American Flat Track racing nears end of record season

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Most race fans are accustomed to seeing cars on race tracks. Paved or dirt – oval, road course, or off-road – in a variety of shapes and sizes.

Motorcycle racing also has a long history in America, with its origins in the early 1900s.

Due in no small part to a partnership with NBC, flat track motorcycle racing is making headway in capturing modern America’s attention with a premier division known as the American Flat Track Series.

According to the American Flat Track web site, viewership for the series this season will exceed 3 million with more than 100,000 tickets sold at event sites. That is an average of about 6,000 tickets per event – a sizeable crowd for a dirt short track.

Many of the tracks on which the series competes will be familiar: So far in 2018, races were held at Daytona International Speedway, the dirt track at Texas Motor Speedway, Calistoga Speedway in California, Illinois State Fairgrounds Speedway and the legendary Williams Grove Speedway in Pennsylvania.

The names may not yet be as familiar. Jared Mees leads the top division points on the strength of 10 wins. No one else has more than two. The singles division is tighter with Dan Bromley posting four wins and a female racer Shayna Texter becoming the first woman to win a major race in flat track history. In fact, she has two (at Allen County Fairgrounds in Lima, Ohio and Black Hills Speedway in Rapid City, South Dakota).

The broadcasting partnership with NBC that began in 2016, is responsible for nearly 2.4 million of the 3 million viewers – an increase of more than 50 percent over last year’s numbers.

“American Flat Track has reached over 3 million fans so far this year and it is testament to the thrilling action our athletes and participating manufacturers are serving up, week in and week out,” said Michael Lock, CEO of American Flat Track on the series Web site. “With two live race events and four NBCSN broadcasts still to come, AFT 2018 will end up reaching more people than in any year in the modern era. We are extremely proud and look forward to scaling new heights in 2019.”

NBCSN broadcasts are shown one week following the live event. The penultimate race was on a one-mile, modified horse track in Shakopee, MN outside of Minneapolis. That race can be seen on NBCSN October 14, a 5 pm ET.

The season wraps up today at the Meadowlands in East Rutherford, NJ and can be seen October, 21 at 2 pm ET on NBCSN.

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Jack Miller wins the MotoGP Japanese Grand Prix as Fabio Quartararo stops his downward points’ slide

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Jack Miller ran away with the MotoGP Japanese Grand Prix at Motegi as Fabio Quartararo stopped his downward slide in the championship when a last-lap accident from his closest rival in the standings caused Francesco Bagnaia to score zero points.

Starting seventh, Miller quickly made his way forward. He was second at the end of two laps. One lap later, he grabbed the lead from Jorge Martin. Once in the lead, Miller posted three consecutive fastest laps and was never seriously challenged. It was Australian native Miller’s first race win of the season and his sixth podium finish.

The proximity to his home turf was not lost.

“I can ride a motorcycle sometimes,” Miller said in NBC Sports’ post-race coverage. “I felt amazing all weekend since I rolled out on the first practice. It feels so awesome to be racing on this side of the world.

“What an amazing day. It’s awesome; we have the home Grand Prix coming up shortly. Wedding coming up in a couple of weeks. I’m over the moon; can’t thank everyone enough.”

Miller beat Brad Binder to the line by 3.4 seconds with third-place Jorge Martin finishing about one second behind.

But the center of the storm was located just inside the top 10 as both Quartararo and Bagnaia started deep in the field.

Quartararo was on the outside of row three in ninth with Bagnaia one row behind in 12th. Neither rider moved up significantly, but the championship continued to be of primary importance as Bagnaia put in a patented late-race charge to settle onto Quartararo’s back tire, which would have allowed the championship leader to gain only a single point.

On the final lap, Bagnaia charged just a little too hard and crashed under heavy braking, throwing away the seven points he would have earned for a ninth-place finish.

The day was even more dramatic for the rider who entered the MotoGP Japanese Grand Prix third in the standings. On the sighting lap, Aleix Espargaro had an alarm sound, so he peeled off into the pits, dropped his primary bike and jumped aboard the backup. Starting from pit lane, he trailed the field and was never able to climb into the points. An undisclosed electronic problem was the culprit.

For Quartararo, gaining eight points on the competition was more than a moral victory. This was a track on which he expected to run moderately, and he did, but the problems for his rivals gives him renewed focus with four rounds remaining.

Next week, the series heads to Thailand and then Miller’s home track of Phillip Island in Australia. They will close out the Pacific Rim portion of the schedule before heading to Spain for the finale in early November.

It would appear team orders are not in play among the Ducati riders. Last week’s winner Enea Bastianini made an aggressive early move on Bagnaia for position before the championship contender wrestled the spot back.

In his second race back following arm surgery, Marc Marquez won the pole. His last pole was more than 1,000 days ago on this same track in 2019, the last time the series competed at Motegi. Marquez slipped to fifth in the middle stages of the race, before regaining a position to finish just off the podium.

In Moto2 competition, Ai Ogura beat Augusto Fernandez to close the gap in that championship to two points. Fernandez holds the scant lead. Alonso Lopez rounded out the podium.

Both American riders, Cameron Beaubier and Joe Roberts finished just outside the top 10 in 11th and 12th respectively.