NBC announces 2019 American Flat Track schedule

American Flat Track
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On Tuesday, NBC Sports announced the 2019 schedule for coverage of the American Flat Track series.

NBCSN will cover all 18 rounds of the most historic form of American motorcycle racing with shows falling in a highly-desirable weekend time slot and re-airs in the middle of the week. The schedule showcases four distinct track formats: one-mile ovals, half-mile ovals, short tracks and TTs (which incorporate a right-hand turn and a jump).

This is the third consecutive season that NBC will cover the series and it adds to a smorgasbord of events that include AMA Supercross and Motocross, NASCAR, IndyCar and IMSA.

“American Flat Track has become a staple of our racing lineup on NBCSN,” said Jeff Macaluso, Senior Director, Programming, NBC Sports Group in a press release, “and we are excited to continue our partnership.”

Reaching speeds of almost 140 mph on dirt tracks around the country, American Flat Track is among the most exciting forms of racing.

“NBC Sports has provided the platform for American Flat Track to reach millions of new fans across the U.S.,” said Michael Lock, CEO of American Flat Track. “With strong weekend programming slots and exciting storylines both on and off the track, we are forging the path to another record-breaking year for AFT on NBCSN in 2019.”

American Flat Track’s telecasts will be produced by NASCAR Productions, who are uniquely qualified to provide a window into the drama surrounding the weekly events.

Exclusive features and editorial content highlight the triumphs and tribulations of the world’s elite dirt track motorcycle racers as they battle for the win. Cutting-edge technology including aerial drone footage and onboard cameras will once again put viewers on the edge of their seats as the riders blaze around the tight confines of some of America’s greatest dirt tracks.

American Flat Track will kick off its highly-anticipated 2019 season with the Bigger, Better, and Faster Daytona TT presented under the lights of the Daytona International Speedway on Thursday, March 14, 2019. The race will be telecast Sunday, March 24 at 4 p.m. ET.

The schedule for American Flat Track’s premiere telecasts on NBCSN follows, subject to change:

Date Track, Location Track Type Time (ET)
Sun., March 24 Daytona International Speedway, Daytona Beach, FL TT 4 p.m.
Sun., March 31 Dixie Speedway, Woodstock, GA Short Track 4:30 p.m.
Sun., April 28 Texas Motor Speedway, Fort Worth, TX Half-Mile 5 p.m.
Sun., May 5 Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park, Chandler, AZ TT 4:30 p.m.
Sun., May 19 Southern California Fair, Perris, CA Half-Mile 12 p.m.
Sun., May 26 Cal Expo, Sacramento, CA Mile 6 p.m.
Sat., June 1 Illinois State Fairgrounds, Springfield, IL Mile 2:30 p.m.
Sat., June 8 Red Mile, Lexington, KY Mile 2 p.m.
Sun., June 23 New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Loudon, NH Short Track 2:30 p.m.
Sat, July 6 Allen County Fairgrounds, Lima, OH Half-Mile 1 p.m.
Sat., July 27 Weedsport Speedway, Weedsport, NY Short Track 12:30 p.m.
Sat., August 10 Buffalo Chip Campgrounds, Sturgis, SD TT 12:30 p.m.
Sat., August 10 Black Hills Speedway, Rapid City, SD Half-Mile 1:30 p.m.
Sun., August 25 Peoria Motorcycle Club, Peoria, IL TT 7 p.m.
Sun., September 8 Illinois State Fairgrounds, Springfield, IL Mile 1:30 p.m.
Sat., September 21 Williams Grove Speedway, Mechanicsburg, PA Half-Mile 3:30 p.m.
Sun., September 29 Canterbury Park, Shakopee, MN Mile 5 p.m.
Sat., October 12 Meadowlands Racetrack, East Rutherford, NJ Mile 10:30 p.m.

IndyCar drivers say Thermal Club could host race after successful opening day to test

IndyCar Thermal race
Andy Abeyta/The Desert Sun / USA TODAY Sports Images
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THERMAL, Calif. – The “motorsports country club” passed the first test (figuratively and literally) with NTT IndyCar Series drivers pleased enough to proclaim The Thermal Club as race-eligible after its debut.

Though there were a few minor incidents on the 17-turn, 3.067-mile permanent road course east of Palm Springs in Southern California’s Coachella Valley, there was no significant damage for the 27 full-time cars that turned 1,119 laps Thursday.

