Progressive AFT Primed to Shine as ‘23 Season Launches with Daytona Bike Week Doubleheader
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (March 7, 2023) – The world’s greatest motorcycle dirt trackers are now just days away from kicking their 2023 Progressive American Flat Track campaigns off in supreme style, as the series revives a hallowed Daytona Bike Week tradition. The chase for the Championship is set to begin in electric fashion as the sport takes center stage under the lights of the Flat Track at Daytona International Speedway not once, but twice, with the DAYTONA Short Track I & II presented by Daytona Dodge on Thursday, March 9, and Friday, March 10, in Daytona Beach, Florida.
The return of the DAYTONA Short Track season launch reconnects the series with a previous era. Progressive AFT made 0.25-mile circuits in Daytona Beach the annual home for its opener from 1989 through 2016, first at Municipal Stadium, before moving to the DIS Flat Track – located just outside NASCAR Turn 2 at the World Center of Racing – in 2010. The event’s return is an apt way to open what promises to be a special season, featuring jammed packed entry lists loaded up with an incredible array of talent and equipment.
Over the decades, the DAYTONA Short Track opener shined a spotlight on flat track’s most legendary riders, with Hall of Famers Scott Parker, Chris Carr, Will Davis, and Kenny Coolbeth all standing atop the podium. One of the sport’s all-time greats who has yet to triumph at the venue, however, is reigning Mission SuperTwins presented by S&S Cycle champion Jared Mees (No. 1 Indian Motorcycle/Rogers Racing/SDI Racing FTR750). As a result, Mees will be properly motivated to add the DAYTONA Short Track to his extensive list of career victories while simultaneously kickstarting his title defense.
He’ll need to conquer a 25-rider deep pool of challengers that’s absolutely brimming with talent. Headlining that list is two-time series champion and ‘22 runner-up Briar Bauman (No. 3 Rick Ware Racing KTM 890 Duke). Bauman comes in just days removed from the major announcement that he’ll be competing aboard KTM equipment, backed by the powerhouse Rick Ware Racing operation that enters the sport after previously making its mark in NASCAR, IndyCar, IMSA, NHRA, and AMA and FIM Supercross, among others.
Other expected frontrunners include Estenson Racing teammates Dallas Daniels (No. 32 Estenson Racing Yamaha MT-07 DT) and JD Beach (No. 95 Estenson Racing Yamaha MT-07 DT), who come into the season looking to take yet another step forward following a breakthrough ‘22 campaign, and Brandon Robinson (No. 44 Mission Roof Systems Indian FTR750), who has taken multiple wins in each of the past four seasons.
Another rider to keep tabs on this week is Sammy Halbert (No. 69 Martin Trucking/Castrol Yamaha MT-07). While no longer a full-time series contender, Halbert owns a sparkling history at the venue, boasting four prior DAYTONA ST wins.
While no one will be shocked if any of the aforementioned six stand atop the podium this week, the DAYTONA Short Track is also famous for delivering massive upsets to start the year. In fact, before they were established title fighters, Bauman and Robinson each earned their first career premier-class wins at the event.
There’s a long list of dark horse picks to back, even if it’s not exactly accurate to cast the likes of Jarod Vanderkooi (No. 20 JMC Motorsports/Fairway Ford Indian FTR750), Bronson Bauman (No. 37 Fastrack Racing KTM 890 Duke), Johnny Lewis (No. 10 Moto Anatomy X Powered by Royal Enfield 650), Mikey Rush (No. 15 Maxwell Industries/Triumph Bob Harley-Davidson XG750R), Davis Fisher (No. 67 Rackley Racing/Bob Lanphere’s BMC Racing Indian FTR750), and Kolby Carlile (No. 36 G&G Racing/Yamaha Racing Yamaha MT-07) as underdogs.
Parts Unlimited AFT Singles presented by KICKER
2022 Parts Unlimited AFT Singles presented by KICKER champion Kody Kopp (No. 1 Red Bull KTM Factory Racing 450 SX-FFE) will brandish the #1 plate for the first time at the DAYTONA Short Track where the prodigy’s prospects for successfully defending his crown will immediately be put to the test.
The class field is 44 riders deep and stocked up with the best 450cc dirt trackers the world has to offer, representing six different nations with a bevy of titles to their names.
Kopp’s biggest rival might just be his teammate, Australian Max Whale (No. 18 Red Bull KTM Factory Racing 450 SX-FFE), a two-time championship runner-up.
Meanwhile, Whale’s compatriot, Tom Drane (No. 59 Estenson Racing Yamaha YZ450F), is widely expected to be an instant contender as flashing incredible speed in limited appearances last season, as he joins multi-race winner Trevor Brunner (No. 21 Estenson Racing Yamaha YZ450F) at Estenson Racing.
