Dallas Daniels was sitting around with more free time on his hands than he’s ever had in his life.
“I just graduated from high school and without schoolwork to focus on, I’m still trying to figure out exactly what to do with all the extra time I have now,” Daniels explained with a laugh.
But don’t worry about Daniels becoming an aimless youth post-graduation. The soon-to-be 18-year-old racer from Mattoon, Ill., is one of the brightest young stars in American Flat Track racing.
He’s already won the AFT Singles National Championship in 2020 and was leading the 2021 series heading into July. He was coming off a dominant performance at the Atlanta Super TT, where he not only conquered the Singles class, but also scored victory in the AFT Production Twins class in his first appearance in that division.
The future is bright for Daniels, and not only in flat-track racing. After his standout performance in MotoAmerica Junior Cup road racing in 2019, where he won a round and finished third in the championship despite missing six rounds due to conflicts with flat-track races, the kid has options.
Sponsorships and paid rides are more plentiful in flat-track racing than in road racing, not to mention the fact that Daniels loves racing flat track and being a member of the powerful Estenson Racing squad.
He can make a living in flat track right now, or at least not go into debt trying to get to the next level in road racing. He knows ultimately that the big money is in road racing, but only at the highest level (MotoGP) and, realistically, Daniels understands that those seats are extremely difficult to come by and only available to the elite riders.
Still the dream is out there. Daniels’ childhood hero, the late-great Nicky Hayden, made it to the top in MotoGP and became a world champion. It would be a dream come true for Daniels to follow in Hayden’s footsteps. There’s even a tie between the Hayden family and Daniels.
“When the Haydens were young and still mainly flat- track racing, my dad built bikes for them and would take them to the races when Earl couldn’t go,” Daniels explained. “That was way before I came along.”
It was the patriarch of the Hayden racing dynasty, Earl Hayden, who helped get Daniels the opportunity to race in MotoAmerica.
“It was after Nick died,” Daniels said. “I think Earl wanted to get his mind off things and one of the things he did was to help me go road racing. That’s when I became close to the Haydens and then when Tommy (Hayden) joined our flat-track team and Roger came in and did some races we got even closer.
“Earl knew John Ulrich of Roadracing World and he hooked me up with a wildcard ride in the old MotoAmerica KTM RC Cup,” Daniels added. “That sort of got my foot in the door and then Earl introduced me to Dale Quarterley (ex-AMA Superbike standout and team owner) and Dale taught me pretty much everything I know about road racing when I raced for his team.”
That was 2019 and when Daniels won a round of the MotoAmerica Junior Cup at Utah Motorsports Complex, it was the only time all season that Rocco Landers was defeated head to head. That was a huge turning point for those on the road racing side of motorcycling, to realize just how talented Daniels is — even on pavement.
But the ride with Quarterley’s team went away when Daniels decided to do flat-track races on the weekends when there were conflicts. That, and the fact he finished 21st in a wild-card ride in Qatar during the World Supersport 300 Championship, made Daniels realize the path to the top of road racing would be a long, difficult slog.
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