The AFT Interview: Dan Bromley
In sports, and especially in motor racing, you hear the saying all the time: Consistency is key. To be a title contender you gotta be there, up front, again and again. Ping-ponging between wins and DNFs is not a sure-fire path to a championship, and if you’re consistently mediocre, you’re just mediocre. No amount of 12th-place finishes is going to secure the title you seek.
The list of professional flat track racers who are consistently good is not a long one. But given the results of the 2018 American Flat Track season, adding AFT Singles champion Dan Bromley’s name to that esteemed list makes perfect sense.
Bromley laid down an amazingly consistent – and consistently good – season in 2018 on his mostly self-tuned KTM 450 SX-F: Four wins, four runner ups and five thirds, a total of 13 podiums. Added to that, his fourth-, sixth-, seventh- and ninth-place finishes had him in the top-10 in 17 of 18 events, with his only outlier finish a 17th at Texas thanks to a melted spark plug electrode.
Bromley was tough on all four track types, too. He scored wins on TTs (Daytona, Springfield I), Short Tracks (Springfield II) and Miles (OKC), and podiumed at the Calistoga, Lima, Weedsport and Black Hills Half-Miles.
You might even say Bromley out-Mr. Consistency’d last year’s Mr. Consistency – 2017 AFT Singles champ Kolby Carlile, who ended up a close fourth in this year’s AFT Singles title chase, just a point behind third-place season finisher Shayna Texter.
Dan Bromley ripping at the Buffalo Chip TT, where he finished fourth and, more importantly, three spots ahead of championship contender Ryan Wells. Consistency was the key to Brom's success in 2018, but so was his speed, as he won a total of four races and was on the podium a whopping 13 times. Photos by Scott Hunter/AFT.
The fact that Bromley accomplished all this largely on his own and without a lot of outside financial support (the Bromley family and Dan himself provided much of his season funding), and all while working 40-hour work weeks doing construction, makes his 2018 performance all the more impressive – as well as personally satisfying to him.
He began the season thinking he’d just do a few races, only as far as his available funds would take him. But after he won Daytona and grabbed second at Dixie Speedway and found himself leading in points, he figured he might as well keep going and dutifully headed West, to Texas, Calistoga, Arizona and Sacramento. There he strung together three more podiums, which added to his points total and kept the pressure on to continue. That would take more travel and tire and entry-fee funds, of course, which he began to pull together via a network of small sponsors and friends, all of which lessened the strain on Mom and Pop’s (and Dan’s own) wallets.
By the season’s halfway point Bromley had scored two more wins, at Springfield I and OKC, and recaptured the points lead – and at that point he knew he had a solid shot at the championship, knew he had to continue. “He called us after his win at the OKC Mile,” says Dan’s father Joe, “and I could hear the confidence in his voice. He said, ‘I think I can do this, I think I can win the title.’ It was a turning point, for sure.”
Bromley, 23, who recently earned a business degree from Penn State, continued picking up financial help along the way and kept driving his Sprinter van all over the country, often with girlfriend Connar – who’d quit her job and put her nursing-school studies on hold in order to help Bromley during the season – sharing driving and crew duties. In fact, at literally half of the race meetings, Team Bromley was basically a two-person show – Bromley and Connar alone. Luckily, friends and family turned up for the other half of the races, which helped make things a little easier for the hard-working couple in the paddock.
After his Short Track win at Springfield II in September, the AFT Singles championship was right there, and clinching it with two races remaining on the schedule came down to simply this: finishing in front of points runner-up Ryan Wells at the Williams Grove Half-Mile, located basically in the Bromley family’s Eastern Pennsylvania back yard. Despite a disappointing seventh at Williams Grove, Bromley did indeed beat Wells to the checkered flag that night, and captured his first professional national title in his home state in front of a large contingent of friends, family and fans. “It’s definitely special,” he said afterward.
In a season featuring 10 different winners, Bromley’s four wins and overall consistency say a lot about his dominance and speed in 2018. Despite the financial hurdles, all the cross-country driving and his full-time construction job, this quiet, reserved and very thoughtful guy was very definitely a man on a mission. We caught up with the champ in early December to talk about his season and his very first national championship.
Bromley launching at this year's Minnesota Mile, where he finished second to a speedy Kolby Carlile even after clinching the championship the race prior. Bromley leans back noticeably during starts, transferring his weight to the rear tire for an extra bit of traction. Seems to work pretty well.
First off, congratulations on the 2018 AFT Singles championship. How does it all feel now looking back on it?
