I'm literally just back from the AFT 2017 season banquet. The after-party has just started, but after a chat to Jeffrey Carver and Team Brindley I thought I'd walk back to my room and write down some notes. Here they are...
The championships were decided at Perris Auto Speedway yesterday, after a day of great racing in Twins, Singles and the Hooligan support class.
Jared Mees finished the season with ten wins from 18 rounds, finishing on the podium 17 times, only missing out, ironically, in the race he promotes himself, Lima. He failed to qualify at the Ohio race through the semis after getting time penalties for two jump starts.
It was an Indian 1-2-3 in the Twins seaosn standings with Smith second and Baker third, even though Brad Baker missed the final two rounds after breaking his jaw mountain biking.
Baker was working as crew chief/mentor for his fellow Washingtonian, Tanner Dean, at Perris. Dean was awarded AFT Rising Star.
Ryan Wells, who was last year's GNC2 champ, was AFT Twins Rookie of the Year.
Colby Carlile, the rider with the distinctive long red hair, won the AFT single class, despite not winning a race all season. Brandon Price secured second at the very last round (with three wins, including Perris) and Shayna Tesxter was third, with an impressive five wins, but poor results in the year's TTs at Daytona, Peoria and the Buffalo Chip.
AFT uses the banquet to reflect on the year and deliver plans, or at least hopes, for the following season. This year's banquet wasn't as momentous as last year's (but neither did it have the pall hanging over it of rider deaths, like last year's did). The stand out announcements for me were...
Indian are going to stump up a total of $400,000 (depending on results) of contingency for private teams running their FTR750. Yesterday I heard that either 6 or 8 FTR750 sold to private teams the week after Johnny Lewis put a private FTR750 on the podium at Texas Motor Speedway. I'm not sure what needs to happen for Indian to give away that headline figure, but I'm pretty sure they won't be put in a position to giveaway the full amount (that's my problem with contingency sponsorship, but it's certainly better than no sponsorship).
Event ticket sales have risen from 50,000 in 2015, to 100,000 in 2017.
Fanschoice viewer figures have risen from 200,000 in 2015 to over 350,000 this season, despite the series also being shown on NBC Sports Network in the USA.
The cumulative viewing figures for the season on NBC are 1.55 million.
NBC are considering showing AFT at 9pm, a better slot, for 2018.
A provisional schedule of 17 races (down from 18 in 2017) was anounced. It's as follows:
1. Daytona TT
2. Atlanta ST
3. Texas Half-Mile
4. Calistoga Half-Mile
5 Arizona Half-Mile
6 Sac Mile
7 Springfield Mile 1
8 Red Mile, Kentucky
9 Oklahoma City Mile
10 Lima Half-mile
11 Weedsport Half-Mile, New York
12 Buffalo Chip TT
13 Black Hills Half-Mile
14 Peoria TT
15 Springfield Mile 2
16 Williams Grove Half-Mile
17 Canterbury Park Mile, Minnesota
The final round created a buzz in the room, because it's in Minnesota, Indian's home state.
I don't know if a read between the lines, but I'm not sure if there was a hint about another round back east, and perhaps that could be a second Florida round to coincide with Biketoberfest in Daytona, which is AFT's hometown, but I might have got my wires crossed.
There seemed to be a lot of positivity about the sport, but the OEMs are still not flocking to the sport as AFT hoped they would and, I fear, Indian's domination is going to scare many away. Let's hope AFT goes onwards and upwards.
Photo: Brian J Nelson/AFT