Photo courtesy American Flat Track

American Flat Track motorcycle racing series unveils 2019 schedule

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American Flat Track, the world’s premier dirt track motorcycle racing series and one of the longest-running championships in the history of motorsports televised on NBCSN, on Thursday announced its provisional 2019 race schedule.

Next year’s 18-race slate features two new venues and the series’ return to Southern California.

The season kicks off March 14 at Daytona International Speedway with the annual DAYTONA TT and ends in fall at the MetLife Sports Complex in East Rutherford, New Jersey (date to be announced).

The two new events on the schedule are Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park (formerly Firebird Raceway) in Chandler, Arizona, just south of Phoenix, as well as the short track near Laconia, New Hampshire.

The latter event – for which a location will be announced in the near future – will likely be tied in with the annual Laconia Bike Week (June 8-16).

The series returns to Southern California to the half-mile at Perris Auto Speedway in Perris, California, site of the 2017 championship event.

All told, the 2019 schedule will have good balance with six mile-long tracks, five half-mile tracks, four short tracks and five TTs. Also, while the schedule is 18 races, AFT Singles run a TT and Short Track before each of the two Springfield Mile events.

“AFT is coming off the back of a record-breaking season and we have planned the 2019 schedule to push things to the next level,” AFT CEO Michael Lock said in a media release. “We are delighted to be restoring the series to Southern California and taking American Flat Track to New England next summer, two traditional hotbeds of professional motorcycle racing.”

AFT enters its third year of broadcast coverage on NBCSN and its sixth year of live streaming on FansChoice.tv.

The series is coming off a record-breaking 2018 season when it drew over 3 million viewers – either at-track, on TV or on live streaming – the largest combined audience in series history.

Two races remain to be shown this year on NBCSN, as well as two re-airs, meaning the 3-plus million viewer total is sure to climb before 2018 comes to a close.

The first is the Indian Motorcycle Minnesota Mile on Sunday, October 4 at 5 pm ET (with a re-air on Oct. 17 at 4 pm ET).

The second race is the Meadowlands Mile presented by Ducati AFT season finale on Sunday, October 21 at 2 pm ET (with a re-air on October 24 at 4 pm ET).

Here is the provisional 2019 American Flat Track schedule:

1. March 14: Daytona TT – Daytona International Speedway, Daytona Beach, FL

2. March 23: Atlanta Short Track – Dixie Speedway, Woodstock, GA

3. April 20: Texas Half-Mile – Texas Motor Speedway, Fort Worth, TX

4. April 27: Wild Horse TT – Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park, Chandler, AZ

5. May 11: Perris Half-Mile – Perris Auto Speedway, Perris, CA

6. May 18: Sacramento Mile – Cal Expo, Sacramento, CA

7. May 26: Springfield Mile I – Illinois State Fairgrounds, Springfield, IL (AFT Singles Springfield TT same weekend)

8. June 1: Red Mile – Red Mile, Lexington, KY

9. June 15: Laconia Short Track – TBA, New Hampshire

10. June 29: Lima Half-Mile – Allen County Fairgrounds, Lima, OH

11. July 6: New York Short Track – Weedsport Speedway, Weedsport, NY

12. August 4: Buffalo Chip TT – Buffalo Chip, Sturgis, SD

13. August 6: Black Hills Half-Mile – Black Hills Speedway, Rapid City, SD

14. August 17: Peoria TT – Peoria Motorcycle Club, Peoria, IL

15. September 1: Springfield Mile II – Illinois State Fairgrounds, Springfield, IL (AFT Singles Springfield Short Track same weekend)

16. September 7: Williams Grove Half-Mile – Williams Grove Speedway, Mechanicsburg, PA

17. September 21: Minnesota Mile – Canterbury Park, Shakopee, MN

18. TBA: Meadowlands Mile – Meadowlands Racing & Entertainment, East Rutherford, NJ

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IMSA Prototype Season in Review

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IMSA Wire Service

It was a year of change for the IMSA Prototype Challenge Presented by Mazda. The longtime sprint series evolved in 2018 to six one-hour, 45-minute endurance races that allowed teams to run single or two-driver combinations with a required minimum-time pit stop. The result: record-high car counts in the LMP3 class with Kris Wright ultimately winning the series championship for Extreme Speed Motorsports, while Cameron Cassels took home the LMP3 Masters title. In the MPC class, meanwhile, series veteran Jon Brownson won his first championship in the final season for the class with a breakthrough win one week ago in the season finale at Road Atlanta.

