Opening up the old, traditional American Flat Track Championship to pioneering tracks like the Buffalo Chip is a planned strategy of AFT.
“This may be a bit of controversial view,” Lock said. “But none of us can deny that the motorcycle business as a whole has shrunk in the last 10 years — there’s no denying that. I don’t look at that as a doomsday scenario, but I do see it as a new paradigm that we all have to deal with. So all of the old sacred houses of motocross, road racing, flat track, Supercross and Supermoto, we’ve got to get creative with that and not just protect our own turf. We’ve got to innovate, to do something the fans are going to engage with.
“When we took the Super TT at Daytona and told people we were going to go up and use part of the track’s iconic banking for the track, we had a few skeptics,” Lock continued. “They said, ‘Oh my God, it’s not going to work.’ It worked. And we bridged the gap a little bit between road racing and flat track, which have been blood brothers for decades. We wanted to bring them together. Then when we went to Arizona for the Super TT, there was an element of Supermoto in that. We want to show that our sport is alive and kicking and is forward looking, not just living in the past. And perhaps, most importantly, it’s versatile.”
One of the major attractions of the Buffalo Chip TT is the fans get up close and personal, unlike any other venue in racing. It’s as if the fans are hanging right over the top of the racers. Providing spectators that kind of visceral experience took innovative track design.
“With the Buffalo Chip, we put in air fence and barriers, but we also added very specific choke points that slow the bikes down,” Lock explained. “That way fans can see the riders on the gas and off the gas, which is very dramatic when you are that close, so you don’t need them whizzing past you at 120 mph.”
The end result of a track like the Buffalo Chip is not only incredibly impactful in person, with an almost gladiatorial nature, it also creates an incredible visual experience for television. Lock notes that since a track like the Buffalo Chip is a temporary venue, AFT is able to utilize state-of-the-art Musco Sports Lighting.
“Television is ultimately what is going to make AFT successful,” Lock said. “We’re competing for people’s attention with sports like Supercross, which is spectacular on TV. We have a sport that’s faster and more aggressive and we can’t afford for it to look second-rate on TV.”
Bauman won the inaugural Buffalo Chip TT in 2017, aboard a Zanotti Racing Kawasaki. Last year, it was veteran Jake Johnson coming through to take the checkered flag first on his Estenson Racing Indian. Those two will be among the favorites heading into this year’s race on Aug. 4.
Fans should also keep an eye on defending series champion Jared Mees; Henry Wiles, the all-time TT wins leaders in series history; and Superbike racer J.D. Beach, who is also a proven TT winner.
The success of the Buffalo Chip TT could inspire AFT to find similar venues in the future. American Flat Track also hopes races will bring a new generation of fans to AFT. n