Thank you! It was a long season, and as a team we faced a lot of adversity. At half of the races I was the rider and mechanic, with my girlfriend Connar helping wherever she could. Looking back, it’s rewarding and satisfying to know that, as a team on a low budget, we were able to go up against some pretty big and well-funded teams and compete at the front at almost every race.
You had an amazingly consistent season. What was working for you?
The main thing was being surrounded by good people who were all able to work together to accomplish a goal. We also had a lot of fun, and that made the racing more enjoyable.
You did well everywhere this year, from TTs to Miles. What do you attribute that to?
I’ve ridden dirt bikes my whole life, really, and am pretty adaptable. But also, I think I just had a lot of confidence every race I went to, and I was able to trust the people that worked on and made changes to my bikes. Those individuals are my father Joe Bromley, who’s been supporting me my whole career, my good friend and mechanic Nick Henderson, who has raced professionally and is very in touch with bike set up, and lastly my uncle Steve Bromley, who has been building my race bikes since day one. They each bring something unique to the team and are greatly appreciated.
Team Bromley celebrates the 2018 AFT Singles title at this year's Williams Grove Half-Mile, where Dan clinched the championship. Left to right: Joe’s mother Jean, Nick Henderson, Dan, Connar, Joe’s brother Steve, Joe Bromley and wife Bernadette.
Who else helped you this year?
Friends and family, for sure. My mom and dad, of course, and Steve and Nick, and also Connar. In addition, Chris, Antti, Roger, Ian and the whole KTM crew helped me out the best they could. Being that they had no budget for me or even for flat track racing in 2018, they did everything they could to help me be up front every race and win the championship. A now good friend named Mike Vinson helped greatly with some traveling expenses. I also had some other support from a good friend who helped here and there to make ends meet. Without them I would not have been able to get to and from the track.
Were you particularly motivated by anything this year? Did you have a burning desire to win, or prove yourself, or? You seemed pretty driven.
I didn’t really have a different mindset; I just wanted to have fun at every race and be up front toward the end of the Main event. The big thing that stuck with me was that I didn’t have to win every race. In the races that presented more challenges, I just aimed for a top-three finish. Championships are not always won by just winning races, but by staying consistent and salvaging any points possible.
What were your biggest challenges this year? You spent a lot of your own money, right?
I did. And yes, funding my racing was the biggest challenge this year. With me being the major funding source for my racing, it made it hard to afford traveling or even training during the week. Some of my other challenges were working over 40 hours each week and the traveling; I drove myself to every race. I know a lot of racers do not work full-time during or even after the season, so me having to juggle work, traveling and training makes the Number 1 plate that much more special.
Bromley leading a very rapid Semifinal pack at the Minnesota Mile: Ryan Wells (94), Brandon Price (92), Kolby Carlile (1) and Morgen Mischler (69).
You were originally going to just do the first few races. What changed?
When I started the season I just wanted to have fun and do some of the races close to home. The main thing I wanted was to race and have no pressure on myself, and just do the best I could where I thought I could be competitive. Ending the 2017 season with a podium finish and then getting first and second in the first two rounds this year had a big impact on me wanting to go out West. The biggest thing I noticed was that no one was taking charge [of the series], and at the time I was the only consistent rider. I believed I could be one to take charge, and even though I may not be able to be up front on the miles, I could still be top five. That was the mindset that allowed me to continue and finish the season.
You and Connar did much of the heavy lifting. She even quit her job and put nursing school on hold to help you. How was that?
I would not have been able to be in the position I was in if it wasn’t for Connar. She did over 60% of the driving and had to quit her job so she could help support my racing in the areas that I couldn’t. At nine of the 18 races it was just me and her, alone at the track, setting up, tearing down, making all the changes to the bike, flipping tires, changing oil, etc. Thankfully, she helped a lot with the fans, too, when the pits opened up. With it being only me there, I had my hands tied working on the bikes whenever there was down time, and she was able to talk to the fans whenever I couldn’t step away from the bike.
Dan and girlfriend Connar during a rare relaxed moment in the paddock. Connar did 16 of the 18 events in 2018, quitting her job and putting her nursing career on temporary hold to help out. At half of the races this year she and Dan were totally on their own...
...and usually super-busy, either setting up, tearing down or just working on bikes before and between races. This is Minnesota, where it was c-c-cold.
Tell us a good road story.
