American Flat Track adds Indy Mile to 2020 schedule this weekend

American Flat Track Indy
American Flat Track
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American Flat Track will return to the Indy Mile at The Indiana State Fairgrounds, adding a doubleheader race event Friday and Saturday on the same weekend as the Indy 500.

It’s the first race at the Indy venue since 2015 for AFT, which added the Indy Mile as its second event this season after an July 31-Aug. 1 event in Lima, Ohio, was canceled.

The season opened with a July 17-18 doubleheader weekend at Volusia Speedway Park. Coverage of AFT events is available via TrackPass on NBC Sports Gold.

Here’s the updated 2020 schedule:

July 17-18 (Friday-Saturday): Volusia Speedway Park, Barberville, Florida

Aug. 21-22 (Friday-Saturday):  Indiana State Fairgrounds, Indianapolis

Sept. 5-6 (Saturday-Sunday): Illinois State Fairgrounds, Springfield, Illinois

Sept. 11-12 (Friday-Saturday): Williams Grove Speedway, Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania

Sept. 25-26 (Friday-Saturday): Devil’s Bowl Speedway, Dallas, Texas

Oct. 2-3 (Friday-Saturday): Dixie Speedway, Woodstock, Georgia

Oct. 9-10 (Friday-Saturday): Charlotte Motor Speedway, Concord, North Carolina

Oct. 15-16 (Thursday-Friday): AFT season finale, Daytona Beach, Florida

Here’s the release from the American Flat Track series:

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – On the heels of its long-awaited season opener, American Flat Track makes the exciting announcement of its return to the legendary Indy Mile at The Indiana State Fairgrounds and Event Center for a doubleheader event on Friday, August 21 and Saturday, August 22 – the same weekend as one of the most anticipated events in all of motorsports: The Indianapolis 500 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

For the avid racing enthusiast, the opportunity to witness America’s Original Extreme Sport race back-to-back just before the legendary Indy 500 presents an unprecedented opportunity for fans to enjoy a supreme weekend of American motorsports.

AFT officials continue to collaborate with public health experts to develop this comprehensive plan in accordance with all federal, state and local requirements. All race-day procedures have been thoroughly reviewed and will continue to be examined and updated to follow specific guidelines set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and local authorities.

At all American Flat Track events new guidelines and protocols will include:

  • Reduction in ticket availability to conform with state and local guidelines for sporting events – 25% capacity for this event
  • Reserved seating areas to include buffer zones to provide ample space between fans
    Everyone (including fans, competitors, staff, etc.) on-property will undergo a medical screening prior to admittance into the facility
  • Everyone entering the venue will be required to wear facial coverings. Masks will be provided at no charge.
  • Enhanced sanitation and disinfection protocols with frequent cleaning throughout the facility
    Enhancements to mobile ticketing and elimination of printed tickets
    Regular medical screening of staff and competitors
  • As an additional precaution, there will be no public access to the paddock area and AFT officials have suspended Fan Walk, rider autograph sessions and paddock upgrades for the remainder of the season. Event-specific health & safety procedures will be updated to meet or exceed state and local requirements as they are updated over the coming months.

In most recent memory, Brad “The Bullet” Baker scored a commanding victory at this lauded venue aboard his Harley-Davidson XR750 in 2015. Plans to resurface the racetrack had seen this historic venue fall off of AFT’s schedule, but upon learning that the track’s original surface remains intact, AFT officials seized the opportunity to bring this fan and rider favorite back into the fold.

“We are very excited to be returning to race at the famous Indy Mile,” said Michael Lock, CEO of American Flat Track. “AFT fans have a real soft spot for this historic venue that evokes fond memories of Kenny Roberts and the Yamaha TZ750 and many, many fast and fierce races since. To be able to race during the weekend of the Indy 500 represents a real bonus, as we will be able to showcase our sport to a whole new audience in addition to AFT’s loyal Midwest fanbase.”

