I have been racing in the American Flat Track series for 10 years. I became a GNC-level professional in 2008 and I have been racing in the premier class, now known as AFT Twins, from that day. Back then there wasn't another class for me to cut my teeth on at the top level. The series has seen many changes since 2008, and I'd have to write nothing short of a book outlining all of them. It's funny how racing works. Finding momentum at the right time and capitalizing on changes within the sport is crucial to being successful.

In 2016, I finished ninth overall and had two podium finishes on my personal Kawasaki Ninja 650 in the GNC class. Campaigning a production-based engine was cost effective, and I was able to build a motorcycle that was capable of contending with the top-level teams. With the emergence of the Indian Scout FTR750 and its high price tag, I was left with a difficult decision heading into the 2018 season. I could drain all the money I have and invest more than $100,000 in new motorcycles that I felt could be competitive in the AFT Twins class, or I could shift my focus to the Singles class and build two competitive bikes capable of running up front for $20,000. I chose the latter.

AFT Singles class
For Cory Texter, the choice was clear in 2018 to focus on the AFT Singles class.Courtesy of Cory Texter

I knew that “dropping down” would create some scrutiny among the paddock and within the fan base, but I also knew there wasn’t any other option for me if I wanted to remain competitive and continue racing.

Since the inception of the Singles class in 2009, it’s been viewed as a feeder category. It’s been a way for riders to cut their teeth at the professional level before being fed to the wolves in Twins. The payout is significantly less and most of the media attention for many years only focused on the premier class. Over the past couple of seasons, however, things started to shift direction a little bit. With equal coverage on NBC Sports and major manufacturer involvement along with high-level competition and talented riders, is it fair to call AFT Singles a “feeder” class anymore?

As someone who has been competitive against the top riders in the world, I had high expectations placed on me coming into this season. To be fair, I also put high expectations on myself. I knew racing a single wouldn’t be easy. All of the riders (besides myself) running in the top 15 have two or more seasons competing in this class. Many of them have their gearing figured out for each racetrack and understand the racecraft it takes to win races on a 450. I was, however, confident in myself that, on more equal motorcycles, I could rise to the occasion and contend for a championship.

I have had many hurdles to overcome since my move to a 450. The biggest one has been racing with more grit and less technique. Motorcycles are a lot faster in the AFT Twins class, so there is a lot more separation among riders. The highly talented riders with more corner speed can often break away from the slower riders behind them. The faster riders are at the front? Sounds like common sense. Well, with motorcycles that have less horsepower it’s harder to create separation. This holds true for all classes in motorsports with smaller engines. It simply takes away the reward for having exceptional corner speed. If you look at the Moto3 class overseas, there is sometimes five times the number of riders in the lead draft throughout the race than you see in the premier MotoGP class. The same holds true for the 250cc class in motocross. There are about 15 different riders who can win on any given weekend on a 250, but only about five or so who contend for wins on a 450. In pack racing, you have to be determined and willing to take more risks. I have found this to be a tough transition after spending so many years racing more on technique than leaving my brain in the toolbox and simply dropping the hammer.

Shayna Texter
Texter’s sister, Shayna, sits third in the AFT Singles point standings.Courtesy of Cory Texter

At round 2 of the AFT Series at Dixie Speedway in Woodstock, Georgia, I was involved in a couple of crashes that really changed my season. The second crash, where a rider in second place went down unprovoked in front of me, was one of the scariest crashes I have been in during my career and whatever trust I had with my new competition pretty much vanished after that weekend. I have never raced with other riders who I simply didn’t trust. In the Twins class you often get bumped out of the way or get a wheel shown on you coming into a corner, but I have never raced riders who had a hard time simply staying on two wheels. It’s almost like there is an invisible sniper in the grandstands at the races picking off these dudes in the corners. Since then, my riding has been more timid, trying to anticipate chaos rather than focusing on moving forward and making passes.

The riders in the “feeder” class are talented, but it’s very hard to compare riding a DTX450 to riding a custom-framed 750. You ride each bike completely differently. Aside from Jared Mees, who is on another level right now, I don’t think there are any current twins riders in the top 10 who would dominate the singles if they switched classes. Just like I feel Marc Márquez and Eli Tomac would be more evenly matched if they moved down in their respective classes as well. They are the best riders in the world, so they would win races, but it’s a whole different animal moving to a class where riders will do anything to prove themselves versus a class where more riders are already well established.

Operation "CTex racing in the singles class" didn't go as planned this year. I don't feel it is because I lacked the speed as I was often the most consistent qualifier in the class. I think it's more about where I am at right now in my career. Being as timid as I was for most of the season and knowing how I approached each race, I am surprised we finished as well as we did on certain tracks.

My goal has always been to race in the premier AFT Twins class if the right opportunity presented itself. Even though we have found major strides in my 450cc program over the past couple of weeks, I am very excited to be moving back up to a twin for the last three rounds of the season on a CTR/Law Tigers/Tucker Powersports/Stay The Course-sponsored Indian Scout FTR750.

CTex
As a 30-year-old rookie, Texter has yet to find satisfaction in his results in the AFT Singles class.Courtesy of Cory Texter

The future of flat track coming up through the ranks is very bright. I developed a ton of camaraderie with the younger racers in the class and took many of them under my wing throughout the season, even if it meant finishing behind them on the racetrack. Many of them beat up on me this season while riding the 450, so hopefully I can return the favor when they move up to a twin.

See you all at the racetrack!