Harley-Davidson is spearheading a move to bring flat track racing back to a national audience after announcing that it will sponsor a new flat track bike racing event at this year’s ESPN X Games.

Harley-Davidson marketing director Dino Bernacchi told the Los Angeles Times that the American bikemaker renewed its ties with ESPN a year after partnership with the sports network brought about an ice racing competition at the 2014 Winter X Games in Aspen, Colorado. This time, the two sides are creating a new event that will have a far longer shelf-life than the one-off ice-racing competition.

Naturally, flat track racing was the clear choice since Harley-Davidson already has a long and successful history in the sport and is still one of the few motorcycle racing events that the company regularly competes in. For those unfamiliar with flat track racing, it’s premise is pretty simple. Riders race with lightweight dirtbikes on one-mile long dirt ovals, hitting speeds in excess of 130 mph in the flat straightaways before going on long power slides, often with one foot skidding on the dirt to create the necessary support for both the rider and the bike.

It bodes well for Harley that the racing style is undergoing a renaissance of sorts as more and more competitions are starting to create their own versions of flat track dirt racing.
But the company, together with ESPN, isn’t settling for periodic races in a small number of race courses. It wants the racing style to have its moment in the spotlight, one that can only be provided by an event as big as the X Games.

As such, expect to see flat track races at this year’s games, which will take place from June 4 to 7, 2015. Word has it that the event will kick off the festivities on the first day of competition, giving Harley ample time to promote the sport to a national TV audience and in doing so, probably sneak in some time to showcase some of its track bikes like the XR 750.

Why it matters

It’s a bold move for Harley-Davidson to venture into motor racing when it seemed like it was one of the few companies that have steered clear of competitive racing in recent years. But give credit to the company for knowing its niche and promoting a racing style it specializes in to a certain extent. The partnership with the X Games also gives the company a chance to introduce its line of lightweight sports bikes to a younger audience who may not have known that the company offers more than just cruisers and tourers.

Speaking of the X Games, I’d be remiss if I didn’t tip my hat off to ESPN for not only signing off on this partnership, but for also pushing for more motorcycle events to an event widely associated more for its skateboard and BMX competitions. In addition to flat track bike racing, the X Games will also have events dedicated specifically to motocross events and enduro cross races.

And for what it’s worth, Harley-Davidson and ESPN are planning to make flat-track racing an annual event at the X Games, so much so that the latter is even building a new 3/8-mile dirt track on the grounds of the Circuit of the Americas, the site of this year’s X Games.

Good job, Harley-Davidson and ESPN. I for one will be rooting for the event’s success, both in this year’s event and the ones moving forward.

Source: Los Angeles Times

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