American Flat Track is not afraid to make changes, and a lot of those changes are working. From new rules and regulations, getting TV time on NBCSN, gaining the gift of a big-money factory addition with the Indian Wrecking Crew, and creating a Singles class exclusively for 450cc four-strokes, most of the moves have panned out quite well, because the series is growing.
The changes even included a revamp of the season-opening race at Daytona, but reactions have been mixed. Traditionally, the event was held off property in the Daytona area (like the Volusia County Fairgrounds), and in more recent years it moved to a track built in the corner of the Daytona International Speedway grounds. In 2017, a new track was built right in the middle of it all—on the infield, in front of the grandstands. You know, where they run the Daytona Supercross.
This is good because everything looks and feels so much cooler. You're using the real paddock, and the beautiful Daytona grandstands. That's great, but the track... eh.
Just like the supercross deals with, cramming the perfect race track into that small grass area on the infield is not ideal. The Daytona TT looks cool but in year one, the corners were too tight and it was hard to pass. The track was better in 2018 but still not perfect. So for 2019, the track will feature wider turns, because it's going all the way up on the banking!
Yes, on pavement. This is not normal for dirt track racing, but American Flat Track has proven that change can be good. We shall see.
Here's a snip from today's press release on the track design:
The hook is that the totally redesigned racetrack, constructed in the iconic Daytona International Speedway tri-oval, will utilize the legendary tri-oval start/finish asphalt straightaway as part of the actual racing surface, and form its high-speed front straight.
Not only will some of the world's fastest riders launch their AFT Twins presented by Vance & Hines and AFT Singles racing machines out of the DIS eastern dirt corner and drift onto the asphalt, they’ll rip across the legendary start-finish stripe at over 100 mph, elbow-to-elbow and wheel-to-wheel – and mere feet from fans sitting along the Daytona International Speedway tri-oval.
In many ways, American Flat Track’s unique, dirt-and-asphalt DAYTONA TT season opener brings the sport of Grand National Championship motorcycle racing full-circle. Recall, of course, the legendary DAYTONA 200 beach-and-asphalt races of the ’30s, ’40s and ’50s, which featured motorcycles racing up the beach in a northern direction and then South again on the asphalt beach road, with untold thousands of fans watching it all unfold from the dunes and bleachers.
The DAYTONA 200 eventually moved to the freshly-built Daytona International Speedway facility in the early 1960s, but those decades of epic beach racing have lodged themselves in the collective memories of the motorsports community ever since. Full circle, indeed.
Since the reinvention of the series in 2017, American Flat Track has yet to present a multi-surface racetrack. The new, improved DAYTONA TT has been designed in collaboration and consultation with riders and race professionals to proactively address the design challenges inherit in the construction of an asphalt-to-dirt racing surface. Former professional flat track riders have been contracted to ride the surface and prove the design prior to the running of the race on March 14.
The dirt to pavement transition will draw attention, but the real gain is this:
This year’s track layout also features enlarged and faster bookend corners, which offer faster straightaway speeds and more passing opportunities – the perfect thing for fans sitting along the front straight or in the enlarged-for-2019 trackside bleachers.
And so it’s entirely fitting that this year’s unique DAYTONA TT, which features that unique mix of dirt and asphalt, and which pays homage to the visionary promoter who brought motorcycle racing to the sands and streets of Daytona Beach 82 years ago, leads things off in March.
The race takes place on March 14, a few days after the Daytona Supercross on March 9. If you're around Daytona for Bike Week, check it out.