American Flat Track

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The American Flat Track Series, formerly known as the AMA Grand National Championship, is an American motorcycle racing series.[1] The race series, founded and sanctioned by the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) in 1954, originally encompassed five distinct forms of competitions including; mile dirt track races, half-mile, short-track, TT steeplechase and road races.[2][3] The championship was the premier motorcycle racing series in the United States from the 1950s up until the late 1970s when, supercross events held in easily accessible major league stadiums became more popular.[4][5][6]

Following the 2016 season, the AMA announced a restructured class system as well as a re-envisioning of the event format. The restructured class system consists of the AFT Twins premier class, the AFT Singles class for young drivers, and the AFT Production Twins class featuring production-based, 649-800cc twin-cylinder engines.

AFT Twins[edit]

The AFT Twins Championship[edit]

AFT Twins is the pinnacle of dirt track motorcycle racing globally, and has been since the professional ranks were formalized as the Grand National Championship in 1954. Beginning this year, riders in this class will race each circuit on custom-built, twin-cylinder motorcycles generating 90+ horsepower race bar-to-bar at speeds in excess of 140 mph, often drafting to the finish line and requiring a photo finish to determine the race winner. The motorcycles in this class contain the latest in motorsport technology and will be piloted by the fastest two-wheeled athletes on dirt.

Quick Facts[edit]

  • Horsepower: 90+
  • Minimum Weight: 310 lbs.
  • Top Speed: 140+ MPH
  • 0-60 mph: Under 4 seconds

Technical Specs[edit]

  • Tires: Dunlop, 19-inch, purpose-built flat track tires
  • Fuel: Sunoco 260 GTX Unleaded
  • Eligible Engines: Only 4-stroke twin-cylinder engines with prior, written approval by AMA Pro Racing are eligible for competition in AFT Twins. This includes both production engines designed for street motorcycles and racing-only engines. Engine Displacement (649cc – 900cc with the following restrictions):

Production Engines:

  • Engines that were originally under 750cc may be bored and stroked but may not exceed 750cc as a final displacement.
  • Racing-only Engines:
  • Racing-only engines may not exceed 750cc with a maximum allowable overbore of 0.045” per cylinder.
  • Liquid cooled racing-only engines may not exceed 750cc. There is no provision for overbore.

AFT Singles[edit]

The AFT Singles class is geared for cultivating young dirt track talent as riders hone their skills en route to the AFT Twins ranks. Up-and-coming competitors make their mark aboard production-based 450cc single-cylinder motorcycles offering upwards of 60 horsepower. Racing at speeds faster than 115 mph, the stars of tomorrow battle it out on motorcycles produced by Honda, Husqvarna, Kawasaki, KTM, Suzuki, Yamaha and Zaeta.

Quick Facts[edit]

  • Horsepower: 60+
  • Minimum Weight: 235 lbs.
  • Top Speed: 115+ MPH
  • 0-60 mph: Under 4 seconds

Technical Specs[edit]

  • Tires: Dunlop, 19-inch, purpose-built flat track tires
  • Fuel: Sunoco 260 GTX Unleaded
  • Eligible Engines:Only 4-stroke single-cylinder motorcycles homologated by AMA Pro Racing may be used in AFT Singles competition. AMA Pro Racing will only review applications for homologation from motorcycle manufacturers or their distributors or designated representatives. Once a motorcycle has been approved, it may be used until such time that it no longer complies with the technical rules.
  • Engine Displacement: 251 – 450cc 4-stroke single-cylinder engines.
  • All single-cylinder engine displacements are absolute, with no overbore allowances.
  • Single-cylinder engines must maintain stock bore and stroke.

AFT Production Twins[edit]

As AFT Singles riders progress and set their sights on becoming an AFT Twins rider, the AFT Production Twins class gives up-and-coming athletes the opportunity to race an AFT track on a twin-cylinder race bike without competing against the heavy hitters in contention for the AFT Twins championship. This class serves as a transition between the AFT Singles and AFT Twins classes.

Quick Facts

  • Horsepower: 90+
  • Minimum Weight: 310 lbs.
  • Top Speed: 140+ MPH
  • 0-60 mph: Under 4 seconds

Technical Specs:

  • Tires: Dunlop, 19-inch, purpose-built flat track tires
  • Fuel: Sunoco 260 GTX Unleaded
  • Eligible Engines: Only 4-stroke twin-cylinder mass-production engines with prior, written approval by AMA Pro Racing are eligible for competition in AFT Production Twins. The original engine crank cases or OEM replacements must be utilized to qualify as a production engine.
  • Engine Displacement: (649cc – 800cc with the following restrictions):
  • Production Engines: Production engines may not exceed 800cc. Bore and stroke may be modified to meet this maximum displacement limit.

