American Flat Track returns to DuQuoin* for the first time since 2015 this weekend.
I was reminded how spectacular the 4th July 2015 race was, and searched YouTube for it (scroll to the bottom of this post to watch it). Just looking at the 18-rider grid for the main, and their machinery, gives a stark reminder of how the introduction of the Indian FTR750 has changed things. By 2015, the Harley XR750's days were well and truly numbered. It could still win, of course, Mees won the 2015 title on one, but teams could use other manufacturers' engines, and feel they could be competitive. And Mees won one race all season. Smith, who came second, won five on his Kawasaki twin. And this was still a time when riders competed on both singles and twins in the same title, so Mees raced a Honda CRF450 and a Harley XR750 to win his 2015 title.
Of the 18 twins that made the main in 2015 there are: Seven Harleys, seven Kawasakis, two Triumphs (from two different teams), and one each using Ducati and KTM engines.
The point should be made that all, except Brad Baker, were privateers, so there wasn't any, or very, very little money coming from other bike manufacturers. Now there's Indian, with a one-rider factory team, plus support for Mees, and, we suspect (we hope!), support from Yamaha for the Estenson team. Harley were spending lots in the first few years of the FTR, but that's gone for now.
Another notable DuQuoin 2021 nugget is the return of Jeffrey Carver. He will cover for the injured Sammy Halbert on the Coolbeth-Nila Indian FTR750 at this Saturday's race.
There are 13 riders in total for the SuperTwins class. Ten Indias, two Yamahas, one Harley-Davidson. There are 18 riders entered for Production Twins.
In 2015, there were 39 entries for the GNC1, Expert class. A further 33 for the GNC2 class. GNC2 was more like a Rookie Twins class than the current Production Twins class is. So, there were 72 twins on track, trying to qualify for two 18-riders, compared to 31 twins riders spread over two classes for the 2021 DuQuoin Mile.
One of the strategies of AFT's management was to make their series the elite, attracting the best riders, like MotoGP is for road racing. Actually, it's more like World Superbikes. To get into World Superbikes you've had to prove yourself at a national level. You don't just win your local race a few times, then expect to get onto the WSB grid. It seems to me that was the hope for AFT, but there isn't the same infrastructure of feeder series in the flat track world. How does a kid go from winning lots of amateur races, to being a force on a twin, like Scott Parker and so many others did in the past? I guess Dallas Daniels is on the way to doing it, but he seems to be the exception, not the rule. Plus, he's remained in the Singles class, with some Production Twins races, not straight onto the Expert Twins, like Parker did.
There is a big step, if not in skill, certainly in budget, from being a Production Twins contender on a Japanese twin, to being a SuperTwins contender on a pair of Indian FTR750s. But, was this ever any different? I imagine Scottie Parker's race-winning Klotz XR750s will have been very expensive bikes.
Parker's rookie year was in the Camel/Winston boom time for the series then, and, despite some encouraging years, and some moves in the right direction, it just isn't now. Every decision has a knock-on, and any further rule changes to limit the FTR750's speed might discourage Indian from supporting the series, and I don't see anyone waiting in the wings to step up, except maybe Royal Enfield. Indian are big supporters of all levels of flat track, supporting the scene in Europe in particular. However, a 13-rider SuperTwins main is not what the management of AFT would want to see. The racing at the front can still deliver excitement, if not too many surprises, and both the Production Twins and Singles classes are a treat, and unpredictable. It's undeniable that this SuperTwins experiment needs a nitrous injection to get it firing in a way that we, and every fan of the sport, wants to see.
How watch the 2021 DuQuoin Mile
Tickets are available for purchase now at https://store.americanflattrack.com/ebooking/ticket/view/id/3377#selectTickets. General Admission tickets situated on the front stretch grandstand are $35 in advance ($65 with paddock access). Kids 12 and under are admitted for free ($20 with paddock access) with the purchase of an adult GA ticket. Prices increase on event day, so fans are encouraged to reserve all seats in advance.
The gates will open for fans at 3:00 p.m. local time with Opening Ceremonies set to begin at 7:20 p.m. ET/4:20 p.m. PT. Live coverage of the entire weekend’s racing activities will be available on any device for only $1.99 a month via TrackPass on NBC Sports Gold.
The DuQuoin Mile presented by Black Diamond Harley-Davidson will air on NBCSN on Sunday, August 8, at 12:30 a.m. ET/9:30 p.m. PT, featuring exclusive features and cutting-edge aerial drone and onboard footage.
Foreign viewers can watch the American Flat Track International livefeed.
Now watch the fantastic 2015 race to whet your appetite... I'm not going to tell, or remind anyone, about the result, just watch it. The YouTube clip is 40-mins long, but the lights turn green at 8.45, there's a red flag, so the checkers are flown at the 33:00 mark.
Carver photo: Evan Senn
* AFT formed for the 2017 season, so this is actually their first visit to DuQuoin, but obviously not the GNC's first time.