In one heat race there is a crash at the fastest point of the track, just before the braking point. The rider rolls down the track, gets up looking dazed. He obviously has a damaged helmet, but the AFT/AMA official looks to be helping him make the restart. This happens numerous times during the night, and occurs at every AFT race, but it's got to stop. Before any racing begins, bikes, helmets and kit are taken through tech inspection. After a crash, a blind eye is turned. Bikes are literally kicked back into shape by riders and mechanics so high on adrenaline they're not thinking straight. Helmets have hit the ground at what, 80mph plus? Everyone, officials as well, just want the rider to make the restart. A rider could be concussed out of his gourd. In the incident I'm describing you can almost see the birds flying around the rider's head. Other sports are taking concussions seriously, when is pro flat track going to?
56 singles racers entered, trying to qualify for the 16-rider main.
Singles semi 1 is red-flagged three times before it runs its length.
Shayna's skill is undoubted, but I'd forgotten just what a total bad ass she is. She was in a sandwich of Dalton Gauthier and Dan Bromley, two riders of huge stature and skill, and she didn't give an inch.
Cameron Smith, Ben Lowe, Trent Lowe, Cardus, Zabala, among many others, failed to transfer to the main.
I like the commentator/announcer, Scottie Deubler, but his nicknames for riders are annoyingly lame. Stollings - the Freak of Nature? And if I hear that James Monaco is the son of an almond farmer one more time...
Gauthier and Mischler won their semis. Ollie Brindley made the main, on the second row.
Tristan Avery seems to nearly hit the wall on the straights on virtually every lap.
Brindley was 10th on lap one, after getting crowded out at the start, and spent the next 15 laps working his way up to 4th (see his progression in the chart above). This in a final of a cut-throat series, packed with talent, all on very similar machinery.
Ollie Brindley crossed the line fifth, behind Estenson racing's Ryan Wells, but Wells is later disqualified for having a rear wheel assembly that is over the maximum allowable weight (heavy rear wheels help traction, so AFT set a maximum weight for rear wheel assembly).
Dalton Gauthier looks like the most naturally talented rider of his generation. He has been excluded from racing for a positive drug test (rumoured to be marijuana). He was on the podium at his comeback race, on a KTM, and won this, his second race back, from flag to flag, on a Honda he hadn't ridden before that day. Again, all in an incredibly competitive singles class.
Wiles won his semi, a hard fought win against Brandon Robinson, who is now on a Kennedy Racing, Armbruster-prepared FTR750. Briar Bauman wins the other semi at a canter.
Harley's Sammy Halbert is 4th in his semi. He is the only non-Indian rider in his semi to make the main. Four Yamahas failed to transfer, including JD Beach.
Beach finishes ninth in his semi. For whatever reason, he doesn't, or can't, use his provisional start to make the main. Beach is my, and many other's, tip for great results, but is struggling so far this year. A clumsy crash forced him out of Daytona, and he wasn't on the pace all night at Atlanta, despite the Yamaha MT07 DT being developed on short tracks. After two rounds he has zero points. The veteran Jake Johnson, also on an Estenson Yamaha MT07 DT, was third in Daytona, 16th at Atlanta.
The twins class has 23 entries, fewer than half that of the singles class.
Semi 2 has just 11 riders looking for eight transfer spots.
Vanderkooi crashes exiting turn 2 on first lap of his semi. To restart he must stay on the track, making his way to the designated 'hot box', where he has two minutes or so to prepare for a restart (though it's often longer than that, especially if a rider requires medical treatment, or the airfence needs repairing or re-inflating). The commentator reminds us that two mechanics can work on his bike, but they're not allowed to use tools. This is almost encouraging riders to race at the very highest level using crashed and possibly bent machinery. Where is the sense in that? Isn't flat track dangerous enough without forcing amped-up riders to race sub-optimal machinery in sudden death races?
Vanderkooi caused the red flag in his race, so when he restarted he did so from the fourth row. He comes through the field to finish third, overtaking Bryan Smith on the last lap. That means the 21-year-old has put the Vance & Hines Harley XG750R Rev X on the front row.
The Harley Vance & Hines team have been very quiet about development of their 750 over the winter, but the frame has changed entirely. Some people are commenting it looks very similar to an FTR750 frame. As of 2018, the engine is now a DOHC architecture, not the street bike's SOHC that the XG750R race bike originally appeared with in 2016.
Mees got a shocking start in his semi, but got a much better one in the restart. Briar B still rode past him with ease and pulled away.
Ryan Varnes, one of the few privateers still riding a Kawasaki, finished fifth in his semi. Varnes and Bryan Smith are the only Kawasakis to make the main.
There were two Yamahas (Cory Texter, Jake Johnson) and the pair of factory Harleys in the 17-rider main. The rest were FTR750s.
It was a 17-rider main because James Monaco used his provisional start card.
Varnes' father, Kevin, a former four-time National race winner, finished on the podium in the Bultaco Astro Race the same night.
Brad Baker's commentary continues to enlighten. He spots the lines and instinctively knows what the riders are doing to try find grip.
Briar Bauman looks in a different league, in the run up to the main, but he is swamped off the start and Mees looks like he has checked out, in the way he has so many times in recent years. Or so it seemed. Mees' tyre appears to go off slightly and Brandon Robinson, reinvigorated after a move back to his previous sponsor, Kennedy, on an Indian FTR750, passed the champion and pulled away from him.
Contrary to what many predicted, and some hoped, Smith's Crosley Howerton Kawasaki and the Yamahas aren't loosening Indian's grip on the podium just yet. The FTR750 carries riders to a podium sweep. Robinson - Mees - Briar Bauman.
Vanderkooi was 4th on the Harley. Sammy is 7th. That means both Harleys finish ahead of all the other non-Indian riders. Who predicted that?