Championship history[edit]

Harley versus Indian[edit]

In 1932, the AMA sanctioned a racing class called the Class A Dirt Track championship allowing for motorcycle manufacturers to enter prototype machinery.[2][7] In 1933, the AMA introduced a new class called Class C which featured street-legal motorcycles in an effort to make motorcycle racing less expensive for ordinary motorcyclists.[2][8] When manufacturers cutback on racing budgets during the Great Depression, it spelled the end of Class A competition and, the Class C championship became the most important championship.[2] AMA crowned Indian-mounted Woodsie Castonguay its first Class C National Champion in 1935, and the final Class A champion was crowned in 1938.[citation needed] In the years prior to World War II, the Class C championship helped fuel an intense rivalry between Harley-Davidson and Indian, the two major American manufacturers of the period.[9] During the Second World War, there were no championships held between 1942 and 1945.

From 1946 to 1953, the AMA Grand National Champion was crowned based on the results of a single race, the Springfield Mile held at the Illinois State Fairgrounds Racetrack.[2] Side-valve engines had a maximum displacement of 750cc, while overhead valve engines were limited to 500cc.

In 1954, the Grand National Championship series was introduced featuring four different types of competitions: three of the competitions (Mile, Half-mile, TT) were held on dirt tracks, while the fourth was held on asphalt paved courses.[2] With the demise of the Indian motorcycle company in 1953, the Harley-Davidson factory was left to dominate the series. Harley-Davidson rider Joe Leonard won the first Grand National Championship in 1954 and won the title two more times before moving on to a career in auto racing. Carroll Resweber became the first four-time champion, winning four consecutive championships for Harley-Davidson from 1958 to 1961. Since 1961 short-track events became part of the Championship; those races had a 250cc displacement limit.

British invasion[edit]

In the 1960s, British manufacturers seeking to bolster sales in the burgeoning American motorcycle market, began to compete in the championship. Dick Mann won the national title for BSA in 1963, marking the first victory for a foreign manufacturer.[10] Triumph would win three Grand National championships in four years with Gary Nixon winning back-to-back titles in 1967 and 1968, and Gene Romero taking another title in 1970.[11][12]

The Japanese arrive[edit]

New regulations for 1969 eliminated the displacement penalty for overhead valve engines; in dirt track events brakes were permitted for the first time. Mann would win a second crown for BSA in 1971 before the British motorcycle industry collapsed in the face of stiff technological competition from Japanese manufacturers. In 1973, Yamaha's Kenny Roberts would win the first Grand National championship for a Japanese company.[13] Since 1973 the displacement limit for short-track events was increased to 360cc, but multi-cylinder two-stroke engines were still limited to 250cc.

Dirt track racing at Scioto Downs, Ohio

In 1975 the championship gained full sponsorship from R.J. Reynolds Tobacco and became known as Camel Pro Series.[14] Between 1979 and 1982 the series was named Winston Pro Series, reverting to Camel brand in 1983.[15][16]

In 1976 dirt track engines were limited to a maximum of two cylinders; in 1977 the short track engines were limited to 250cc and limited to one cylinder. When the Yamaha team withdrew from the Grand National championship after the 1977 season, Harley-Davidson was left once again to dominate the series.[13] By 1983, the Grand National Championship had become the best attended form of dirt track racing in America, either on two wheels or four wheels.[17] This would be the high point for the championship as, other forms of motorcycle racing such as motocross and road racing began to overtake dirt tracking in popularity.[4]

Tammy Jo Kirk became the first woman to score GNC points in 1983. In 1984, Honda entered the championship and broke the Harley-Davidson stranglehold with Ricky Graham winning the championship. Honda followed with three consecutive national championships by Bubba Shobert before they withdrew in 1987, leaving Harley-Davidson once again as the sole major manufacturer in the series.[18] In 1984 short-track rules granted a 500cc displacement limit for four-stroke engines.

In the 1970s and on into the 1980s, the Grand National Championship proved to be a fertile training ground for world champion road racers as, AMA dirt track racers such as Kenny Roberts, Freddie Spencer, Eddie Lawson and Wayne Rainey all went on to win the 500cc road racing world championship.[19] The motorcycle road racing technology of the late 1970s featured engines with power in excess of what the frames and tires of the day could handle.[20] The resulting tire spin created a style of riding more reminiscent of dirt track riding, where sliding the rear tire to one side is used as a method to steer the motorcycle around a corner. This proved to be a great advantage to American dirt track racers who were accustomed to sliding their motorcycles. As Grand Prix motorcycle racing evolved into its current MotoGP formula with electronic traction control limiting rear wheel sliding, the advantage once held by former dirt trackers has been diminished.

