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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Previous F1 competition doesn’t guarantee IndyCar success at COTA

Manor F1 Photo
Manor F1 Photo
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AUSTIN, Texas – Familiarity does not breed success, according to three NTT IndyCar Series drivers who have previous experience at Circuit of the Americas in the Formula One United States Grand Prix. Several other drivers, including IndyCar Series rookie Patricio O’Ward, competed in the LMPC IMSA race in 2017.

Although the course is the same – 20-turns and 3.41-miles – the cars are completely different. The highly-advanced, technologically-driven Formula One cars are advanced beyond the realm of anything allowed in the NTT IndyCar Series. It’s more about the driver in IndyCar, which uses an impressive, but simpler formula to help showcase driver skill more than technology in its races.

Money buys speed in Formula One, but an IndyCar team doesn’t need a $400 million budget to go racing. It can get by on $5 millions to $10 million a year and contend for plenty of race victories and championships.

Andretti Autosport star Alexander Rossi drove in five Formula One races with Manor in 2015. The above photo is from his only F1 contest at COTA that season. He was the first driver ever to turn laps at COTA shortly after it was constructed in 2012.

Rossi had his best F1 finish in the 2015 United States Grand Prix when he started 17thand finished 12th.

“When I’ve come here in the past, I came into the weekend fully knowing that there was no chance to ever really do anything from a results perspective,” Rossi said. “To could come here to a track that I’ve spent a lot of time at, not necessarily driven a whole lot, but spent a huge amount of time at. To come into this weekend’s race, competing on a level where we have as good a shot as any, to win the race would be pretty cool.

“There’s kind of an almost unfinished business box that we’d like to tick here in some way. I’m very excited to get the weekend started.”

Chilton raced the entire F1 season in 2013 and 2014 with Marussia. He started 21stand finished 21stin 2013. He started in the first 16 races during the 2014 F1 season but was out of a ride by the time F1 arrived at COTA that season.

Me and Alex probably had pretty similar experiences,” Chilton told NBC Sports.com “Obviously the more laps are better — but the car we were in, we weren’t doing much racing, so the sort of racing experience part isn’t going to help.

“It’s good to be back. I first came here in 2013 for the (United States) Grand Prix. I loved the track. I love the city. I really enjoyed the whole facility, the race track. It’s a pretty long track in an Indy car but it’s got lots of overtaking potential for us and hopefully we’ll put on a great show.

“It’s great to have an English band like Muse on Saturday night, as well.”

Marcus Ericsson of Sweden has the most experience at COTA of any driver in the field for Sunday’s INDYCAR Classic. He competed in 97 F1 contests from 2014-2018 before becoming an IndyCar rookie with Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports this season.

Ericsson was 15thin 2015, 14thin 2016, 15thin 2017 and 10thin last year’s USGP.

“I’ve been here quite a few times,” Ericsson said. “It’s one of the best tracks on F1 and I think it’s great we are going here with INDYCAR. It’s going to be a great weekend.

“The racing should be very good. It’s already good on F1 on this track and from what I’ve done in INDYCAR, it’s going to be a really good show from everyone and I’m really looking forward to it.”

Ericsson emphasized that the his F1 experience does not necessarily give him any type of advantage in an IndyCar.

“I think for me I was here a couple months ago in F1 doing the race in ’18. I had all my reference points and then I did the first run and realized that didn’t really work,” Ericsson explained to NBC Sports.com “So I don’t know that the experience — it’s good to know the track, but then the Indy cars are very different cars to the F1 (car) so you have to sort of drive it quite differently and in the end, I think it didn’t really help the maximum amount in my opinion.

“The problem is we had two days of testing already in IndyCar. If we had come here straightaway without any testing it would be an advantage of one hundredth approximate. But now, if you don’t get the track in two days, I don’t think you would be in IndyCar.

“I don’t think it’s a big advantage now going into the weekend.”

But every little bit helps and if all of those little “bits” of information are added up, previous experience can provide a benefit in the race.

“For sure there’s things I can bring from my experience there that helps in INDYCAR, but the Indy car to drive today is different than the Formula One cars with the power steering and everything,” Ericsson continued. “I think it’s two different cars and what I found here on the test; things that worked in the F1 car didn’t really work in the Indy car. I think both cars of very difficult to be fast in but in different ways.

“For sure my experience in F1, it’s helped me to get into INDYCAR.”

James Hinchcliffe, who has never driven in Formula One, or at COTA, believes he has the best experience of any driver in Austin this weekend.

“I know where the restaurants are, so that’s cool,” Hinchcliffe said.