If you've been following the blog or AFT news, you'll know that flat track's elite class is evolving for 2020. It's a fairly fundamental change that sees the sport following a course set by MotoGP as far back as the 1980s. Instead of each race being open to any rider with a relevant licence, the majority of the grid is set season (barring injury) with a handful of 'wild card' spots available at each round, for rider who don't want to, or can't, commit to the full season.
In the new SuperTwin era teams enter riders, either one or two riders, rather than the rider entering themselves. If a SuperTwin team's designated rider can't take part in a race - through a prior injury or other reason, the team must field an eligible rider in their place.
AFT has just announced this list of riders and teams.
BriggsAuto.com Racing - Davis Fisher - #67 Indian FTR750
Coolbeth-Nila Racing - Sammy Halbert - #69 Indian FTR750
Estenson Racing - JD Beach - #95 Yamaha MT-07 DT
Estenson Racing - Kolby Carlile - #36 Yamaha MT-07 DT
Harley-Davidson / Vance & Hines - Dalton Gauthier - #79 Harley-Davidson XG750R
Harley-Davidson / Vance & Hines - Jarod Vanderkooi - #20 Harley-Davidson XG750R
HCRR Racing / Ben Evans Racing - Jay Maloney - #12 Indian FTR750
HCRR Racing / Ben Evans Racing - Brandon Robinson - #44 Indian FTR750
Indian Motorcycle - Briar Bauman - #1 Indian FTR750
Indian Motorcycle - Bronson Bauman - #37 Indian FTR750
Indian Motorcycle / Rogers Racing - Jared Mees - #9 Indian FTR750
RJ Performance Racing - Robert Pearson - #27 Indian FTR750
Roof Systems of Dallas, Texas - Dan Bromley - #62 Indian FTR750
Roof Systems of Dallas, Texas - Brandon Price - #92 Indian FTR750
Vance & Hines / Howerton Motorsports - Bryan Smith - #4 Harley-Davidson XG750R
There seem to be three wild cards already, with options for others to enter.
Happy Trail Racing - Jeffrey Carver, Jr. - #23 Indian FTR750
Larry Pegram Racing - Larry Pegram - #72 Indian FTR750
Rackley Keeran Racing - Andrew Luker - #11 Indian FTR750
So, what are the surprises, if any? Well, we've already discussed Henry Wiles moving to AFT Singles on the RMR Honda. Another notable omission is Jake Johnson. On the Tank Slappin' podcast he co-hosts he's made it clear he wants to race, but only in the SuperTwins class, The former champ won't consider Singles or Production Twins. The other surprise name on the list is Jay Maloney's. The 32 year-old New Jersey rider finished 18th in the 2019 standings, with 55 points, on an FTR750. He entered, but didn't qualify for: Daytona TT, Texas HM, Arizona TT, Red Mile, Black Hills HM, Peoria. His best finish of the season was 11th at the Laconia short track. According to AFT's his average qualifying position in 2019 was 14.3. For comparison, Jarod Vanderkooi's 2019 average qualifying position, on the improving H-D XG750R, was 8.3, and the Briar Bauman's, the 2019 champion, was 4.9.
Perhaps his team is looking beyond the results, but this was Maloney's second season on an FTR750. I'm not being negative about the rider or his chances, because I've been around racing long enough to know there is often something behind the scenes that even informed journalists don't know about, but his name did seem to be an outlier.
That those are the only three notable names that jump out, for very different reasons, perhaps points to the shrinking of the expert twins class. Or does it? Look back at 2009, when there were only nine twins races, and the AMA Grand National Championship was split into singles and twins, only nine riders scored points in eight or more of the nine races, out of 41 riders who scored points that season. Compare that with 2019 - an 18-round season - eight riders scored points in 17 or more races and 37 riders scored points through the season. That's not much of a change over more than a decade.
No one can argue that the pro sport has been on a slow, but steady decline for over 30 years (since the tobacco money left). Can SuperTwins do for pro flat track what the the grand prix revolution did for grand prix's image and riders? Like so many revolutions, only time will tell.
The season starts at Daytona on 14 March.
Photo courtesy of Indian Motorcycle