This season-in-review takes a look back at the path each of the three champions took on their way to history.

1. Daytona International Speedway, January 6

Winners
LMP3: Roman De Angelis, No. 4 ANSA Motorsports Ligier JS P3
LMP3 Masters: Gary Gibson, No. 44 Ave Motorsports Ave-Riley AR2
MPC: Robert Masson, No. 11 Performance Tech Motorsports Elan DP02

How the Champions Fared
Not only was the season-opener during the Roar Before the Rolex 24 weekend the first endurance race for the IMSA Prototype Challenge Presented by Mazda, it also was the first race for the series at the iconic Daytona International Speedway. Wright, driving the No. 30 Extreme Speed Motorsports Ligier JS P3 scored his first podium of the season alongside co-driver Daniel Morad with a third-place finish behind Porsche GT3 Challenge driver and winner Roman De Angelis and co-drivers Austin McCusker and David Droux, finishing second for the upstart Forty7 Motorsports team. Masson scored the MPC win, lapping all but one car, while Brownson came home fifth.

2. Sebring International Raceway, March 16

Winners
LMP3: Leo Lamelas / Pato O’Ward, No. 7 Charles Wicht Racing Ligier JS P3
LMP3 Masters: James McGuire Jr., No. 26 K2R Motorsports Ligier JS P3
MPC: Dave House, No. 86 ONE Motorsports Elan DP02

How the Champions Fared
The round at Sebring featured a late-race restart that saw eventual 2018 Indy Lights champion and 2017 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship Prototype Challenge champion O’Ward drive from fourth to first in the closing laps to secure the win for full-time driver Lamelas. Wright, meanwhile, finished third for the second consecutive time to start the season with a new co-driver, Michael Whelden. The No. 47 Forty7 Motorsports entry again finished second with McCusker now joined by TJ Fischer, who would go on to run the full season with the team. Coming out of Sebring, McCusker would lead Wright by four points, 64-60. Between Sebring and the next round at Barber Motorsports Park, Wright would decide to contest the full season for Extreme Speed Motorsports.

It was a special victory in the MPC class with House becoming IMSA’s oldest race winner at the age of 75. Foreshadowing a points race that what would ultimately come down to the season finale at Road Atlanta, the top five in the MPC standings are separated by two points leaving Sebring, with Brownson seventh, 12 points out, after a ninth-place finish.

3. Barber Motorsports Park, April 21

Winners
LMP3: Kris Wright / Yann Clairay, No. 30 Extreme Speed Motorsports Ligier JS P3
LMP3 Masters: Rob Hodes, No. 51 K2R Motorsports Ligier JS P3
MPC: Michal Chlumecky, No. 31 Eurosport Racing Elan DP02

How the Champions Fared
The only standalone event for the IMSA Prototype Challenge Presented by Mazda would prove to be the turning point in the LMP3 class. Leading all but one practice session on the weekend and starting the race from the pole, Wright and co-driver Clairay dominated the event, only losing the lead briefly on a cycle of green flag pit stops. Wright’s biggest competition for the championship, meanwhile, the No. 47 Forty7 Motorsports team, seemed poised to score its third consecutive runner-up finish of the season to hold onto the LMP3 points lead, but contact between Fischer and an MPC car with five minutes remaining relegated the team to a 16th-place finish. Entering the weekend down four points in the standings, Wright left Barber up six points, 95-89, over Lamelas.