Perhaps more importantly, drivers seemed to enjoy the ride around the track, which is unlike anything on the current circuit.

“I would love to race here,” said Chip Ganassi Racing rookie Marcus Armstrong, who posted the 10th-quickest time (1 minute, 39.9077 seconds) in the No. 11 Dallara-Honda that he will race on street and road courses after coming from the F2 Series. “I think it’s awesome. Would have to do a lot of neck training prior to the race because it’s much like a European circuit, quite demanding on the neck, towards the end of the lap anyway.

PRACTICE SPEEDS: First session l Second session l Combined

‘AN AMAZING PLACE’: IndyCar and its big plans for Thermal

“I think it’s cool. Very flowing, banked corners, banked high-speed corners. In terms of racing, it could be potentially not a lot of overtaking. You’d have to commit hard (in) maybe Turn 1. It wouldn’t be the easiest place to overtake. As a whole facility and circuit, it’s very enjoyable.”

Juncos Hollinger Racing No. 77 Chevrolet driver Callum Ilott, another F2 veteran who is entering his second year in IndyCar, was seventh fastest. Ilott said Thermal would “set a standard really of what we want to be doing with this series.

“It’s really, really high level, high tech,” said Ilott, whose rookie teammate Agustin Canapino went off course twice but incurred no major trouble. “As a circuit, yeah, it’s got a little bit different corners. I think the overtaking — we’ll find a way, we’re IndyCar — someone always sends it down the inside. I think if we can extend the straight and get some overtaking between Turn 6 and 7. It’s definitely a great circuit to drive and good fun and a bit different to the normal winter training we get in Florida. So I like the circuit.

“I think if we could, it would be good to race here once.”

Andretti Autosport’s Colton Herta, who turned the fastest lap (1:39.3721) in his No. 26, also was optimistic despite the passing challenges.

“I think it really comes down to tire deg, what people are showing with that,” Herta said. “It will be tough to pass, right? A lot of the good braking zones, you’re coming off of high-speed corners, so it will be hard to follow.

“But you never know. I would say some of the tracks we go to would be terrible for racing, and IndyCar still puts on a great show. You never know until it’s tested and proven right or wrong.”

The possibility of adding an IndyCar race at The Thermal Club has been floated, but there would be some challenges. It likely would be a made-for-TV event given it’s a private club (and filled with multimillion-dollar homes filled with vintage cars). The test is closed to the public and open only to members and VIPs.

There also are some areas that would need to be improved, namely the galvanized steel Armco barriers that ring the track and generally are considered antiquated in motorsports.

“I think the Armco might propose a little bit of an issue,” Ilott said. “Again, it depends on what angle you’re hitting them obviously. It’s a pretty straightforward process to make it a bit safer and a bit more cushiony. I’m not in charge of that stuff. I just drive and try not to hit those things.

“I think it’s a straightforward process. To be fair, everyone has had a little moment today, spun and carried on. That’s a good start. Obviously there are anomalies, these things happen. So far, so good.”

Said Herta: For sure. It probably needs a little bit of work. They’ve already done a lot for us to come here already. It seems like if they do want to have a race here, they’re willing to put the work in and money in to upgrade the facility to make it a little bit safer for us.”

Christian Lundgaard of Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing was second fastest (1:39.3767), followed by Alex Palou (1:39.3970) and Romain Grosjean (1:39.4826). Will Power was the top Chevrolet driver in fifth (1:39.5690).

Though Andretti had two of the top four times, Herta downplayed the significance other than getting reacclimated to his team.

“Just a lot of knocking the rust off,” he said. “It’s quite a long offseason without being in the car. I don’t know how much we’re really going to learn from running here. It’s really good to get the team back into it, get all the boys working again. Yeah, just get everybody back into the flow of it.

“It could be a huge shake-up when we go to St. Pete and who’s up front and who’s at the back. It is too early to tell. It’s nice just to be back in the car and get lap times down, get everybody working again.

“The track surface is very strange, very different to anything I’ve really felt in IndyCar. It’s seven first-gear corners. We don’t really have that many anywhere we go on a street course. It is quite a bit slower than our natural terrain courses. But I don’t want to be in here and dig it the whole time. It’s a fun track to drive, especially the back section. It keeps you on your toes. It doesn’t really replicate anything else that we go (race).”

The test will continue with another six-hour session Friday.