Sunday, September 16, 2018

'FLAT TRACK RACING IS A CRUEL MISTRESS" With Jackie Mitchell


Southern Indiana was a hotbed of automobile racing, 
but Jackie Mitchell wanted to race motorcycles.
For flat-track racers on the rise, 
going road racing was the thing to do then. 
It had been the ticket to the Big Time for 
racers like Kenny Roberts and Stevie Baker, 
but it's quite a jump from 
number 10's to clip-ons and rear-sets.
Jackie was all of 17 years old at Daytona in 1977. 
Going to the Speedway was the Big Times.
He adapted quickly from the cushion tracks he loved 
to the beating he took on the banking, 
and his career appeared to be taking off 
thanks to his sponsor, Bel-Ray Lubricants. 
At his Daytona debut, even though he had an 
FIM waiver filled out for being underage, 
and qualified well, 
they started him at the back of the grid. 
When the flag dropped, 
he charged from 36th all the way to 3rd in the first few laps, only to get brutally high-sided. 
His lower left leg was badly shattered in the crash. 
Some fans may have thought the crash was due to youth 
and exuberance, but in reality, the motor had seized. 
Jackie told me they were not familiar enough with 
the finicky TZ250 two-stroke road racer.
 I appreciated his raw honesty. 
He said he does not remember the crash 
but was told it was quite spectacular.
It's amazing what you learn talking directly to the rider. 

After Daytona, Jackie was supposed to be 
part of a team from Bel-Ray that was 
traveling to Italy for road racing at Imola with 
owner Kurt Kiefer and racer Randy Cleek. 
He could not make the trip after all, due 
to injuries from his Daytona crash. 
Then, on the way back from Imola, 
both Kiefer & Cleek sadly perished in a car crash. 
Jackie lost more than just his race program that day; 
he lost his friends. 
For some racers, it’s not a lack of talent, 
but a lack of opportunity.


"Racing can be a cruel mistress,” he said. 
“It's not if you get hurt, but when and how bad." 
Our mission at the AMA Pro Flat Track Rookie Class of ’79 
is to provide relief from the dark times." 
Jackie and the other members of the Rookie Class rely 
on the benevolence of other people, tirelessly 
fundraising to help injured riders and their families. 
Jackie feels blessed by the kindness of strangers 
who have donated racing memorabilia, and to people 
like Jeffrey Carver, Sr., who donated the 
pulled pork and rolls used to make sandwiches sold 
during the Springfield Mile fan walk. 

Jackie said he was proud to sling pork 
sandwiches at Springfield.



Throughout his career, 
Jackie showed he could run with anyone. 
In 1978, he won his heat race at his home track, 
The Indy Mile. 
He felt he had what it took to win the Main that day. 
He was running second, saving his tires and pacing 
himself…he had planned a late-race charge, 
but then his brakes failed. 
He still managed a decent finish, but regards 
that race as the one that should have been. 
Racing Harley Davidsons of that era was 
about flow metrics and cams.  
If you didn't have the money to destroy 
a set of $1,500 heads on the bench then you 
could not be competitive. 
Having the money to spend was the difference between 
racing up front and being a backmarker. 
You can't be consistent without money. 

Once a racer has had a taste of success, 
it's hard to go back.
Jackie was broken-hearted with doing it badly, 
so he left racing. 
He moved to Los Angeles to work for Kerker Exhaust, 
and went on to co-found AXO Sport America. 
Jackie feels that motorcycle racers can't ever be “normal.”

His love of winning from racing makes him 
successful in the automobile business today. 
He has been providing a winning experience for 
his guests and his employees for more than 20 years, 
and he is still out there now, being racy in the Astro Cup. 

