Courtesy of American Flat Track
American Flat Track launches a highly anticipated new era of Pro Flat Track competition with Thursday’s Harley-Davidson DAYTONA TT presented by Politis & Matovina, held on a six-tenths mile track inside the Daytona International Speedway tri-oval incorporating a right-hand turn and jump.
The event debuts the premier AFT Twins class, featuring the renewal of the classic rivalry between two American heavyweights – Harley-Davidson vs. Indian Motorcycle. Harley-Davidson’s factory trio of Kenny Coolbeth Jr., Jake Johnson and Brandon Robinson will go up against Indian Motorcycle, making its return to major competition after a 64-year hiatus.
Indian Motorcycle will bring back memories of the famous Indian Motorcycle trio of Bobby Hill, Bill Tuman and Ernie Beckman with a revived “Wrecking Crew,” teaming contemporary AFT Grand National Champions. It marks the first time in four years that defending Grand National Champion Bryan Smith (No. 1 Indian Motorcycle Racing backed by Allstate Scout FTR750) and rival Jared Mees (No. 9 Indian Motorcycle Rogers Racing Scout FTR750) will line up on similar machinery. 2013 Grand National Champion Brad Baker (No. 6 Indian Motorcycle Racing backed by Allstate Scout FTR750) completes the team.
Harley-Davidson takes on its historic rival with a new bike – the XG750R. Johnson (No. 5 Harley-Davidson Factory Team) and Coolbeth (No. 2 Harley-Davidson Factory Team) are both former Grand National Champions and Daytona Short Track winners, while Robinson (No. 44 Harley-Davidson Factory Team) is looking to build on the momentum which saw him finish third in the 2016 GNC points.
While the factory teams are in the spotlight, Henry Wiles is the rider to watch at Daytona on the strength of his AFT-leading 17 career TT victories – including a streak of 12 consecutive triumphs at the prestious Peoria TT. Wiles will be aboard the No. 17 Kawasaki Ninja 650. Wiles won at the Daytona Short Track in 2009 en route to winning his first of two consecutive GNC Singles titles.
Other riders to watch include four-time Daytona winner Sammy Halbert (No. 69 Estenson Logistics Yamaha FZ-07), and 2016 GNC2 Champion (now AFT Singles) Ryan Wells on the No. 94 BriggsAuto.com Kawasaki Ninja 650.
With Wells stepping up to AFT Twins, 2016 GNC2 runner-up Dalton Gauthier (No. 22 Estenson Racing Yamaha YZ450F) looks to take home the crown in the all-new AFT Singles class in 2017. Tristan Avery (No. 16 Ron Ayers Honda CRF450R) and Kolby Carlile (No. 36 K.C. Cycle Honda CRF450R), a couple other riders in the mix in 2016, are also looking for their first professional title. Daytona Beach-based Richie Morris Racing will field the senior female rider of the circuit, Shayna Texter, who is now focusing on the AFT Singles class on the No. 52 McElroy Packaging/Al Lamb’s Dallas Honda. Texter also won a non-points race last weekend in Savannah, Ga.
Bringing some international flavor to the AFT Singles class is 2016 Spanish Flat Track Champion Ferran Cardus (No. 377 Öhlins/Neumaticos Hermanos Rojas/Moto Grau Honda CRF450R) and runner up Franc Serra (No. 318 Honda Alonso Racing Team/Bell Helmets Honda CRF450R). The Spaniards will make their debut in the American Flat Track series under the lights in Daytona as a reward for their results in the inaugural season of the RFME Copa de Flat Track Championship last year. Also making the trek across the pond is British Flat Track racer Oliver Brindley on the No. 124 Kawasaki UK KX450F.
The season opener will host a variety of entertainment spectacles, including the luxurious Ace Cafe Fan Zone with vintage and modern motorcycle displays, and live music from the new-age honky-tonk band Giddy Up Go. Motorcycle racing legend Jay Springsteen will headline American Flat Track’s inaugural Daytona event as Grand Marshal, while 1993 fan-favorite Grand Prix World Champion Kevin Schwantz will present the winner’s trophy for the AFT Twins class. All of the racing action begins with the AFT Twins and AFT Singles practice sessions at 2:00 p.m. ET (11:00 a.m. PT) with Opening Ceremonies commencing at 6:00 p.m. ET (3:00 p.m. PT). Live coverage of the Harley-Davidson DAYTONA TT presented by Politis & Matovina can be viewed on FansChoice.tv. Tickets for the DAYTONA TT are now on sale and can be purchased at www.daytonainternationalspeedway.com.