A staple within the memories of flat track historians, the Indy Mile was a part of the inaugural Grand National Championship season in 1954 and has been won by many legends of the sport. Names like Chris Carr, Scott Parker, Jay Springsteen, Bubba Shobert, Ricky Graham and Kenny Roberts are all etched into the list of victors at The Indiana State Fairgrounds.

The event also brings the return of Mile racing for the AFT Singles presented by Russ Brown Motorcycle Attorneys class. Shayna Texter is the only active AFT Singles rider with a win at the facility. In the AFT SuperTwins presented by Vance & Hines class, Bryan Smith and Sammy Halbert are the only two active riders with premier class wins at Indy while JD Beach and Jarod Vanderkooi each have wins to their credit in the AFT Singles class.

In the wake of the mandatory Lima Half-Mile cancellation and last-minute track reconfiguration of the Laconia Short Track, AFT is thrilled to be able to add the Indy Mile I and Indy Mile II to its schedule in its effort to provide its fans with a full season of American Flat Track racing.

The updated 2020 American Flat Track schedule follows:

1. July 17: Volusia Half-Mile I – Volusia Speedway Park, Barberville, FL

2. July 18: Volusia Half-Mile II – Volusia Speedway Park, Barberville, FL

3. August 21: Indy Mile I – Indiana State Fairgrounds, Indianapolis, IN

4. August 22: Indy Mile II – Indiana State Fairgrounds, Indianapolis, IN

5. September 5: Springfield Mile I – Illinois State Fairgrounds, Springfield, IL

6. September 6: Springfield Mile II – Illinois State Fairgrounds, Springfield, IL

7. September 11: Williams Grove Half-Mile I – Williams Grove Speedway, Mechanicsburg, PA

8. September 12: Williams Grove Half-Mile II – Williams Grove Speedway, Mechanicsburg, PA

9. September 25: Dallas Half-Mile I – Devil’s Bowl Speedway, Dallas, TX

10. September 26: Dallas Half-Mile II – Devil’s Bowl Speedway, Dallas, TX

11. October 2: Atlanta Short Track I – Dixie Speedway, Woodstock, GA

12. October 3: Atlanta Short Track II – Dixie Speedway, Woodstock, GA

13. October 9: Charlotte Half-Mile I – Charlotte Motor Speedway, Concord, NC

14. October 10: Charlotte Half-Mile II – Charlotte Motor Speedway, Concord, NC

15. October 15: AFT Season Finale I – TBA, Daytona Beach, FL

16. October 16: AFT Season Finale II – TBA, Daytona Beach, FL

Tickets for AFT’s return to the historic Indy Mile for its first doubleheader event on Friday, August 21 and Saturday, August 22 will be available for purchase in the coming weeks. Stay tuned to http://www.americanflattrack.com and AFT’s social media channels for ticketing news and the latest updates on AFT’s upcoming 2020 season.

Heather Lyne, Dennis Erb Jr. make history in the World of Outlaws Late Model Series

Lyne Erb Outlaws Late
Jacy Norgaard / World of Outlaws
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More than two decades in the making, the pairing of Heather Lyne and Dennis Erb Jr. produced a historical milestone in Dirt Late Model.

Last month, Erb and his long-time crew chief Lyne won their first World of Outlaws Late Model Championship and with this achievement, Lyne became the first female crew chief to win in a national late model series. Their journey together goes back 21 years and tells the story of hard work, persistence and belief in oneself.

After a career-best season with the World of Outlaws, Erb and Lyne secured the points championship at US 36 Raceway in Osborn, Mo. with three races remaining in the season. The consistency and success of their season came down to pinpoint focus. Lyne and Erb are a team of two living out a David vs. Goliath tale. In order to be as successful as possible this year the duo knew they had to do as much as possible with the resources they had.

“It’s always a challenge when you only have two people, both at the racetrack and at the shop,” Lyne told NBC Sports. “I also work full time, so during the day, Dennis has to do a significant amount of work so that when I get down there I can start working and maintaining. It’s planning ahead. It’s having that system in place and making sure that you’re prepared ahead of time.

