(Photo courtesy of American Flat Track)

It’d been 293 days since the checkered flag last waved at an American Flat Track race. The pandemic swept into Florida just in time to cancel the opener in Daytona Beach at the last second and the season has been in flux since. Whether there would even be a 2020 AFT season was seriously in question which made the sound of Twins on the gas this weekend that much sweeter as American Flat Track racing returned with a doubleheader in Florida at Volusia Speedway Park.

Hearing Scottie Duebler and Brad Baker’s commentary was like mom’s home cooking, it filled me up and made me feel good inside. There were even properly distanced fans in the stands. Masks were worn by team members in the pits which were set up 20 feet apart. At one point Duebler joked that “some of the Singles have to set up by the gator pond." That's OK though, by this juncture riders were prepared to brave a gator to get a crack at racing again. Even though you’d forgive racers for being a little rusty considering the layoff, the racing was riveting. Hats off to everybody who made it happen because it provided a fleeting sense of normalcy in times that are everything but.

With a new race format, new classes, and a new starting system, the 2020 American Flat Track season arrived with many unknowns. Both the AFT Production Twins and AFT Singles classes ran main events that lasted 8 minutes + 2 laps. The AFT SuperTwins Main Event went 12 minutes + 2 laps. During Friday’s main, riders hit 25 laps, a complete race last year, with three-and-a-half minutes to go. One thing the new format did is expedite the program and make for a better viewing experience, undoubtedly one of the goals of AFT brass.

A few quick takeaways from this weekend’s races. Give Jared Mees extra laps to track people down and nine times out of ten you’re cooked. Mees put everyone in the SuperTwins class on notice with two dominant wins. After grabbing the holeshot in the first SuperTwins main, Jeffery Carver looked like he might have something for "The Jammer" until the two tangled in Turn 1 a couples lap into the race and Carver was down and out. Granted, he returned to the race, be it at the back of the pack on a back-up bike. In Saturday’s race, Mees started from the second row but still ran away with it to score his 50th victory in flat track’s premier class. Giving a five-time Grand National Champion a two victory lead in a shortened season doesn’t bode well for the rest of the SuperTwins paddock. Granted, it’s the first round, and a lot can change over the course of the season, but Jared definitely made a loud statement. Losing doesn’t bode well with him and a hungry Mees is a dangerous Mees. Tip of the cap, too, to Brandon Robinson. A few weeks back he was hobbling around with a cast on his foot. This weekend B-Rob went out and was the fastest qualifier in the first race and grabbed a 3rd place podium spot in the second.

The AFT Production Twins class was stacked with go-fast guys like multiple-time Daytona 200 winner Danny Eslick and road racer extraordinaire James Rispoli who's battled on some of the world's biggest stages. “The Rocket” appeared destined to write his name in the record books as the first winner of the 2020 AFT Production Twins season until Ryan Varnes came sweeping around the outside on the final turn of the last lap. In the second race, defending AFT Production Twins champion Cory Texter let everybody know he’s not giving up the crown without a fight. First Texter laid down the fastest qualifying time, then rode to a dominant victory. After splitting the weekend, only two points separate Rispoli and Texter in what could be a very compelling season.

Then there was the AFT Singles. If this weekend is any indicator, the Singles class might just be the most entertaining. In the first main, Australian sensation Max Whale (aka the "Coondoo Kid"), scored the first AFT victory of his career. Then there was Saturday. Many were calling Saturday’s AFT Singles main one of the best races they’ve ever seen. Last year’s rookie phenom Dallas Daniels shook off a dismal showing Friday night to score the victory by  the narrowest of margins, nipping Shayna Texter by a scant 0.020 seconds. At one point of the race there were eight riders battling for the lead with Daniels, Chad Cose, and Mikey Rush all pushing to the front at one point. If the Singles races at Volusia Speedway Park are any indicator, we’re in for one heckuva season.

The next AFT doubleheader is scheduled for August 28-29 in a yet-to-be-announced location in the Northeast. It felt good to have a little AFT home cooking this past weekend and if you’re like me, you’re already hungry for more race action. We’ll collectively keep our fingers crossed there's more chow coming down the pipeline.