That international flair is further enhanced this week by the entrances of the reigning FIM Flat Track World Champion, Spaniard Gerard Bailo (No. 317 Asap Risk Brokers/Noyes Camp Honda CRF450R) and the world’s third-ranked rider, Ervín Krajčovič (No. 341 Moto Racing Group Honda CRF450R) from the Czech Republic, along with Briton Gary Birtwistle (No. 111 Happy Trails Racing/Jeffrey Carver Husqvarna FC450), the defending UK DTRA Pro Singles and Twins champion, and Canadian Hunter Bauer (No. 24 KTM 450 SX-F), who scored his maiden Progressive AFT podium last season.
The most imposing threat of all may hail from closer to home, however, as the American Honda-backed Turner Racing squad goes from strength to strength. It will once again field a talented trio, adding Trent Lowe (No. 48 American Honda/Mission Foods CRF450R) to holdovers Morgen Mischler (No. 13 American Honda/Mission Foods CRF450R) and Chase Saathoff (No. 88 American Honda/Mission Foods CRF450R).
2019 Parts Unlimited AFT Singles champion and ‘22 runner-up Dalton Gauthier (No. 79 D&D Racing/Certified KTM 450 SX-F) will be a championship favorite again in 2023, while 2018 class king Dan Bromley (No. 62 Memphis Shades/Corbin/Vinson Construction Yamaha YZ450F) is doing double duty in DAYTONA, competing in both classes.
Of course, fans will be thrilled to witness the return of the class’ all-time winningest rider, Shayna Texter-Bauman (No. 52 Rick Ware Racing KTM 450 SX-F), who will look to add to her historic Parts Unlimited AFT wins tally immediately.
Meanwhile, Texter-Bauman’s brother Cory Texter has graduated to management duties this season as he oversees a revamped 1st Impressions Race Team that will field Chad Cose (No. 49 1st Impressions Race Team/Husqvarna Racing FC450) and James Ott (No. 19 1st Impressions Race Team/Husqvarna Racing FC450).
Considering the full list of realistic podium hopefuls – many of whom have gone unmentioned – just making the Main Event will be an accomplishment of its own this week.
No matter how it all shakes down, the season is guaranteed to open on a high note as ‘22 champions Mees and Kopp will be awarded their handcrafted championship rings custom designed by Thom Duma Fine Jewelers (TDFJ) during Thursday’s Opening Ceremonies.
The action will be further enhanced by the inclusion of the Grand National Hooligan Championship on Thursday with the Astros Invitational adding to the show on Friday.
There will be plenty to keep fans entertained off the track as well, including numerous vendors, plenty of food and beverage options, live music, and extensive motorcycle parking.
Upper Rim Road - Standing Room Only tickets are just $25 (kids 12 and under just $5), while Reserved Grandstand tickets start at $40. Purchasing tickets for both days in advance provides a Multi-Day Discount that takes $10 off the final ticket price.
Visit https://www.tixr.com/groups/americanflattrack/events/daytona-short-track-i-59082 to purchase tickets for the DAYTONA Short Track I presented by Daytona Dodge.
Visit https://www.tixr.com/groups/americanflattrack/events/daytona-short-track-ii-59083 to purchase tickets for the DAYTONA Short Track II presented by Daytona Dodge.
Visit https://www.tixr.com/groups/americanflattrack/events/daytona-short-track-i-and-ii-59081 to purchase tickets for both rounds in order to take advantage of the Multi-Day Discount.
Additionally, Progressive AFT has teamed up with MotoAmerica to offer the America Super Ticket, which provides race fans admission to the DAYTONA Short Track I & II and the DAYTONA 200 for $100. You can purchase the America Super Ticket at https://bit.ly/3XSrSaj.
Paddock Access Upgrades are also available for purchase, which provide all-day access to the pits where fans can scope out the world’s fastest dirt track motorcycles and get up close and personal with the stars of the sport.
Gates will open for fans at 3:00 p.m. ET/12:00 p.m. PT with Opening Ceremonies scheduled to begin at 7:00 p.m. ET/4:00 p.m. PT on both days. You can catch the livestream of all the weekend’s racing activities on FansChoice.tv. FansChoice.tv provides free-to-view livestreaming of Practice and Qualifying. FansChoice.tv subscribers will then be able to watch the drama unfold from Opening Ceremonies through the Heats, LCQs, Main Events, and podium celebrations. FansChoice.tv offers two subscription options, granting unlimited access to premium AFT content. Monthly subscriptions start at just $7.99, while a six-month subscription is available for $44.99.
FOX Sports coverage, featuring in-depth features and thrilling onboard cameras, will premiere on FS1 from the Daytona Short Track I on March 18 at 10:30 a.m. ET (7:30 a.m. PT) and Daytona Short Track II on March 19 at 12:30 p.m. ET (9:30 a.m. PT).
For more information on Progressive AFT visit https://www.americanflattrack.com.