After an unfortunate injury to Brad Baker at the 2018 X-Games, the Indian Wrecking Crew will be almost totally revamped for 2019. While mainstay Jared Mees looks to make it three championships in a row, he will be joined by the Bauman brothers starting at the Daytona TT in March. While Briar has tasted victory in the top series before, younger brother Bronson will now have top notch equipment under him as well and has the potential to grab the checkers this season. Perhaps a sign of things to come came last year at Williams Grove Speedway when Briar took the victory over Bronson (filling in on the Indian for Baker) with Mees finishing in a rare third place. Biggest challenge for these three this year could be rule changes which allow production based engines such as the Kawasaki or Yamaha to run 40 mm throttle bodies while the race-only based Indian will be restricted to 38 mm throttle bodies.
With a couple of new riders on the Indian team, fans may be wondering what has happened to former Indian factory rider Bryan Smith. 2019 will see Smith return to Crosley-Howerton Motorsports, the team he won the championship for in 2016, on his very unique Kawasakis. Biggest factor in Smith returning to his old team is the freedom to design one-off components for his machine that will transfer directly to being faster on the track. While the Indian Smith rode the last two seasons was fast right out of the box, Smith was frustrated by factory rules which discouraged him from making changes to his machine. While Smith is possibly the early favourite to grab victory on the six series races which take place on a mile, he will have some work to do if he hopes to grab another championship. With four races on a TT and three on short tracks, Smith will have to round out his overall game to contend for the title once again.
Estenson Racing has been busy and adds a few solid riders to their already strong team. 2016 Singles champ Ryan Wells joins Estenson and will ride the new Yamaha 450 in the Singles class this season. Joining Wells in the Singles class will be Horizon Award winner Dallas Daniels who will turn pro at the Lima Half Mile after he turns 16. Biggest news out of Estenson is the addition of JD Beach. Beach took the MotoAmerica Supersport title after winning 11 of 17 races in 2018. With Yamaha not looking to defend its title in MotoAmerica, Beach looked to be out of a ride until signing with Estenson to return to his flat track roots riding a Yamaha MT-07. Tim Estenson has ensured Beach will be a busy man for 2019 after talking to Attack Performance Team’s Rich Stanboli. Along with his flat track schedule, Beach will also contend in the MotoAmerica Superbike championship riding for Estenson/Attack Performance Team riding Stanboli’s Yamaha R1 formerly piloted by Josh Herrin. With five direct schedule conflicts between AFT and MotoAmerica, my guess is Beach will make MotoAmerica priority one as long as he is mathematically in contention for the Superbike title.
Another rider returning to his roots is former AMA Rookie of the Year PJ Jacobson. Jacobson, who has spent the majority of the past seven years roadracing, will spend 2018 on an Indian riding for Team Nila/Coolbeth Racing. With Kenny Coolbeth only months into his retirement from riding, look for him to keep his competitive juices flowing as he will not only be spinning wrenches for Jacobson, but will wear the hat of team manager as well.
Former factory Harley-Davidson rider Brandon Robinson appears to have jumped ship and will be riding an Indian for Jerry Kennedy. While the “new” liquid cooled Harley has struggled for a couple of seasons now, Robinson could turn his career around on the Indian. So far the only news out of the Harley camp is the departure of Robinson, so as of now there is no information on what is happening with the Harley Davidson factory team.
2017 Canadian Champion Brodie Buchan will compete in the AFT series this year in the new Production Twins class. Riding a Kawasaki for Baer Racing, Buchan will look to run at the front of the new class which will race at all half mile and mile events in the series (11 races in total). Buchan had a strong debut run in Sarnia on the Baer Racing machine until losing spark in one cylinder. Buchan plans on attending some FTC events as well but will no doubt find criss-crossing across America in the AFT series a taxing endeavor.
Biggest news out of the Canadian series will see 2018 champ Dustin Brown switch from Sehl Racing to KBR Racing for 2019. The move is hardly a surprise however as Brown scored 89 of his championship points last season on borrowed KBR machines. Brown plans on attending a few AFT rounds as well and will start his season in the Singles class at the Daytona TT. Speedster Hunter Bauer will join Brown in the Expert ranks for KBR in the FTC series and looks to be a possible contender in his rookie year.
With the opening race of the season still on the horizon, things are already looking pretty interesting for 2019.