A quite memorable one happened at the Sacramento Mile. I started the day crashing in my second qualifier and bending my subframe. We changed it, but when we hooked up the gas tank it didn’t properly click in, and in the heat race the bike started cutting out, which forced me to pull off. I used my provisional to ride the semi, where I finished fifth. Before the Main I had to put on a new rear wheel because I wanted to have fresh [tire] edges for traction. When we put the wheel on the bearings locked and the wheel wouldn’t spin. Being that all the tires I had were worn out from the qualifiers, we had to break down and swap tires. As we took the wheel off, the two-minute horn sounded, which didn’t give us a lot of time. I was able to get the tire off the bad wheel, but after that I had to get my helmet on and get to staging. [KTM’s] Chris Filmore was taking the sprocket off the wheel as I broke it down and he and my father were able to get the new tire and gearing on. I was standing on the track with no bike as riders were picking their spots. Standing there I saw my dad frantically riding through the pits, almost taking out a few people because the brakes weren’t pumped! I got on the line and saw that the tire wasn’t beaded. He said, ‘Do what you can and make it work.’ On the warm up lap it was interesting, but I put my head down and ran it. About three laps in I felt the rear tire pop, and all I could think was that I had a flat. It wasn’t that, though; the bead seated and we were good to go. I was able to work my way into the lead pack and be in the draft for the win. To me, that race made the season. Most people would’ve said they had an off day, or that the bike wasn’t working. For me, though, and as a team, we were able to turn a bad day into a rewarding podium finish.
Tell us about your history with KTM.
I’ve pretty much been on KTMs my whole career. With my family owning a KTM/Suzuki dealership in Pennsylvania, I bounced between the two brands quite a few times growing up. My support from KTM started with my off-road career with Superminis, and then later transitioned into my flat track racing in 2011 when I was able to win the AMA Horizon and Athlete of the Year awards. Since then they have been supporting me with bikes and credits for parts, which has helped a lot whenever I broke something or needed to freshen up my bike from year to year.
Pitchin' it in at this year's Springfield Short Track, where Bromley beat a determined Jesse Janisch and Ryan Wells to all but secure the AFT Singles title.
When did you start dirt tracking?
I started riding when I was two and a half. My parents said that when I could ride a bicycle I could ride a dirt bike. I first started racing when I was three on a quad at a local motocross track, and raced my first flat track when I was four. Both my parents raced. All my aunts and uncles rode or raced. My grandfather was the original rider in our family, with my grandmother riding and becoming an AMA female rider of the year back in the early ’50s. As you can see, my entire family rode and raced, and they are the reason I got into racing. Since I was little I have bounced around between all the different types of riding. I’ve won championships in flat track, motocross, hare scrambles and even trials. The only thing I haven’t done is road racing. I am hoping someday I will have the opportunity to do a track day.
Bromley (4) leads a trio of Mike Kidd and Nicky Hayden hopefuls at the Springfield short track during Amateur National competition in 2004.
Tell us about your AFT Twins experiences last year. Did they prepare you for the 2018 Singes season at all?
The AFT Twins class is a totally different level of riding. You have to be on your toes the entire race, and it makes you ride at a different level. I believe that racing in the AFT Twins class improved my riding. It also helped me learn to be strong at the end of every race.
You said racing Twins wasn’t much fun. And that you wanted to enjoy racing again. Did that happen this year?
It really did. I think the main thing that made racing fun again was being able to ride motorcycles that I could to set up how I wanted them set up. I was also able to trust the people that worked on my bike. In addition, there wasn’t any pressure to perform at any race this year. If I had an off night, I was the only one that was upset. I didn’t have anyone else putting me down; everyone I surrounded myself with in my pit lifted me up and did everything they could to keep me positive.
Bromley waves the checkers during his victory lap at the OKC Mile, where he realized he could actually win the 2018 AFT Singles title.
Who are your sponsors?
As the year progressed I was fortunate to get more support from KTM, and some other individuals came onboard to help make traveling easier. My main sponsors and supporters were KTM North America, Bromley Motorsports, Works Enduro Riders, Nick Henderson, Steve Bromley, Motul, 6D Helmets, Josh Chisum, Mike Vinson, Motion Pro, Evans Coolant, G2 Ergonomics, Saddlemen, Light Shoe, Rekluse, Power Seal.
What are your plans for 2019?
For 2019 I’m looking to defend my title. I am working on some sponsors to make racing a bit easier on myself, so I don’t have to worry about the possibility of making it to each and every race. A lot of my personal sponsors are continuing their support and I have some new ones coming onboard to help. I hope to make an announcement about all this in the coming weeks.
Dan and Connar pose with friend and mechanic Nick Henderson and girlfriend Kristen at the AFT Grand Awards Party in Manhattan the night after the season finale at the Meadowlands in East Rutherford, NJ.