Article By: Tyler Porter
Originally Published In The February 2020 Issue Of Cycle Source Magazine
If you remember last month’s InSLIDE Line, we walked through the basics of AFT’s new “Super Twins” class. While I’m not fully on board with the concept, like many things, I’m willing to sit back, enjoy the show, and hopefully, this move does progress the sport that I love so much. I’ve noticed a lot of similarities between the new “buy-in” program with the Super Twins and the launch of the Indian FTR-750 race bike. When the Super Twins pricing was announced, we all ran screaming for the hills. “NO ONE HAS THE MONEY TO DO THIS!” However, just like when the FTR750 was released to race teams at a price of about $40,000, racers wanted to and did find a way. It’s pretty much like how I always manage to have i enough money to buy that next piece of shop equipment on Facebook Marketplace that I can’t seem to live without. Where there’s a will, there’s always a way.
It seems that every Indian FTR750 was scooped up before its initial season’s end, but believe it or not, the top 14 spots for the 2020 AFT Super Twins season are in and while there’s no official word, I’ve got REALLY good sources. That’s right, a little over 3 months before the season kicks off, all 14 spots are filled. Let’s look at the list: 1-Briar Bauman 4-Bryan Smith 9-Jared Mees 12- Jay Maloney 17- Henry Wiles 20- Jarod Vanderkooi 27-Rob Pearson 3 7 – B r o n s o n Bauman 62-Dan Bromley 67-Davis Fisher 69-Sammy Halbert 79-Daulton Gauthier 92-Brandon Price 95-JD Beach This is quite an impressive bunch, and will no doubt give us an amazing race season, but it still leaves a few key people out.
Springfield Mile winner and fan favorite, Jeffery Carver, has already said that he will just do wild card entries for the season. My biggest question, however, concerns Jake Johnson. The multi-time Grand National Champion has, at the time this goes to print, no ride. Jake won a race in 2018 and was one turn away from winning one in 2019 until his bike expired. I can’t believe that a rare winning talent might possibly be sitting on the bench! Will Jake ride off into the sunset? Will he find a wild card ride on good equipment? Will he saddle up and do battle in the production twins class? It might seem that I’m focusing a lot of attention on Jake Johnson, but I will tell you that there’s a lot of rider’s in that same boat right now, and they might all be scrambling come March.
It’s obviously a massive adjustment in the sport. How will the fans react to these changes? Will we shift our focus as “typical Americans” and cheer for the wild card underdogs? Will AFT go out of their way to tell us who is the wild card entry for each event? Just like many of my past columns, of course, there are more questions than answers right now, and I think that’s what makes going into the 2020 season so exciting. We are literally sliding into the unknown. Will this move, in an effort to create established superstars, actually do just that? Or do we have too many die-hard, resistant-to-change fans that aren’t in with the “promised spot in the main event” premise?
I can see both sides of it. I can remember how many articles I wrote on my now-defunct website about rider’s “earning their number” once they made their first Grand National Main event. Now? Well, they pay for their number upfront. That does take some magic and mystery away from it, but at the same time, the new way establishes a foundation for riders and teams to market themselves. Now I’ve mentioned marketing! AFT’s whole basis for the new format is to help the riders and teams promote themselves. I certainly hope they’ve hired a fleet of marketing professionals because getting some of these riders and teams to do more in terms of marketing will be like pulling teeth on a horse. A horse that has been marching through Columbian fields. Trust me; I’ve tried working with some of these racers. I’ve volunteered my services to them in hopes that they would attempt to promote themselves even a little. It’s tough. They just want to race, which is commendable for sure, but that’s not the way the world works now. You’ve got to be equal parts racer and Personal Relations expert.
It’s a lot of work. It’s annoying to constantly be posting updates when all you want to do is wear your race face, but that’s how things are done now. We’re an influencer driven society whether we like it or not. Are the racers up to the challenge that AFT has set before them? I think that’s the biggest question of all. While visions of sugar plums are dancing in my head as I type this, the teams are bolting on number plates and booking hotels in Florida. To all of us, we can only wonder what lies ahead, but to the 14 racers that AFT has hitched up to its 2020 sleigh, I’m hoping we’re in for one hell of a ride.