Visiting the dirt track of my youth

I’m about to date myself, but back in the mid-1970s, my father took my two younger brothers and me to the Senoia Raceway in north central Georgia for a day and night of flat track racing on the famed Southern oval. I remember sitting toward the right side of the grandstands, about halfway up, and watching the races well into the evening. The roar was deafening, the red clay dust was choking, and my kid brothers and I were transfixed. We’d never experienced anything like it before. We wore Delta Airlines ear muffs (Dad was an Air Force then airline mechanic) and damp scarves over our faces to protect our hearing and lungs. My mother joined us once, only once, declaring it “too noisy and rednecky. You boys go have fun with your dad.” We attended several times in my childhood, then into my teen years with school friends. Standing along the fence, hearing and feeling the machines as they rocketed so close by, was an adrenaline rush I recall to this day.

Mid afternoon, during practice and qualifying. Great memories here.

When I learned that the American Flat Track series was returning to Georgia, and Senoia Raceway no less, I knew I had to get down for the weekend. I wanted to witness the races of course, after a few years with no races in my state, but even more, I yearned to revisit the track of my youth. I spent the weekend at my mother’s place (my father passed away in 2021), not 12 minutes from the track. I arrived at the raceway early enough Saturday to get good parking, roam the paddock, say hello to some friends, then go sit in the stands where we sat as kids that very first race night ages ago. Decades later with AFT press credentials, I now ventured out through the gate down onto the infield, to drink it all in before the early practices and qualifying would begin. Standing in the center of the “bull ring”, looking 360 around the oval bowl, the childhood anticipation was welling up in me again, an old familiar sensation of, “When’s the races starting, Dad?!”

A quick chat and selfie with JD Beach. Such a friendly guy. A signed poster of his now hangs in the Road Dirt garage.

A fan once remarked to me, “If motorcycle racing were a rock concert, flat track would be the mosh pit.” A humorous yet apt description. Racing handlebar to handlebar, wide open on mile, half-mile, short track ovals and TT courses, flat track is as close to an original form of closed-course motorcycle racing as one can experience. With a history dating back over 100 years, the racing is raw, loud, up-close and personal. Formerly known as the AMA Grand National Championship, the series was formed and sanctioned by the AMA in 1954. The GNC was the premiere motorcycle racing series in America until the late 1970s, when Supercross rose to prominence. Having acquired the rights from AMA Racing for 2017, American Flat Track has jumped forward “full throttle”, propelling the sport back into the mainstream of American motorcycle racing.

Brandon Robinson’s beautiful Indian FTR750; the Moto Anatomy X Royal Enfields.

The 2023 AFT season is now well under way, with race teams running Senoia with nearly every motorcycle brand imaginable, in three classes- AFT Singles, SuperTwins and Hooligans. AFT Singles features production-based, off-road 450cc single cylinder bikes from all the major manufacturers, focusing on developing young talent. AFT Twins features production-based, larger displacement twin cylinder bikes (649-900cc), in several configurations. Running 90+hp and reaching speeds of 140mph, Twins is truly the premier class of AFT. Hooligans is a fairly new classification, a kind of “run what you brung” class with older Harleys, Triumphs, Hondas, Ducatis, you name it. Hooligans is not officially part of the AMA-sanctioned series, but is a support class during select rounds. I’m glad Senoia was one of those rounds.

AFT Singles lining up for a late day 10 lap heat.

With hours of back-to-back practice sessions followed by multiple qualifying rounds, then elimination heats all ultimately leading to each class Main Event, a ticket to AFT races is well worth the price of admission. Non-stop race thrills. I stood along the fence in numerous places around the old track, like in the days of my youth, feeling the racing in my chest as the riders roared by. Then using my press pass to stand along the bottom wall in the infield, bikes and riders within feet as they blasted by, is a raw visceral experience that is hard to put into words. It’s old, primal, like I imagine being so close to old stock car races in the 1950s-60s would have felt. It’s almost like a moto-circus, bikes and riders spilling through the gate down onto the highly banked dirt oval, riding their bikes to the limit for their respective heats, then exiting back up and out of the bowl through the gate. They put on quite the show, for sure.

SuperTwins launch with JD Beach (95), Dallas Daniels (32), Briar Bauman (3) and Jared Mees (1). Tim Lester Images.

The Mission SuperTwins Main Event witnessed an epic battle to the finish between defending champ Jared Mees on his factory Indian Motorcycle FTR750 and Estenson Racing Dallas Daniels, the Daytona Speedway winner on his Yamaha MT-07 DT. Daniels stalked Mees throughout the day and in the Main both riders snatched the lead from each other multiple times before Mees finally prevailed by 0.174 to the flag. Mees quipped later, “Man, that was a duel… a battle… a fist fight in a phone booth… I was fighting tooth-and-nail, and he was rolling so good.” Third went to JD Beach on his Estenson Racing Yamaha MT-07 as well, besting Brandon Robinson and his Indian FTR750 to the line on the final lap.

The “fist fight in a phone booth” between Jared Mees (1) and Dallas Daniels (32). Mees would be victorious, this time. Tim Lester Images.

AFT Singles saw 2022 title runner-up Max Whale ride away with the night on his Red Bull KTM 450 SX-F, the Australian leaving the rest to scrap it out for the other two podiums. James Ott powered his Husqvarna Racing FR450 into second position with 4-5 riders on his rear tire the whole Main. Dalton Gauthier then started his charge on the KTM 450 SX-F, slicing his way up from seventh to third. But try as he might, Gauthier was unable to work out a way past Ott and the two ultimately crossed the stripe the final time in second and third, respectively.

Max Whale (18) and James Ott (19) battling for the lead across the grandstands in AFT Singles. Tim Lester Images.

The Hooligans Main saw a battle to the finish between a trio of Harley-Davidsons, with Shawn Raggio edging out Robert Lewis and Lowell Bronstad to the checkered flag. That class rolled several KTMs, a Ducati and a Triumph among a field of mostly Harleys. One rider, Jason Griffin, is a para-athlete, having lost his right arm as a child. Jason took to racing in 2005, and holds the distinction of being the only licensed amputee to ever compete in AMA Pro Flat Track.  We’ll have to do a #RIDELIFE story on him at some point, he’s such an inspirational and fierce competitor.

Handicapable AFT Hooligans racer Jason Griffin going bar to bar with Chris Boone. Believe indeed. Tim Lester Images.

The racing was outstanding, the AFT team puts on an absolutely fantastic event, and the joy of returning to my childhood track was second to none. I hope AFT and Senoia Raceway enjoy many years of partnership. As long as they keep racing there, I’ll keep making the pilgrimage.

For more on AFT racing, results, and 2023 schedule, click here:

American Flat Track

*Photos by Rob Brooks, American Flat Track/Tim Lester Images

Raising his boys right. Future flat trackers? Tim Lester Images.

Here’s a little video on Rob’s day at Senoia. Watch here without ever leaving this page!


Cycle World Athens


  1. Dean Phelps


    Looks like everyone had a good time. Great story and photos from you and Tim.


    • Rob Brooks

      Thank Dean, it was a great throwback weekend for me.


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *