AFT has released its provisional 2019 race schedule, so it's time to pick through it with a medium-toothed comb.
All the regulars are there. It begins with the Daytona TT, that we hope continues to improve in the way year two was much better than year one. There are the traditional pair of holiday weekend Springfield Miles, the Sacramento Mile, the Peoria TT and the Mees-promoted Lima Half-Mile. The Buffalo Chip TT, held during the huge Sturgis bike rally, is now a newly established regular and is followed by the Black Hills Half-Mile.
There are three changes from the 2018 schedule.
1. Wild Horse TT is in, the Arizona Mile is out. The Arizona track conditions were widely criticised in 2018, so it sounds like the organisers have listened to the racers on this one. The new race is in Arizona, very near Phoenix and Tuscon, following AFT's desire to have new races near big cities, not in rural fairgrounds. It does mean a TT is replacing a mile race though, which might suit Mees', Wiles' and Bauman's title aspirations more than Bryan Smith's.
2. Perris Half-Mile. The half-mile car track was the season finale in 2017, but missed out in 2018. It replaces Calistoga, so there are two California races again, like there were in 2018, on back-to-back weekends in May. Looks like a good time for any non-Americans to make a California holiday.
3. Laconia Short Track in New Hampshire is another race that forms part of the entertainment of a big V-twin bike week. Not as famous as Sturgis or Daytona, nonetheless it's been running 95 years. Laconia replaces the Oklahoma City Mile, who had been on the calendar for three years. There were complaints about spray causing poor visibility at the 2018 race, but we don't know if that was a factor in the decision. So that's a total of two miles lost compared to 2019. Again, not ideal for Smith, a racer regarded as the mile master.
When it comes to bike week races, the Buffalo Chip Sturgis race gets great crowds while the Daytona race is nowhere near filling its potential. AFT is based in Daytona Beach, though and as part of the NASCAR/France family company, Daytona is going to remain on the schedule. There was talk of taking the season finale to Daytona for the Biketoberfest, but that hasn't happened yet. October is hurricane season for Florida, so perhaps that's a reason.
This is the breakdown of track types for 2019 for the AFT Twins (single is different, because they don't race the Springfield Miles)
TT - 4
Short Track - 3
Half-mile - 5
Mile - 6
And here are the provisional dates.
1. March 14: DAYTONA TT - Daytona International Speedway, Daytona Beach, FL
2. March 23: Atlanta Short Track - Dixie Speedway, Woodstock, GA
3. April 20: Texas Half-Mile - Texas Motor Speedway, Fort Worth, TX
4. April 27: Wild Horse TT - Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park, Chandler, AZ
5. May 11: Perris Half-Mile - Perris Auto Speedway, Perris, CA
6. May 18: Sacramento Mile - Cal Expo, Sacramento, CA
7. May 26: Springfield Mile I - Illinois State Fairgrounds, Springfield, IL
(AFT Singles Springfield TT same weekend)
8. June 1: Red Mile - Red Mile, Lexington, KY
9. June 15: Laconia Short Track – TBA, New Hampshire
10. June 29: Lima Half-Mile - Allen County Fairgrounds, Lima, OH
11. July 6: New York Short Track - Weedsport Speedway, Weedsport, NY
12. August 4: Buffalo Chip TT - Buffalo Chip, Sturgis, SD
13. August 6: Black Hills Half-Mile - Black Hills Speedway, Rapid City, SD
14. August 17: Peoria TT - Peoria Motorcycle Club, Peoria, IL
15. September 1: Springfield Mile II - Illinois State Fairgrounds, Springfield, IL
(AFT Singles Springfield Short Track same weekend)
16. September 7: Williams Grove Half-Mile - Mechanicsburg, PA
17. September 21: Minnesota Mile - Canterbury Park, Shakopee, MN
18. TBA: Meadowlands Mile - Meadowlands , East Rutherford, NJ