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Flat-Out Fun

Against All Odds, The 2020 AMA Amateur Flat Track National
Championship Gets It Done

By John L. Stein

Each summer for nearly 40 years, the AMA Amateur Flat Track National Championship has been the place to race for the amateur flat-track community.

Although the event name has evolved over time, three things have remained constant: the bumper crop of Midwest half-mile, TT and short-track races packed into one glorious week, the huge rider turnout and a family atmosphere that’s the envy of many others in motorsports.

In July, neither coronavirus nor heavy rains could extinguish the flame that is the AMA Amateur Flat Track National Championship, as the event proceeded apace, first at the Plymouth Speedway in Plymouth, Ind., and, then, at the Ashland County (Ohio) Fairgrounds.

Rainstorms required adjusting the schedule and race disciplines on the fly. But, at the close of the July 19-25 race week, three days of half-mile and one day of TT racing went into the books.

Miracles seemed to appear everywhere throughout the week, from the 726 total entries from as far away as New York and California to the multi-generational teams that have been part of this amateur series since the early 1980s to the amazing bandwidth of rider ages, from 4 years old to nearly 70.

But, most of all, this year, the steely determination, strong family values and love for racing brought AMA members together to practice a smart and fun week of racing, despite the global pandemic.

To help keep everyone safe from COVID-19, the AMA Amateur Flat Track National Championship set some easy-to-follow rules, and the participants willingly complied, showing what is possible when everyone pulls together for the common good.

Special 2020 Championship Award
Winners Include:

Kody Kopp – Nicky Hayden AMA Flat Track Horizon Award
Braxton Ragan – AMA Flat Track Fast Brain Award
Jack Brucks – AMA Flat Track Youth Award
Simon Neto – AMA Flat Track Vet/Senior Award

Efforts included social distancing and mask wearing in the pits (per Indiana and Ohio state guidelines), conducting the riders’ meetings over the public address system instead of drawing racers together as a group, and having one person and motorcycle at a time go through tech inspection.

It all worked. And, furthermore, this year’s championship week was wonderfully safe, with precisely zero EMT transports required. Encountering just a few bumps and bruises spread over hundreds of practice, heat, semi and main-event laps for hundreds of riders is really quite remarkable.

The simplicity of flat-track racing is hugely appealing, as the large majority of riders use one four-stroke single-cylinder production motocross bike—suitably modified for flat track—for all three disciplines. To switch between events, the competitors simply remove or replace the front brake assembly and adjust gearing and suspension settings.

This year, the biggest competitor age range was 15 to 25 years old—young riders full of competitive energy, and some focused on moving up to professional American Flat Track. Two-strokes and twins are allowed, but more rarely used.

Age-group classes, AMA Track Racing Manager Ken Saillant noted, let riders choose any rules-compliant bike they want.

“If someone brings out a Yamaha TZ750,” he said, “we’ll find a class for them!”

Expert Twins rider Justin Zeigler brought a twin-cylinder Kawasaki this year, and Saillant noticed a Bultaco in the mix, too.

The 2020 AMA Amateur Flat Track National Championship had several female riders competing, including girls on PW50s, tracking a path to emulate multi-time AFT Singles winner Shayna Texter.

The week started strongly at Indiana’s Plymouth Speedway, with the half-mile getting underway on Monday afternoon after prep work on the clay track.

▲ Braxton Ragan, the 2020 AMA Flat Track Fast Brain Award winner, demonstrates some of his on-track skills at the Ashland County Fairgrounds.
Photo by Joe Hansen

From there, the full program ran smoothly through to its evening completion, including two practices for each class, heat races, semis and, then, mains for 178 entries.

Tuesday featured TT racing, but rain stopped the program during the heats. There was nothing to do but wait. Fortunately, Wednesday brought enough dry weather to complete the heats and a half-dozen semis before the skies again opened up, leaving parts of the TT track under water.

Organizers wasted no time and began reprepping the half-mile after the short-track course, located in the speedway’s infield, likewise proved too muddy to use.

They were making progress when an unexpected 11 p.m. curfew ultimately scrubbed any late-night activity.

At day’s end, TT points were awarded based on the heats and semis.

Thursday, the championship moved 235 miles east to the Ashland County Fairgrounds, which hosted two more days of half-mile racing.

Completely opposite of battling rains in Indiana, in Ohio participants encountered 90-degree heat, wind and dust, which also challenged workers to keep the bumpy limestone and pea-gravel track properly watered.

Amazingly, despite COVID-19’s dogged gloom, the Ashland entries still flooded in, some 375 across Friday and Saturday, even more than organizers were anticipating.

But, then, it’s really no wonder why.

“Amateur dirt track is about the passion and love of motorcycles, racing and family,” Saillant said. “This has been a tough year, but the turnout shows that we’re getting through it together.

“The community and fellowship are incredible, and the coolest thing is watching riders banging away at each other on the track, and right afterward seeing their high-fives and the smiles inside their helmets.

“It’s really what motorcycling is supposed to be all about: joining together through adversity and being with your friends.”

For a complete list of 2020 AMA Amateur Flat Track National Championship results, go to

▲ Kody Kopp (43), the 2020 Nicky Hayden AMA Flat Track Horizon Award winner, leads the way at Plymouth Speedway.
Photo by Jen Muecke