010 Twins Jake Johnson Harley-Davidson Overall title awarded to the rider with the highest total after combining the points earned in Twins and Singles championships.[28]
Singles Honda
2011 Twins Jake Johnson Harley-Davidson
Singles Honda
2012 Twins Jared Mees Harley-Davidson
Singles Honda
2013 Twins Brad Baker Harley-Davidson
Singles Honda
2014 Twins Jared Mees Harley-Davidson
Singles Honda
2015 Twins Jared Mees Harley-Davidson Unified championship (GNC1) including both Twins and Singles events.[28]
Singles Honda
2016 Bryan Smith Kawasaki
2017 Twins Jared Mees Indian American Flat Track Championship
Singles Kolby Carlile Yamaha
2018 Twins Jared Mees Indian
Singles Dan Bromley KTM
2019 Twins Briar Bauman Indian
Production Twins Cory Texter Yamaha
Singles Dalton Gaithier Husqvarna
2020 SuperTwins Briar Bauman Indian
Production Twins James Rispoli Harley-Davidson
Singles Dallas Daniels Yamaha
2021 SuperTwins Jared Mees Indian
Production Twins Cory Texter Yamaha
Singles Dallas Daniels Yamaha
2022 SuperTwins Jared Mees Indian
Production Twins Jesse Janisch Harley-Davidson
Singles Kody Kopp KTM

References edit

  1. ^ Wilson, Andrea (February 13, 2017). "American Flat-Track Racing Revival". Cycle World. Retrieved February 23, 2017.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Assoc, American Motorcyclist (January 1984). The First Sixty Years; An Illustrated History of the American Motorcyclist Association. Retrieved 1 January 2011. {{cite book}}: |work= ignored (help)
  3. ^ a b c d Assoc, American Motorcyclist (August 1978). Ridin' To The Races. Retrieved 1 January 2011. {{cite book}}: |work= ignored (help)
  4. ^ Assoc, American Motorcyclist (March 1956). Past and Present Champions. Retrieved 1 January 2011. {{cite book}}: |work= ignored (help)
  5. ^ "History of the AMA". American Motorcyclist Association. Retrieved November 3, 2017.
  6. ^ "Shell Thuet at the Motorcycle Hall of Fame". Archived from the original on 13 June 2010. Retrieved 4 January 2010.
  7. ^ "Dick Mann at the Motorcycle Hall of Fame". Archived from the original on 28 December 2010. Retrieved 15 December 2010.
  8. ^ "Gary Nixon at the Motorcycle Hall of Fame". Archived from the original on 27 July 2011. Retrieved 4 January 2011.
  9. ^ "Gene Romero at the Motorcycle Hall of Fame". Archived from the original on 27 July 2011. Retrieved 4 January 2011.
  10. ^ a b "Kenny Roberts at the Motorcycle Hall of Fame". Retrieved 4 January 2011.
  11. ^ Assoc, American Motorcyclist (February 1975). Camel Filters announces $S75,000 Pro Series fund. Retrieved 16 November 2015. {{cite book}}: |work= ignored (help)
  12. ^ Assoc, American Motorcyclist (December 1978). A fond farewell to Ol' Joe Camel. Retrieved 16 November 2015. {{cite book}}: |work= ignored (help)
  13. ^ Assoc, American Motorcyclist (February 1983). Camel Pro Seriese features 34 races. Retrieved 16 November 2015. {{cite book}}: |work= ignored (help)
  14. ^ Harrison, Greg (April 1984). Meet Me In St. Louis. Retrieved 2 January 2011. {{cite book}}: |work= ignored (help)
  15. ^ a b c d Youngblood, Ed (August 1989). Dirt-track expansion. Retrieved 3 January 2011. {{cite book}}: |work= ignored (help)
  16. ^ "Bubba Shobert at the Motorcycle Hall of Fame". Archived from the original on 27 July 2011. Retrieved 4 January 2011.
  17. ^ Wood, Bill (August 1983). Wayne Rainey's road to stardom. Retrieved 3 January 2011. {{cite book}}: |work= ignored (help)
  18. ^ 50 Years Of Moto Grand Prix (1st edition). Hazelton Publishing Ltd, 1999. ISBN 1-874557-83-7
  19. ^ "Scott Parker at the Motorcycle Hall of Fame". Archived from the original on 27 July 2011. Retrieved 4 January 2011.
  20. ^ Assoc, American Motorcyclist (February 1986). Road Racing gets its own series for 1986. Retrieved 16 November 2015. {{cite book}}: |work= ignored (help)
  21. ^ Assoc, American Motorcyclist (October 1986). 1987 Camel Pro Series to be worth $475,000. Retrieved 16 November 2015. {{cite book}}: |work= ignored (help)
  22. ^ Assoc, American Motorcyclist (February 1989). Parade Lap. Retrieved 1 January 2011. {{cite book}}: |work= ignored (help)
  23. ^ Youngblood, Ed (May 1997). For The Love Of Dirt Tracking. Retrieved 3 January 2011. {{cite book}}: |work= ignored (help)
  24. ^ Parsons, Grant (May 1998). Not Just A Spectator Sport. Retrieved 2 January 2011. {{cite book}}: |work= ignored (help)
  25. ^ "Tourist Trophy races". Retrieved 13 March 2022.
  26. ^ "American Flat Track: Races To Air On FOX Sports Starting In 2022". Road Racing World. 8 December 2021.
  27. ^ "News - Progressive American Flat Track to be broadcast throughout Latin America as part of new agreements with Fox Sports Mexico and Bandeirantes".
  28. ^ a b c d e f "About AMA Pro Flat Track". AMA Pro Racing. Archived from the original on 5 October 2015. Retrieved 24 October 2015.
  29. ^ Semmeling, Rob. "American Motorcycle Races" (PDF). pp. 32–33. Retrieved 24 October 2015.
  30. ^ a b "Carr opens title defense at Daytona". 26 February 2004. Retrieved 24 October 2015.
  31. ^ "Former Road Racer Chris Carr, AMA Grand National Champion". Roadracing World Publishing. 27 September 2004. Retrieved 24 October 2015.

External links edit