Innovative road course on dirt built inside the famed Sturgis Rally party zone; new take on the TT format set to rock the championship chase
The American Flat Track paddock will join the hundreds of thousands of motorcyclists headed to the 77th Annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally this weekend. While in South Dakota, the championship will deliver rally attendees two opportunities to see America’s Original Extreme Sport up close and personal, beginning with the Buffalo Chip TT presented by Indian Motorcycle in Sturgis on Sunday, August 6.
The Buffalo Chip TT will be one of the most unique race circuits the sport has ever seen. Seven-time Grand National Champion Chris Carr has designed the purpose-built TT circuit inside the legendary Buffalo Chip Campgrounds, with the start-finish line directly in front of the rock concert stage.
The track is a half-mile TT course which is effectively a road racing circuit on dirt. It winds around the venue’s amphitheater, and even features the series’ first-ever right-hand Turn 1. With so many unknowns and a track that’s out of the ordinary, it’s nearly impossible to project a race favorite for the AFT Twins presented by Vance & Hines Main Event at the Buffalo Chip TT.
That being said, AFT Twins title leader Jared Mees (No. 9 Indian Motorcycle Rogers Racing Scout FTR750) comes into the Buffalo TT on fire. He’s well proven as a threat to win at any venue as evidenced by the in-season Grand Slam he’s already tallied in 2017. Mees currently boasts six wins on the year, lifting his career tally to 26 and just outside the top 10 in all-time Grand National Championship race victories.
“I’m excited to go into Buffalo Chip because it’s going to be new and technical and different,” Mees said. “Everybody’s been talking about it. We haven’t been on a TT since Daytona. It’s going to be really interesting. It’s the same for everybody. Nobody’s been there. No one’s really seen it. It’s going to be a good event. To race right there at the Buffalo Chip is going to be freaking exciting. I think it’ll be good.”
Mees’ biggest challenger this season has been Bryan Smith (No. 1 Indian Motorcycle Racing backed by Allstate Scout FTR750). Smith has racked up four wins this year, which in turn has elevated him to ninth on the all-time win list at 30.
Although TTs aren’t Smith’s specialty, the return to an all-twins championship is right up the defending champ’s alley. At the season-opening Harley-Davidson DAYTONA TT presented by Politis & Matovina — the only other TT so far season — Smith finished as runner-up, taking the checkered flag behind title rival Mees.
“With the move to only twins in the Grand National Championship, I’m coming off my best TT finish ever (Daytona),” Smith said. “The Buffalo Chip TT is going to be a crapshoot for everyone, so hopefully the dice roll in my favor and I get lucky.”
However, all eyes will certainly be on Henry Wiles (No. 17 DPC Racing Kawasaki Ninja 650). Wiles ranks as the most decorated TT master in series history with a remarkable 17 TT wins to his name.
Any number of other potential winners could emerge from the pack, including the likes of Brad Baker (No. 6 Indian Motorcycle Racing backed by Allstate Scout FTR750), Sammy Halbert (No. 69 Estenson Logistics Yamaha FZ-07), and Jeffrey Carver Jr. (No. 23 Carver’s BBQ Kawasaki Ninja 650), all of whom are seeking their first American Flat Track victory of the season.
Harley-Davidson’s Factory Flat Track Team’s trio – Kenny Coolbeth (No. 2 Harley-Davidson Factory Flat Track Team XG750R), Brandon Robinson (No. 44 Harley-Davidson Factory Flat Track Team XG750R) and Jake Johnson (No. 5 Harley-Davidson Factory Flat Track Team XG750R) – would love nothing more than crashing Indian Motorcycle’s party before heading to its headlining event, the Harley-Davidson Black Hills Half-Mile on Tuesday night, August 8.
AFT Singles championship leader Shayna Texter (No. 52 Richie Morris Racing Honda CRF450R) currently holds an imposing 29-point advantage in the class on the strength of four wins, seven podiums and eight top-fives. Despite her success, this weekend could pose a challenge for the young star. Her worst finish of the season has been sixth, not including the season’s two prior TTs, where she failed to make the Main both times out.
