InSlide Line: Lessons Of Daytona

Article By: Tyler Porter

Originally Published In The April 2020 Issue Of Cycle Source Magazine

By the time these words reach your brain, the race season will have already kicked off in Daytona for the AFT series. There is so much this year to pay attention to. Daytona is such a unique track to the AFT series now with its unique layout inside the famed speedway’s trioval, but its long-standing tradition within the dirt track ranks is what makes goosebumps appear on even the most die-hard fan’s arms. From racing on the beach in the 50’s to Memorial Stadium in the 70’s, Municipal stadium in the 90’s (R.I.P. Municipal Stadium) and then the sorry excuse for a short track outside of turn one for several years in the 2010’s, Daytona finally has the flavor back that it missed for several seasons.

 

When AFT announced the new TT layout a few years ago, of course, the keyboard racers of Facebook took to their window’s 95 shod machines to b complain about “this isn’t the way we did it in my day!” Well of course gramps, that isn’t how you did it. But wait, you’re wrong. This IS how you did it. Now that the course is both pavement and dirt, hello old-timers, that’s exactly the way the beach race was! Of course, the equipment has changed. We’ve got nearly 70 horsepower 450cc Motocross based bikes, largely piloted by adrenaline crazed “kids” between the ages of 16 and 23 years old. Also tackling the demanding track is the newly named SuperTwins class, where the best in the world, and sometimes just those who can pay to play, will battle for all of the marbles of the Grand National Championship title.

 

Last year’s Daytona round had plenty of hype going in, and even more storylines after. If any of you tuned in for the Cycle Source Daytona Pre- Race show, you know that I was sick and tired of hearing all of the “Jeff Ward” hype. The older generation of fans was all too eager to jump on that bandwagon because perhaps he was their favorite pro motocross racer when they were whippersnappers. My gripe with this was that it was disrespecting the talent level of our series regulars. They were sorely underestimated. What happened on that cool spring night at the world center of racing? Jeff had one flash of brilliance in a qualifying race, and then the typical chaos of the singles class reared its ugly head and kept the 50 something racer a country mile out of the main event. Was his hype going into the race good for the sport? Of course, it was. I’m still talking about it a year later! However, what ultimately happened was that after the defeat, Jeff’s supporters seemed not to follow through, Jeff, from what I could tell, lost interest, and we lost a talking point for most of the season, which is a bummer for all involved.

On the SuperTwins side, we had the best all-around racer in the game and multi-time national champion Jared Mees succumb to incredibly odd bad luck. Jared was caught up in crashes throughout the day and then suffered a mechanical during the main event, something that is rarer than a Friday the 13th landing on Halloween. While Jared rebounded well from the deficit to score 8 wins during the 2019 season, the damage was largely done as Briar Bauman rose to the occasion and even with less wins on the season, his consistency, something that Mees has always been known for, was too much to overcome. In 2020 Daytona will have a slightly different flavor once again. Because of the major changes to the SuperTwins class that I’ve discussed here over several articles, we have lost a few key players in the series. Former National Champion Jake Johnson will only join the series as a wild card as a select rounds, as well as multi-time winner and fan-favorite Jeffery Carver. The winningest TT rider in the professional ranks, Henry Wiles, was signed to the Richie Morris Racing Honda team.

But when one door closes, of course, another one opens, and just like Jeff Ward’s hype at last year’s Daytona TT, this year we get to see how one of the best 450 riders in the history of our sport will fare against the crazed young guns in the Singles class. It’s never safe to bet on flat track, as I have learned over the years, but I would imagine Hammerin’ Hank will have a lot less trouble gridding up to the main event than last year’s “headliner.” I’m hearing rumors around the sport too that Harley Davidson has made big strides with their XG750R platform. When you couple that with the fact that new AFT rules that work against the Indian FTR750 for the first time since its inception into the sport, we may have a tighter field in the SuperTwins class than before. The Harley Davidson XG750 has been on the podium before in TT events, and with a strong top five in Daytona last year, I’m sure that team of battlehardened professionals are ready to reclaim their dominance on podiums across the country this season. No matter your favorite racer, racing class, or even brand of machine, the tri-oval in Daytona Beach Florida on March 14th is going to be the happening place to be. Daytona can give us a surprise winner today just like it could in years past. I sure hope that happens. I can tell you one thing. I’ll see you there.

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