American Flat Track: How about sticking to ovals?

American Flat Track motorcycle racing at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park in Chandler, Ariz., sounded like a great idea, and at the end it was. JD Beach overtook points leader Briar Bauman late to record his initial AFT Twins victory and Yamaha’s category-first since 1981.

But after an appalling night of carnage in the stay-with-us—Law Tigers Arizona Super TT presented by RideNow PowerSports—AFT officials must ask themselves whether to return to this treacherous trap southeast of Phoenix.

The up-and-coming AFT series needs to build rather than diminish its cast of characters. Last Saturday night, ambulances ran like mad alpacas.

Before practice, Singles ace Shayna Texter had looked a little glum, as if she knew what to expect. “You just have to go out and attack the track,” said last week’s Texas Motor Speedway winner.

In her five-lap heat, Texter finished 10th of 12 on her KTM 450 SX-F and failed to advance. At least she didn’t need to consult an orthopedist. Some 47 Singles riders ran four heats and two semi-mains before narrowing the field for the finale; we lost count of casualties after all the bashing, crashing, and ugly straightaway endos.

“This race was so much about the start,” said Singles winner Jesse Janish, straddler of the winning Yamaha YZ450F. He understated the case. The fastest qualifier could line up on the racing groove, get traction for a holeshot, and win every downhill dash to Turn One.  

The imperative to start great was part but not all the problem. There were three banked lefts, one devilish right, and two big jumps. That’s not counting wiggle wah’s and nose-divey hoo’s. The home straight’s jump and flat landing zone gave fans close-up views of talented, well-trained athletes being mangled. Maybe the offroad trucks land square, but bikes wobble down from the sky and go kerflop.

In the 25-lap Twins main, Turn One devoured three riders on the first lap. AFT 2017 Singles titlist Kolby Carlile went down, got run over, and bravely flattened a tire with his leg. He should get a trophy for this triumph over inertia.

Introduced as the Flying Tomato minutes earlier to the crowd, redhead Carlile basked in glory, or maybe he thought ignominy. Now, sprawled out like he was on ice in the Fulton fish market, he wished the announcers would talk about the weather instead of prattling about his maiming. 

Yes, motorcycle racing is dangerous. Why, though, should the track and format enhance the danger?

Meanwhile, in the grandstand, we got acquainted. Sitting in the row ahead, MacArthur, from St. George, said he owns 34 Harleys. The full three-dozen would be inevitable, it appears. A bit to his left, the best mom in the world had brought her bright-faced 11-year-old son, who disavowed any interest in becoming a motorcycle racer, which looked like a good decision. He’ll run a physics lab someday.

Speaking of time dragging, the grandstand backs up against Wild Horse’s sewage lagoon, er, drag-boat lake. Admission to the track should have included a clothespin for the nose. Although who knows how many the damsel with the Dia de Muertos Marilyn Monroe tattoo would buy up from others and how she would use them? Meanwhile, hark! No permanent restrooms for the paying crowd?

JD Beach catching Briar Bauman’s in the Twins 25-lapper remains an astonishment. Revving his parallel twin MT-07 and roaring at the start, then hitting every mark, Bauman stretched out a lead. But it’s a long race after a 97-degree afternoon’s practice and qualifying. Bauman got above the groove coming out of One, and Beach floated nearer. Then they met the field. After lapping a straggler or three, Bauman’s Indian FTR750 skipped high in Two, and Beach seized the lead.

American Flat Track’s reinvigoration introduces new wrinkles and reintroduces familiar ones. Arizona Super TT entrant Jeff Ward, 57 turns around the sun and 336 on the back, advanced his KTM to the semi-main, finishing 10th of 17. While he did not transfer to the feature, he may boast that the combined age of those in 11th, 12th, and 13th is 61 years.

AFT has so many possibilities. But without big changes to improve rider safety and fan convenience, forget a reprise at Wild Horse Pass in 2020.

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