Any points that Texter could wrangle on Sunday would be considered something of a personal victory. But even if she does not score this weekend, Texter has worked hard to position herself so that even a zero-point outing would not cost her the championship lead.
She could find herself embroiled in a much tighter fight at the top, however, as her nearest rival, Kolby Carlile (No. 36 Estenson Racing Yamaha YZ450F), has suffered no such difficulties at the TTs. Carlile podiumed at both the DAYTONA TT and the Springfield TT. He’s eager to slash into the gap up front and, ideally, earn his first win of the season in the process.
Third-ranked Brandon Price (No. 92 Brandon Price Racing backed by Parkinson Brother’s Racing/DPC Racing/Don’s Kawasaki Honda CRF450R) could make up serious championship ground as well. Price demonstrated some pretty solid TT chops himself with a sixth-place performance at Springfield.
Underlining the unusual nature of the upcoming weekend, expectations are considerably higher for the AFT Singles class’ 22nd-ranked rider than they are for its championship leader at the Buffalo Chip TT presented by Indian Motorcycle.
Hayden Gillim – the “Man in a Van with a Plan” – will arrive in Sturgis in his van with the exact same plan he executed to perfection at this year’s Springfield TT: Complete and utter domination. A national champion road racer and two-time GNC TT winner with an extensive flat track background, Gillim expects to be a major factor at the Buffalo Chip on Sunday.
TT aces Jesse Janisch (No. 132 West Bend Harley-Davidson-backed Yamaha YZ450F) and Wyatt Anderson (No. 120 Waters Autobody Racing KTM 450 SX-F) are riders to watch as well, and both are eager to pounce on the big opportunity presented by the Buffalo TT.
Meanwhile, observers are keen to see what surprise Calistoga Half-Mile winner Tanner Dean (No. 138 Walrath Racing Honda CRF450R) can do for an encore after winning last time out in just his fourth-career AFT Singles start.
Featuring 10 days of music, bike shows, beauty pageants, and other forms of entertainment, Buffalo Chip hosts what is annually billed as “the Best Party Anywhere” during the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. Few would dispute that claim, and this year the party will crank the volume up to 11 with American Flat Track serving as the opening act for rock band Shinedown.
Fans get the most bang for their buck with intense racing action and rock concert rolled into one with the campground’s general admission pass. If you want full rock star treatment, Buffalo Chip offers a couple different VIP packages. Tickets for the Buffalo Chip TT are on sale now and can be purchased at http://bit.ly/2oVCRTo.
Gates open for the fans at 2:00 p.m. MT as on-track action begins with the AFT Twins and AFT Singles practice sessions. Opening Ceremonies kicks off at 5:30 p.m. MT with racing action commencing at 6:00 p.m. with the first Heat race. Live coverage of the Buffalo Chip TT presented by Indian Motorcycle can be viewed on FansChoice.tv at www.fanschoice.tv/watch-live/american-flat-track.
Catch all the Action on NBCSN and FansChoice.tv
As part of American Flat Track’s television broadcast package with NBCSN, the cable network will air the Buffalo Chip TT presented by Indian Motorcycle in a primetime telecast on Thursday, September 14 at 10:00 p.m. ET/7:00 p.m. PT. The one-hour show will feature flag-to-flag coverage of both Main Events along with exclusive features giving fans a behind-the-scenes window into the sport. To check out the complete NBCSN schedule, please visit http://americanflattrack.com/events-nbcsn
Live streaming coverage of every second from the Buffalo Chip TT presented by Indian Motorcycle can be viewed on FansChoice.tv at www.fanschoice.tv/watch-live/american-flat-track.
Fans can keep up-to-date with American Flat Track on Facebook (@American Flat Track), Twitter (@AmericanFlatTrk) and Instagram (@AmericanFlatTrack). AFT mobile apps are available for iPhone on the App Store and for Android at Google Play. For more information, please visit http://www.americanflattrack.com.