Megaphone is our home for guest columnists. This month,
Digital Editor Joy Burgess
It’s no secret I’m a huge flat track fan, as is my son. American Flat Track Announcer Scottie Deubler once asked me on the Off the Groove Podcast why so many of my stories were about flat track. My answer: “I just love it.” Scottie calls it “the best sport in the world,” and he’s not wrong.
All along I’d been a pretty serious Supercross fan, but then I got a taste of professional flat track racing. Badass racers run bar-to-bar while powersliding through the corners and hitting speeds of up to 130 mph on the straights. And the visceral thunder those motorcycles make when they roar by in a pack? Well, it shakes the ground in a way you can feel right in your gut.
My son and I did Daytona Bike Week this year and were stoked for the American Flat Track Daytona TT…and then the world as we knew it changed. Overnight, everything in Daytona shut down and the races were canceled due to Covid-19.
According to flat track historian and announcer Scottie Deubler, there were 291 days between the last AFT race of 2019 and the first race of the 2020 season. Finally, on July 17 and 18, 2020, we got to see some AFT racing at the Volusia Half-Mile. And what a weekend of racing it was!
The on-track action in all classes was exciting, especially for this race-starved fan. But that Volusia Half-Mile II Singles Main Event? Wow! I’d call it the best motorcycle race – of any kind – I’ve ever seen in my life. Even racers who’ve been around the sport for decades concurred.
Multiple racers – Chad Cose, Dallas Daniels, Max Whale, Shayna Texter and Mikey Rush – battled for position in a race that announcers Scottie Deubler and Brad Baker said was too close to call, even in the final minute. ‘California Kid’ Cose dominated most of the race, but when the dust settled it was 16-year-old Dallas Daniels – who didn’t even make the Main the previous evening – who took the win.
Perhaps even more remarkable was Red Bull KTM’s Texter taking second after starting on the third row and being buried in eighth or ninth early on. The winningest rider in Singles history worked the inside line to near-perfection, picking off riders one by one until she caught Daniels with a lap remaining. She pulled alongside him at the finish but lost by a hair. Another lap and she’d have won. Epic stuff.
For me, though, the biggest surprise was the performance of Latus Motors Racing’s James Rispoli in the Production Twins class. Rispoli, riding a Production Twins-spec XG750R purchased by team owner George Latus from Vance & Hines (V&H-built XGs are now available for purchase), racked up a pair of second-place finishes in both nights’ Mains, with Ryan Varnes and reigning Production Twins champ Cory Texter (Shayna’s older brother) grabbing wins.
But it was more than Rispoli’s runner-up finishes that surprised me. He was seriously fast all evening long, and posted lap times that were as good and even slightly better (within a 5-minute span, comparatively speaking) than those of factory Harley-Davidson – and premier SuperTwins-class – riders Bryan Smith, Jarod Vanderkooi and Dalton Gauthier, all of whom were riding more advanced and higher-spec Harley-Davidson XG machines.
Conventional wisdom had the Team Harley-Davidson/Vance & Hines guys closing the gap this year between themselves and the all-conquering Indians, especially with the addition of experienced crew chief Ricky Howerton. But the challenge of making the production-based XG compete against the purpose-built, racing-only FTR remains a tough one, and it’s obvious the Indian guys figured some things out over the extended break, too. Progress never stops in racing, and these guys are no exception!
So while the factory H-D guys struggled, Indian’s Jared Mees swept the SuperTwins Mains both nights. The guy says he hates losing more than he loves winning, and losing that number one plate was bound to sting last year.
I hope the H-D guys figure things out, and I’d put money on Rispoli pulling off a win soon in Production Twins. And with all the Half-Miles this year (and whispers of some additional Miles being added), this just might be the season where Shayna Texter locks up an AFT Singles Championship – the first one ever for a woman. Go girl!
But most importantly, can we never, ever, ever go 291 days without American Flat Track racing again!