A new era of professional flat track racing with plenty of changes begins this month with the fourth annual Daytona TT. Last issue we introduced the AFT SuperTwins riders and teams, an elite group of 15 competitors riding for factory teams, factory-supported teams, or privateers who’ve pulled together enough resources to purchase a starting spot on the AFT SuperTwins grid at all 18 rounds of the American Flat Track series.
That means top riders (who as recently as 2019 were AFT Twins-licensed) who haven’t secured season-long funding are left with the following options: Maintain their AFT Twins license and enter the AFT Production Twins class; Drop down to AFT Singles and participate in AFT Singles and Production Twins on the same day; Participate in AFT Singles only; Or go race Hooligan events.
For 2020, Cory Texter returns to defend his AFT Production Twins championship aboard the father/son-owned G&G Racing MT-07 Yamahas. Texter, a 3rd generation racer, will be up against fellow Pennsylvanian Ryan Varnes, also a 3rd-generation racer (and last year’s series runner up) on family-owned Kawasaki Ninja 650s.
Making a return to the AFT series in Production Twins after years in the MotoAmerica road race series is Latus Motorsports. Managed by the 2000 AFT champ Joe Kopp, the team has tapped flattracker-turned-roadracer-turned-flattracker James Rispoli to ride the team’s H-D XG750Rs. Rispoli was crucial in developing the XG for Vance & Hines during last year’s inaugural Production Twins season, finishing sixth on the season and running up front a lot of the time. According to Vance & Hines, Latus Motorsports took delivery of the first production XG750R in early February, and they’ll definitely be worth watching at Daytona and beyond.
Production Twins in 2020 will race at 15 (up from 11) events this season, all on ovals. Expect these three to be at or near the front all year, with an eye on either building their team for SuperTwins for 2021 or impressing current factory or top-level private teams for a rider slot.
The effects (and unintended consequences) of recent rule and class changes in AFT are most evident in AFT Singles, a class originally intended for top amateurs 16 years and older. Today, with the support of manufacturers looking for ad headlines, increased sales and expanded brand awareness, AFT Singles has become a top-tier division and a haven for veteran racers securing rides on factory-run or factory-supported teams. Young racers must step into the so-called Novice class not only against their peers, but against seasoned professionals with limited options.
There are always exceptions, of course. Flat track aficionados have high hopes for 16-year-old Dallas Daniels of Illinois, who debuted in mid 2019 on Estenson Racing Yamaha YZ450s. In nine starts Daniels posted six top-10 finishes, with 3 podiums and a dramatic win at the legendary Peoria TT.
Like Daniels, today’s aspiring Singles riders will face off against the likes of AFT crowd favorite Shayna Texter on her factory KTM 450SX. Texter, 29, enters her 13th season as a pro and has become the all-time winningest rider in AFT Singles history. Daniels will have Texter covered on the TTs at Daytona, Peoria and Springfield, but at the ovals all bets are off. She’s a rocket there.
Joining Daniels at Estenson Racing is AFT veteran Mikey Rush, a three-time Daytona Short Track winner and four-time winner in last year’s AFT Singles class. Rush was the AFT Singles runner-up in points last season on the Richie Morris Racing/American Honda-backed CRF450R machines after years running in AFT Twins.
One of those ‘seasoned pros with limited options’ – and perhaps the biggest surprise of the 2019-2020 off season – is AFT Twins and Peoria TT legend Henry Wiles who joined the Richie Morris/Honda team. Wiles, 36, has 30 AFT Twins wins, 11th all-time, and 2nd most (behind the late Will Davis) for any rider to not win an AFT Twins title. Wiles has also notched 14 straight wins at the legendary Peoria TT. The Michigan legend has won more races (26) on single-cylinder machines than any rider in the history of American Flat Track and will be very hard to beat.
If it seems a bit strange that a guy this accomplished can’t find a way into the AFT SuperTwins class, you’re probably not alone.
If you also suffer from a flat track addiction, reach out to Chris for tips on chasing the dragon at firstname.lastname@example.org