Harley returns to dominance[edit]

After the departure of the Honda team in 1987, the Harley-Davidson factory racing team dominated the series with rider Scott Parker winning nine national championships within an eleven-year period.[21] During this period, dirt track racing continued its decline, partly due to the fact that motocross and road racing motorcycles could be purchased directly from the manufacturers, whereas dirt track racers had to be hand-built.[4]

Restructuring[edit]

In 1986, the AMA recognized the changing nature of motorcycle racing by making the Grand National Championship into a dirt-track-only series; road-racing rounds were branched off into a separate championship which eventually became the AMA Superbike Championship. In that season Camel sanctioned both series which were named Camel Pro Dirt Track Series and Camel Pro Road Racing Series.[22]

In 1987 and 1988 the sponsorship strategy changed again and the Camel Pro Series name referred to a particular series based on selected rounds from both Grand National and Superbike championships.[23]

New rules for 1987 banned two-stroke engines from dirt track races; single cylinder engines had a maximum displacement of 600cc, while twin-cylinder had a 750cc limit. Since 1989 only twin-cylinder engines were allowed in mile and half-mile events. Since 1989 the Camel Pro Series reverted as title sponsor for the Grand National Championship; the sponsorship lasted until the end of 1992 season.[24] New dirt track classes were also introduced designed to attract young riders to the sport and, new rules for machinery were adopted in an effort to make it easier for motorcyclists to compete with motorcycles readily available from manufacturers.[4][25][26] While the Grand National Championship is no longer the premier racing series in the United States, it continues to have a loyal following.[4]

In 2002 the single cylinder engines were limited to 550cc (push-rod) or 505cc (OHC); the twin-cylinder class was expanded to include production-derived engines up to 1250cc.

In 2006 the Grand National Championship was split into two separate series: Grand National Championship Singles (for short track and TT events) and Grand National Championship Twins (for half mile and mile events); no overall title was awarded, although in 2007 there was a de facto champion by virtue of winning both championships. Single-cylinder engines were limited to 450cc.

Since 2010 the Grand National Champion title was reinstated and awarded to the rider who scores the most combined points. New manufacturers began to enter and find success in the sport. In 2010, Ducati earned its first GNC win. On August 24, 2013, three different OEMs finished on the podium for the first time since 1972. One week later, Harley-Davidson failed to make the podium for the first time since 1987.

For 2017, the Grand National Championship was rebranded as the American Flat Track Championship. Changes were also made to the classification of motorcycles, logo, race format, and rules. The primary change will feature the twin-cylinder motorcycles (650-999cc) in the top class, while the second-tier class will be for single-cylinder motorcycles (450cc).[1] NBCSN will air the championship tape-delayed on Thursday nights.

Events[edit]

  • The Mile: A race held on an oval-shaped dirt course approximately one mile in length. The races became popular because of the availability of horse racing venues around the country, and are typically held during the off-season for horse racing.[3] These events usually favor motorcycles with larger engine displacements such as the Harley-Davidson XR-750. The races usually feature numerous lead changes with speeds of up to 140 miles per hour.
  • The Half Mile: An event similar to a mile race, also held on an oval-shaped dirt course with a shorter lap distance. Despite the distance, tracks may vary in length, because they are often held on the same venues that hold World of Outlaws car events.
  • Short Track: A race held on an oval-shaped dirt course approximately a quarter mile in length.[3] These tight courses have been held indoors at venues such as the Houston Astrodome and favor lighter motorcycles based on two-stroke motocross machinery.
  • TT Steeplechase: A race held on an irregularly shaped dirt course which usually features one right hand turn and one jump.[3] This event also favors lighter motorcycles, but larger motorcycles have also been successful. The initials TT stand for Tourist Trophy, taking its name from the days when street-legal motorcycles were known as touring motorcycles hence, a tourist trophy signified a class for street-legal motorcycles.
  • Road Race: A race held on paved, purpose-built race tracks, the most famous event on the AMA calendar being the Daytona 200.

Broadcasting[edit]

American Flat Track has had an exclusive television partnership with NBCSN since the 2017 season. All 18 rounds, from the season-opening DAYTONA TT to the American Flat Track Finals, air in one-hour, tape-delayed telecasts on various nights throughout the summer and fall. With nearly 85 million subscribers, NBCSN is the Home of Motorsports in America, providing coverage of NASCAR, IndyCar, Formula One, Mecum Auctions, Lucas Oil Pro Motocross and now, American Flat Track.

