At Thursday night’s Daytona TT, a total of six road racers qualified for and raced in the two American Flat track main events. And, what’s even more impressive is that, not only did four of those six road racers finish in the top five of the AFT Singles and AFT Twins Nationals, but a road racer made the podium in each of the two mains. Shane Narbonne notched a third-place result in the Singles class and MotoAmerica Supersport Champion JD Beach finished a close second in the premier Twins class.
Those results are further proof that road racers are a versatile and talented lot. And, why is that? For a lot of road racers, flat track is their training ground… and we’re talking about practice.
Baseball players take daily batting practice. Basketball players have shoot-arounds almost every day. Football players practice, and scrimmage, and practice some more. And, if they don’t practice leading up to a game, they usually don’t get in the game at all.
But, what about motorcycle road racers? As four-time AMA Superbike Champ Josh Hayes says, “We’re the only professional athletes who don’t practice the sport that we compete in.”
Most road racers don’t have a pool table-smooth, paved road racing course in their backyard. And, it’s too expensive or just not feasible to do track days every day, or even once a week.
But, there are backyard dirt ovals, turn-tracks, and even motocross tracks. Yoshimura Suzuki Superbike rider Roger Hayden has “Sunset Downs,” his family’s well-used dirt turn-track on which Hayden, M4 ECSTAR Suzuki’s Jake Lewis, M4 medAge Suzuki’s Nick McFadden, Rickdiculous Racing/Yamaha’s Hayden Gillim, and Monster Energy/Y.E.S./Yamaha’s JD Beach mix it up and bang handlebars aboard dirt bikes.
Attack Performance/Herrin Compound/Yamaha Superbike rider Josh Herrin even has the name of his backyard track right in his team’s name. The Herrin Compound has a small road racing course, along with a Supermoto track for Herrin to train on.
A lot of road racers ride motocross bikes, including Monster Energy/Yamaha Factory Racing Superbike rookie Garrett Gerloff, who spends a lot of time blasting berms at 3 Palms Action Sports Park near his home in Texas. Road racer turned flat tracker Jay Newton often joins Garrett at 3 Palms, as well.
The point is that, while motorcycle road racers aren’t able to practice their specific craft on the daily, they can definitely ride dirt bikes to hone their skills, fine-tune their throttle control, and keep themselves in close to road racing shape.
And it’s also why some motorcycle road racers have been so competitive in flat track and motocross. Beach, who notched a podium finish last October at the American Flat Track Finals at Perris Speedway and then, in December, won the Superprestigio Invitational Dirt Track Event in Barcelona, Spain, added another AFT podium to his resume in Thursday night’s Daytona TT. And former RoadRace Factory/Honda Superbike rider and current World Superbike rider Jake Gagne, notably qualified for a round of the AMA Pro Motocross Championship a couple of years ago.
Which means that, when they’re behind the handlebars and twisting the throttle, motorcycle road racers are a talented bunch… regardless of the surface.
So, this raises an interesting question: could an American Flat Track rider make the podium in a MotoAmerica road race? What say you, Jared Mees?