Remember when the GNC season used to open in Daytona in March, then there wasn't another race until the end of May? Well, not any more. The season kicked off on Thursday 16 March, with a Mees win and an Indian 1-2, and there's another race today, and another next week.
The Dixie Speedway, near Atlanta, Georgia, is a new venue for AFT and is an example of American Flat Track's desire to move the sport closer to large cities to attract a new fanbase. That won't happen overnight.
It's a 3/8s mile clay track, which they're calling a short track. It seems AFT won't go much smaller than this for a 'short track' event now twins must be used at each track. In the UK, we're so desperate for longer tracks that we'd round it up and call a 3/8s track a half-mile, and a 3/8s clay short track will be nothing like the kind of short track we're used to seeing from previous Daytona season-openers.
Talking about the race, reigning champ, Bryan Smith says... “People have always looked at me and said, ‘That Smith guy struggles on the short tracks,’ but actually I’ve won on a short track before. I’ve just struggled on the 450 motocross bikes, never liked the feel of them. Now that we’re racing on twins, I like my odds.'
His toughest opponent is likely to be fellow Indian rider, Jared Mees. I say fellow Indian rider, rather than team-mate, because Smith and Brad Baker are the official team and Mees is in a factory-supported independent team of one, though all three bikes were pitted together at Daytona. Smith has brought his former team boss, Ricky Howerton with him, Mees is accompanied by his championship-winning team headed by legendary tuner, Kenny Tolbert.
AFT are throwing the kitchen sink at this year, but not everything is going to plan. Triumph pulled their funding of the Florida-based Bonneville Performance team 'at the last minute' according to the team, so there are actually fewer manufacturers involved at the first Twins round of 2017, than the final GNC1 round of 2016.
On a more upbeat note, AFT told Sideburn that the Daytona TT crowd was 9400, that's 2400 more than AFT's CEO Michael Lock told us he'd regard as a success (read our exclusive interview with Michael Lock).
The Atlanta Short Track race will be shown on fanschoice.tv with practice from 2pm eastern time, and the heat races from 6pm E.T.
Brit fans should keep an eye out for Oliver Brindley in the Singles class. This is an unfamiliar type of track for the teenager, and he'll be up against Shayna Texter, who should be flying after failing to make the main at Daytona.
Photo: Brian J Nelson/AFT