NBCSN's coverage of the American Flat Track season begins in March, highlighted by flag-to-flag race coverage of both AFT Twins and AFT Singles classes.

Every session of every round of an American Flat Track season is streamed live, in high definition and free of charge at FansChoice.tv.

List of Champions[edit]

Season Champion Motorcycle Format
1946 Chet Dykgraaf Norton Single dirt-track race at Springfield Mile[27]
1947 Jimmy Chann Harley-Davidson
1948 Jimmy Chann Harley-Davidson
1949 Jimmy Chann Harley-Davidson
1950 Larry Headrick Harley-Davidson
1951 Bobby Hill Indian
1952 Bobby Hill Indian
1953 Bill Tuman Indian
1954 Joe Leonard Harley-Davidson Combined road-racing and dirt-track events[27]
1955 Brad Andres Harley-Davidson
1956 Joe Leonard Harley-Davidson
1957 Joe Leonard Harley-Davidson
1958 Carroll Resweber Harley-Davidson
1959 Carroll Resweber Harley-Davidson
1960 Carroll Resweber Harley-Davidson
1961 Carroll Resweber Harley-Davidson
1962 Bart Markel Harley-Davidson
1963 Dick Mann Matchless
1964 Roger Reiman Harley-Davidson
1965 Bart Markel Harley-Davidson
1966 Bart Markel Harley-Davidson
1967 Gary Nixon Triumph
1968 Gary Nixon Triumph
1969 Mert Lawwill Harley-Davidson
1970 Gene Romero Triumph
1971 Dick Mann BSA
1972 Mark Brelsford Harley-Davidson
1973 Kenny Roberts Yamaha
1974 Kenny Roberts Yamaha
1975 Gary Scott Harley-Davidson
1976 Jay Springsteen Harley-Davidson
1977 Jay Springsteen Harley-Davidson
1978 Jay Springsteen Harley-Davidson
1979 Steve Eklund Harley-Davidson, Yamaha
1980 Randy Goss Harley-Davidson
1981 Mike Kidd Harley-Davidson, Yamaha
1982 Ricky Graham Harley-Davidson
1983 Randy Goss Harley-Davidson
1984 Ricky Graham Honda
1985 Bubba Shobert Honda
1986 Bubba Shobert Honda Dirt-track events only[28] Road-racing rounds not counted towards the Grand National Championship anymore.
1987 Bubba Shobert Honda
1988 Scott Parker Harley-Davidson
1989 Scott Parker Harley-Davidson
1990 Scott Parker Harley-Davidson
1991 Scott Parker Harley-Davidson
1992 Chris Carr Harley-Davidson
1993 Ricky Graham Honda
1994 Scott Parker Harley-Davidson
1995 Scott Parker Harley-Davidson
1996 Scott Parker Harley-Davidson
1997 Scott Parker Harley-Davidson
1998 Scott Parker Harley-Davidson
1999 Chris Carr Harley-Davidson, ATK
2000 Joe Kopp Harley-Davidson, Rotax
2001 Chris Carr Harley-Davidson, Rotax, ATK
2002 Chris Carr Harley-Davidson, Rotax, VOR, ATK
2003 Chris Carr Harley-Davidson, Rotax, VOR[29]
2004 Chris Carr Harley-Davidson, Rotax, KTM[29][30]
2005 Chris Carr Harley-Davidson, KTM
2006 Kenny Coolbeth (Twins) Harley-Davidson From 2006 to 2009, the championship was replaced by two separate series for two-cylinders (Twins) and single-cylinder (Singles) bikes. No overall title awarded.[27]


Twins events were held on mile and half-mile courses, while Singles events were held on short-track and TT courses.[27]

Jake Johnson (Singles) Suzuki
2007 Kenny Coolbeth
Won both classes
Harley-Davidson (Twins)
Honda (Singles)
2008 Kenny Coolbeth (Twins) Harley-Davidson
Jake Johnson (Singles) Suzuki
2009 Jared Mees (Twins) Harley-Davidson
Sammy Halbert

Singles)

Yamaha
2010 Jake Johnson Harley-Davidson (Twins) Overall title awarded to the rider with the highest total after combining the points earned in Twins and Singles championships.[27]
Honda (Singles)
2011 Jake Johnson Harley-Davidson (Twins)
Honda (Singles)
2012 Jared Mees Harley-Davidson (Twins)
Honda (Singles)
2013 Brad Baker Harley-Davidson (Twins)
Honda (Singles)
2014 Jared Mees Harley-Davidson (Twins)
Honda (Singles)
2015 Jared Mees Harley-Davidson (Twins) Unified championship (GNC1) including both Twins and Singles events.[27]
Honda (Singles)
2016 Bryan Smith Kawasaki
2017 Jared Mees Indian American Flat Track championship in AFT Twins
2018 Jared Mees Indian