“When you have a problem at the track, making sure you have all that stuff ready so it’s a quick change and not a lengthy process to make a repair. We had zero DNFs in the World of Outlaws, we had only one DNF out of 96 races [combined among all series].”

Dennis Erb clinched his 2022 championship before the World of Outlaws World Finals. Jacy Norgaard – World of Outlaws Late Model Series.

Taming Time

This was not an easy feat. Between a full travel schedule and Lyne’s full-time job as an engineer, time comes at a premium. What they lack in time and resources they made up for in patience and planning.

“We buckled down, and we got all the equipment that we needed back, motors freshened, and things of that nature,” Lyne said about the mid-point of last season. “We were able to keep up with that. We just had a higher focus. I tried to reduce my hours at my day job as much as I possibly could while still maintaining what I need to get done at work. I got rid of a lot of the other distractions and got a more refined system in place at the shop.

“We did certain tasks on certain days so we had time to recover. We were on the road a little bit more, as opposed to coming home to the shop. So we had to be more prepared to stay out on those longer runs. It was just really staying on top of things a little more. It was a heightened sense.”

This was Lyne and Erb’s fourth full season with the Outlaws, but they’ve been on the road together for the last 21 seasons starting in 2001. Their partnership began with Lyne’s bravery. When one door closed, she was quick to open another. In 2001, Lyne’s dad was ready to stop racing. Her mother wanted to regain her weekends, but Lyne knew this was her life path and wasn’t prepared to lose it.

“I’ve always been a tomboy at heart,” Lyne said. “I watched racing with my dad. Growing up he watched NASCAR. In high school, I got tired of playing at the lake house, so I went to the local dirt track and fell in love with it. I just couldn’t get enough. It took a year for me to convince my dad to come to the track with me. He finally did and we sponsored a car that year, the following year he started to race limited cars. He ran hobby stocks and limited late models.”

At some point, Lyne and her father’s level of commitment drifted apart.

“He did it for about five years,” Lyne said. “And then my mom said: ‘I’m done racing. I want my weekends back. It’s just not fun anymore.’ I wasn’t ready to hang up my wenches and Dennis raced out of the same hometown so I, on a dare, went down and introduced myself; told him if you ever need any help, I’ll drill out rivets, I’ll help wash, whatever you need. Twenty-one years later here I am.”

Heather Lyne became the first female crew chief to secure a national touring late model championship in 2022. Paul Arch / World of Outlaws Late Model Series.

Breaking Through

Lyne entered a male-dominated job in a field that is also male-dominated – and where there were few examples of women creating these places for themselves. In this way, Lyne became a blueprint for other women as they strive to find a place for themselves in racing and in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) overall. She has her mother to thank for providing a strong role model, her father for sharing her passion, Erb for taking a chance on an unknow entity and most importantly herself.

“I was raised to believe that I can do anything, I want to do, as long as I put my heart and soul into it.” Lyne replied when asked about role models in the sport growing up. “My parents did not raise me to have that limitation. But from a racing role model perspective, I went in there completely green and just introduced myself to Dennis, the fact that he was brave enough to take that risk and bring a girl to the racetrack. Someone he didn’t know at all speaks volumes for him.”

Lyne and Erb have learned how to survive and succeed with each other on the road. They do this by leveraging decades of combined experience and an ability to adapt to the everchanging landscape of dirt late models. Next year the World of Outlaws visits nearly a dozen new tracks and Lyne sees it as an opportunity for continued success.

“I just want to do it again,” Lyne says going into next season, “I’m looking forward to the competition, I always do. I wouldn’t do it if I wasn’t competitively driven.

“There are some new tracks on the schedule that I’m looking forward to trying for the first time that I haven’t been to myself,” Lyne said of the 2023 season, “Dennis seems to do well on those first timers. We won out at Marion center, we finished second at Bloomsburg. We have a good solid notebook of information to tackle them over the last three years with these rocket race cars that we’re running. It’s good to have that information and leverage it to try some new things.”