Chlumecky scored his first MPC class win since 2012, while teammate Brownson, the Sebring pole winner, capped off a Eurosport Racing 1-2 finish placing second in the team’s No. 34 entry. Masson rounded out the podium with a third-place finish in the No. 11 Performance Tech Motorsports Elan DP02 to regain the class lead. Brownson left Barber eight points behind Masson, fifth in the standings.

4. Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, July 8

Winners
LMP3: Austin McCusker / TJ Fischer, No. 47 Forty7 Motorsports Norma M30
LMP3 Masters: Dean Baker, No. 4 ANSA Motorsports Ligier JS P3
MPC: Howard Jacobs / James French, No. 77 Performance Tech Motorsports Elan DP02

How the Champions Fared
The long overdue first victory for Forty7 Motorsports finally came at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park for McCusker and Fischer, but a second-place finish for Wright meant McCusker could only gain three points on the series leader, with Wright keeping the deficit at 13 points. Dean Baker would score the LMP3 Masters win, the fourth winner in four races following Gibson at Daytona, McGuire Jr. at Sebring and Hodes at Barber. Cassels finished on the LMP3 Masters podium for the first time in 2018 at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, finishing the race seventh overall and third in LMP3 Masters.

Leading the MPC standings coming into Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, Robert Masson enlisted son and defending series champion Kyle Masson as a co-driver for the remainder of the season. The plan appeared to work with the duo crossing the line first, but upon post-race analysis of drive-time requirements, it was concluded that Kyle Masson did not record the minimum 40 minutes of drive time and the car was moved to the back of the MPC results. That penalty elevated Jacobs and French to the race win in Performance Tech’s No. 77 entry and moved Brownson, who finished second for the consecutive race, to the class championship lead. Coming out of Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, the top six in points were separated by just two points with two races remaining.

5. VIRginia International Raceway, August 18

Winners
LMP3: Kris Wright / Stephen Simpson, No. 30 Extreme Speed Motorsports Ligier JS P3
LMP3 Masters: Dean Baker, No. 4 ANSA Motorsports Ligier JS P3
MPC: Howard Jacobs / James French, No. 77 Performance Tech Motorsports Elan DP02

How the Champions Fared
Wright enlisted IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship regular Stephen Simpson as co-driver at VIR and delivered a knockout punch in the LMP3 title fight, scoring the win and opening a 23-point lead over McCusker, who finished sixth. Baker would win his second consecutive race in LMP3 Masters with a second-place finish overall alongside Zacharie Robichon. Hodes would lead the LMP3 Masters points by two points over Jim Garrett, eight points over Cassels and nine points over Joel Janco.

Robert Masson seemed poised to take the points lead and win alongside Kyle Masson as the duo drove brilliantly in the rain, building a nearly one-lap lead. A mechanical issue with 17 minutes remaining, however, set up a late-race sprint to the finish with French winning on the last lap for Jacobs.

With only one race remaining, House moved into the class lead by three points, 143-140, over Jacobs. The top seven teams were mathematically eligible for the championship and separated by a mere eight points.

6. Road Atlanta, October 12

Winners
LMP3: Austin McCusker / TJ Fischer, No. 47 Forty7 Motorsports Norma M30
LMP3 Masters: Cameron Cassels, No. 75 Performance Tech Motorsports Ligier JS P3
MPC: Jon Brownson, No. 34 Eurosport Racing Elan DP02

How the Champions Fared
The second win of the season for the No. 47 Forty7 Motorsports entry and co-driver McCusker and Fischer was not enough to take the championship away from Wright, who finished second at Road Atlanta to sweep podiums in all six races on the series schedule.

Cassels scored his first LMP3 Masters win of the season, and despite entering the weekend eight points behind in the standings, would also win the LMP3 Masters championship after each of the title contenders ran into various issues on-track.

Brownson called it an “honor” to win the final race for the MPC class. Brownson, who started in the first race for the series in 2006, scored his first win of the season in the No. 34 Eurosport Racing entry to win the final championship for the class.