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Wilson, Andrea (February 13, 2017). "American Flat-Track Racing Revival". Cycle World. Retrieved February 23, 2017.
  2. ^ a b c d e f The First Sixty Years; An Illustrated History of the American Motorcyclist Association. American Motorcyclist. Books.Google.com. January 1984. Retrieved 1 January 2011.
  3. ^ a b c d Ridin' To The Races. American Motorcyclist. Books.Google.com. August 1978. Retrieved 1 January 2011.
  4. ^ a b c d e Youngblood, Ed (August 1989). Dirt-track expansion. American Motorcyclist. Books.Google.com. Retrieved 3 January 2011.
  5. ^ Toyota deal means big bucks. American Motorcyclist. Books.Google.com. April 1978. Retrieved 2 January 2011.
  6. ^ Supercross '77. American Motorcyclist. Books.Google.com. March 1977. Retrieved 2 January 2011.
  7. ^ Past and Present Champions. American Motorcyclist. Books.Google.com. March 1956. Retrieved 1 January 2011.
  8. ^ "History of the AMA". American Motorcyclist Association. Retrieved November 3, 2017.
  9. ^ "Shell Thuet at the Motorcycle Hall of Fame". motorcyclemuseum.org. Retrieved 4 January 2010.
  10. ^ "Dick Mann at the Motorcycle Hall of Fame". motorcyclemuseum.org. Retrieved 15 December 2010.
  11. ^ "Gary Nixon at the Motorcycle Hall of Fame". motorcyclemuseum.org. Retrieved 4 January 2011.
  12. ^ "Gene Romero at the Motorcycle Hall of Fame". motorcyclemuseum.org. Retrieved 4 January 2011.
  13. ^ a b "Kenny Roberts at the Motorcycle Hall of Fame". motorcyclemuseum.org. Retrieved 4 January 2011.
  14. ^ Camel Filters announces $S75,000 Pro Series fund. AMA News. Books.Google.com. February 1975. Retrieved 16 November 2015.
  15. ^ A fond farewell to Ol' Joe Camel. American Motorcyclist. Books.Google.com. December 1978. Retrieved 16 November 2015.
  16. ^ Camel Pro Seriese features 34 races. American Motorcyclist. Books.Google.com. February 1983. Retrieved 16 November 2015.
  17. ^ Harrison, Greg (April 1984). Meet Me In St. Louis. American Motorcyclist. Books.Google.com. Retrieved 2 January 2011.
  18. ^ "Bubba Shobert at the Motorcycle Hall of Fame". motorcyclemuseum.org. Retrieved 4 January 2011.
  19. ^ Wood, Bill (August 1983). Wayne Rainey's road to stardom. American Motorcyclist. Books.Google.com. Retrieved 3 January 2011.
  20. ^ 50 Years Of Moto Grand Prix (1st edition). Hazelton Publishing Ltd, 1999. ISBN 1-874557-83-7
  21. ^ "Scott Parker at the Motorcycle Hall of Fame". motorcyclemuseum.org. Retrieved 4 January 2011.
  22. ^ Road Racing gets its own series for 1986. American Motorcyclist. Books.Google.com. February 1986. Retrieved 16 November 2015.
  23. ^ 1987 Camel Pro Series to be worth $475,000. American Motorcyclist. Books.Google.com. October 1986. Retrieved 16 November 2015.
  24. ^ Parade Lap. American Motorcyclist. Books.Google.com. February 1989. Retrieved 1 January 2011.
  25. ^ Youngblood, Ed (May 1997). For The Love Of Dirt Tracking. American Motorcyclist. Books.Google.com. Retrieved 3 January 2011.
  26. ^ Parsons, Grant (May 1998). Not Just A Spectator Sport. American Motorcyclist. Books.Google.com. Retrieved 2 January 2011.
  27. ^ a b c d e f "About AMA Pro Flat Track". AMA Pro Racing. Retrieved 24 October 2015.
  28. ^ Semmeling, Rob. "American Motorcycle Races" (PDF). pp. 32–33. Retrieved 24 October 2015.
  29. ^ a b "Carr opens title defense at Daytona". motorsport.com. 26 February 2004. Retrieved 24 October 2015.
  30. ^ "Former Road Racer Chris Carr, AMA Grand National Champion". Roadracing World Publishing. 27 September 2004. Retrieved 24 October 2015.

External links[edit]