AMA Pro Racing CEO Michael Lock has done more to secure the future of flat-track motorcycle racing during the past 24 months than arguably anyone in the history of this uniquely American sport. But that success hasn’t come easily, particularly for someone who was born and raised in Britain.

Before accepting his current role in Daytona Beach, Lock spent most of his career on or around two wheels, both in the US and abroad. He has worked for three manufacturers—Honda, Triumph, and Ducati—serving as CEO in America for Triumph and Ducati, as well as COO at Lamborghini ("I hated the car business," he admits).

During the past two years, Lock has faced many complicated and often thorny challenges, chiefly loss of life on the racetrack. As is his management style, he has addressed all head on, while bringing a seemingly inexhaustible energy to the sport that is visible even at the conclusion of an eight-month, 18-event race calendar.

VIDEO: 2017 American Flat Track Finals Highlights

You’ve added more events, spectator attendance is up, and FansChoice.tv and NBCSN point to all screens. Does flat-track racing have more eyeballs on it than ever before?

We recently passed 1.5 million viewers on NBCSN. The audience on Facebook Live, which is new for us this year, is counted in the millions. The audience for FansChoice.tv is up 47 percent in volume and 70 percent in duration. All the data is going the right way.

Ticket sales are up at every single event that previously existed and all the new events have been sellouts. Does it yet rival or eclipse the halcyon days of Camel? I don’t know, but that was so long ago that no one is ever going to know.

I’m focused on growth, momentum, making loyal flat-track fans happy, and adding to them with new demographics and generations so we can look forward three, five, seven years and say we have momentum, a strategy to build on, and reach out to key stakeholders.

I need manufacturers in the sport to make it rich and three-dimensional. I need them to bring their fans and resources. And the only way I can do it is by showing: A) growth, and B) quality. Same argument with sponsorship partners. Revenue streams are complex.

The old days of selling 20,000 tickets and everybody makes money is over. It’s too risky, particularly when motorcycle events are still largely walk-up traffic. If something else is going on or the weather looks unpredictable, ticket sales are vulnerable.

You need other revenue streams to underwrite the event and raise the quality. So I need sponsorship partners, which this sport has been starved of for nearly 20 years. That’s like a life sentence. To pick it up with no momentum, no existing friends, is hard.

To do that, we need to say to the OEMs and the sponsorship partners, look at my audience. Look at the access to the people that you will get. The racing is great, but it’s always been great. And guess what? That didn’t sell the sport.

VIDEO: Jared Mees 2017 AFT Twins Champion Feature

Indian riders won 14 of 17 main events this season. What message does that domination send other teams and how do you see the Twins class evolving?

Reality is, the two most accomplished riders in the sport and their tuners won almost all the races last year, and they won almost all the races this year. Last year, they were on a Kawasaki and a Harley-Davidson. This year, they are on Indians. That's what has changed.

That's not to diminish the extraordinary performance of Indian. I've worked in motorcycles for a long time and I can't recall a manufacturer with no racing history building from scratch a racing motorcycle in 12 months and then the following season dominating a series.

The Indian FTR set a new standard, but if Jared Mees was still riding his Kenny Tolbert XR750 and if Bryan Smith was still riding his Ricky Howerton Kawasaki, I don’t know what it would look like. So that does guide my thinking.

Our advisory group, which is made up of some wise heads in the paddock, was talking about technical regulations for next year and the interesting thing is that the advisory group didn’t say, “You need to clip the wings of those Indians.”

What they said, which is what I dreamed of, is, “Don’t rap the knuckles of the guy who is good. But give everybody else a chance to be good.” So, we’ve looked at some technical regulations that, on paper, favored race-only bikes this year over production bikes.

The 2018 rule book will fine-tune some areas. I’ll give you an example: throttle bodies. The ’17 regulation requires bikes with production-based engines up to 750cc to use the OEM throttle body—the streetbike throttle body—up to a maximum internal diameter of 38mm.

If you’re riding an XR750 or an FTR750, you’re still restricted to 38mm, but you can put whatever you like in there. So they have. Indian runs a beautiful throttle body with a guillotine in it. When the guillotine is raised, the air is completely unobstructed.

Most of their competitors use a butterfly-type throttle body, which, even when it’s fully open, still offers obstruction. So we’ve looked at that, and we’ll be announcing a 2018 rule book that allows parity between racer and non-racer.

Third thing is, there are new engines coming to market that are for streetbikes that are more advanced than anything we’ve seen—more compact, more flexible, easier to tune. Some will be coming in 2018, some in ’19.

A good example is the new KTM 790cc twin. Everybody likes that engine, and no one has even ridden it yet. The Yamaha FZ-07 is barely developed yet, and you've seen what Sammy Halbert has been able to do on a private team with no factory assistance.

I also see independent Indian teams in 2018. Johnny Lewis—a very accomplished, flexible rider—got on the podium the first time he rode the bike. That opened a few eyes. The factory will be a center of attention, but I see independent teams coming.

Other manufacturers don’t want to be left out of that. We’ll see what happens, but the momentum with the Twins class is forward and upward—no doubt about that. I don’t see an era of complete and utter domination by Indian.

Shayna Texter won five main events this season and was in contention for the Singles title going into the final event. Is Shayna an anomaly or is flat track fair game for both sexes?

We have no female class; we have flat-track racing. I’ve watched Shayna Texter race every round this year, and the races she has won have been run on race craft. She has no equipment advantage.

The Honda is a weapon. The Yamaha is a weapon. The Kawasaki is a weapon. Shayna has won on miles, which are the most demanding races, the most stressful races, where you need to look into each corner that you’re coming up on and have no fear.

People point to the fact that she is not only female but quite a small female. We have other small riders. Shayna’s Achilles’ heel this year was TTs. Was it because they are more physical and she was muscled out or the way? She would say, “I need to get better at TTs.”

No one in Sweden knew how to play tennis before Bjorn Borg. He won grand slam after grand slam, and a whole generation of Swedes came. Is it because they were all playing ice hockey before? I don’t know, but it’s about inspiration.

Shayna has provided extraordinary inspiration to not only girls and women but guys. I was at Texas Motor Speedway, which is about as red-blooded a part of the country as you can get, and when Shayna took the lead in the main event, the whole grandstand stood up.

She has inspired people because she is challenging what we unconsciously believe to be true. There is nothing more interesting than that. I’d like to see anyone of talent come through in flat track. Shayna confounds expectations, and people naturally gravitate to that.

What is the greatest challenge you have faced since accepting the role of CEO at AMA Pro Racing?

First thing I saw was the sport at its core was pure gold. I’d worked in the motorcycle business for 25 years in three different OEMs—Honda, Triumph, and Ducati—and run roadracing teams, but I didn’t know flat track. I thought, “Wow, who else didn’t know?”

Lack of resource was the major challenge. And it wasn’t just lack of resource in 2014 or ’15. It was lack of resource since 1987. The sport goes into hunker-down mode; everything is done as cheaply as possible. Nobody aspires to make money because you’d be insane.

But as soon as you lose the aspiration to turn it into a business, you start losing talent. Tuner talent. Rider talent. I knew unwinding that downward spiral of less money equals less talent equals less money would be a challenge.

What compounded the challenge was people are impatient. New guy comes in. What’s he going to do? Why hasn’t he done it already? Everybody in the paddock and grandstands is saying, “You’re messing with our sport, and we don’t see the improvement yet.”

You look at the daunting challenge of, “Oh, my God, it’s going to take three years to deliver that thing. And that’s just the start of the road. How long to get the big OEMs to take us seriously? Maybe I get lucky. Maybe I have to beat on their doors for 10 years.

It’s a balancing act. Some of it is diplomacy, some of its politics, and some of it is sheer bloody-mindedness. Everybody is telling you it won’t work, but you know it will. You’ve got to keep going at the same pace because if you back off for a second, you’ve lost it.

The challenge has been trying to effect change that looks clear and obvious. But you can’t do it by yourself. You need teams and riders. One by one, you need to deliver an advantage they can see so two weeks later they say, “I was a skeptic but I can see what you’re trying to do.”

Competition is close and speeds are high. Even with soft barriers, runoff is at a premium. What can AFT do to keep riders safer in the future?

This is a big topic for three reasons: 1) the sheer dynamics of it; 2) we’ve had tragedies in the last two years; and 3) no manufacturer, no Fortune 500 sponsor is going to touch you if they think your sport is not controllable and safe.

Flat track has always had tragedies, but people have less and less tolerance for tragedies, which is a reality. We’ve got to be seen as not only is that unacceptable but to be professional in changing it. There is no way around this.

I can tell you what we’ve done in the short-term. We now deploy nearly 100 percent more air fence than we did two years ago. Take the Springfield Mile, a very fast track with constant momentum: If you fall off there, you could be in big trouble.

We used to deploy 30 to 34 pieces of air fence through the corners. We now deploy nearly 70 pieces. Coverage at the apex of the corners, the approach to the corners, and, critically, the exits. I’ve studied our incident data; exit from corners is the number-one hot spot.

This off-season I am pulling together a task force of experts, some of whom are in our sport, some of whom have nothing to do with our sport but have relevant experience to talk not on a narrow basis—what do we do about get-offs?—but the whole sport.

How do we progress our riders from 10- and 12-year-olds? What do we teach them? We announced an initiative at the awards banquet called, “The Route To The Top,” which seeks to partner with the AMA in Ohio, which sanctions amateur and regional events, and Steve Nace’s All-Star Series so that we can reach out through the country and start getting some normalization of rules, start to get the language and processes, and how we run events much earlier in the riders’ consciousness.

How many riders on the grid? Eighteen at the moment. Is that the right number? We line them up in three parallel rows of six quite close to each other. Should we be staggering the lines? Are there a series of things we can do to reduce stress? Stress on the start line is a big factor.

We approached Dainese last year. They are racing guys; they got it. Brad Baker, Jared Mees, and Bryan Smith have been wearing Dainese suits all year. There are sensors in those suits looking at how pro flat trackers move differently to MotoGP and World Superbike.

Most of our racers use modern roadracing helmets. For the purposes of impact, they’re about the best you can get. But we’re racing on dirt. What’s the difference between dirt and asphalt? Dirt! It gets thrown up. We’re looking at the way the face shield and venting work.

Some questions can be answered quickly, some are going to need a deep dive and soul searching. What we have to deliver long-term is not a guarantee of safety but a promise of continual improvement based on experience and the application of technology.