Word around the campfire is that Jackie 
was quite the cushion rider in his day.


photo by Scott Perry

Jackie told me his father was both Dad and wingman, 
and kept Jackie on a short leash during his school years. 
This kept him out of the trouble that some kids got into, 
but he missed his fair share of dances and proms to racing. 
He told me, 
“A racer will sacrifice a lot for his craft.” 
Racing is something you give your life to. 
He may not have been from the same mold 
of the guys he grew up with, 
but how many of his buddies from Bedford, Indiana could 
navigate Los Angeles by memory back then?
Jackie Mitchell earned his place in 
Ohio's Flat-Track Hall of Fame.
He is rightfully proud of his achievements.  
The Rookie Class of '79 has helped many flat-track racers, 
from amateurs to professionals. 
They even provided a special van for 
wheelchair-bound Dominic Colindres, 
who was seriously injured at the Peoria TT in 2016. 
He also wanted to give special thanks to Tom Seymour, 
Tim Estenson and the corporate sponsors. 
Our sport is blessed to have men like 
Jackie Mitchell & The Rookie Class of '79.

Note: Photos by Bert Shepard/Silver Shutter 
via Jackie Mitchell,

Special Thanks to Jackie Mitchell, Charlie Roberts, 
Sherry Beers & Kara Kumpel.





THE INDY ODYSSEY





I needed the road to find balance. 
Indy seemed like the perfect excuse 
to climb on my murdered out big block 
Suzuki and burn down the night,
getting there by hopping from 
one Waffle House to the next. 

Yeah, I could do 650-mile ride in one shot.

My status on Facebook was "Everyday is Superpole". 
Lots of thumbs ups but some of my friends knew the dark side.  
I found split custody to be an emotional rollercoaster for me. 
I miss my daughter. 
Dropping her off stings.
The pain goes away as the visor comes down.
Riding is my release. 
Even on the humble Ninja, 
I was dragging the pegs and exhaust. 
The harder I pushed, the faster I went, the less I felt.
I knew in my heart  I was not dealing well with it. 
Maybe a few days around my motorcycle friends would help?

 The upside to my new found aggressive riding?
Well, my first session back my team manager looked at 
the time sheet and said I should get divorced more often. 
My X said her people told her 
I was over the limit and I would hurt myself. 
When Jake Shoemaker said, 
"I was not as slow as I use to be",
I took it as a compliment.



It's the end of my week with Olive. 
I'm starting to get that heavy feeling. 
Riding to drop zone we stop for ice cream. 
I tell her that our next week together I would 
drop her off a few days early.
 I was riding to the Indy MotoGP, to do some media work,
 help racer Jake Shoemaker(#55) in the pits at the Indy Mile 
and to see my friend Nico, engineer for Tech 3  team.
  Olive says "dad I want to go".
 I explain it's a long trip to Indianapolis. 
I told her I would think about it. She replies 
"dad I just want to be with you ". 
That was the knockout punch. 
I told her I would look into a  few things 
and would call her soon. 
   What the heck.
Why not just remove the roof off my 
vintage jeep and drive out? 
Adventure for sure.
Cooler, bags, blade scooter packed ... I pick her up at 5 A.M., 
it's a cold August morning with no roof.
I cover her with a blanket. 
We drive in dark silence for an hour. 
I spot a yellow & black Waffle House sign. Breakfast? 
She smiles over tea, laughs over cheesy eggs,
I knew everything would be ok.
My daughter had never driven across Pennsylvania before. 
We climb up into the mountains, 
through clouds and rain sprinkles. 
She's fascinated by the tunnels.
 West Virginia, Ohio and Indiana roll under our wheels 
as the day goes by we reach our destination....Indy.

I did not tell anyone I was bringing Olive. 

My friend Nico Reynier was delighted to see her. 
It has been several years since Nico stayed with us. 
Olive is bewildered & amused when Nico kisses her on both 
cheeks-but that's what the French do when 
they are glad to see you Olive!
 All men should be blessed as my friend Nico.
Athletic, tall and handsome-did I mention he is French? 
Nico is crew chief and engineer for the Tech 3 moto2 team. 
He takes us into the Tech 3 garage. 
Seeing a MotoGP crew in operation is an awesome experience. 
Everyone has a job and just does it. 
No screaming or yelling. No fluids spilled or tools stune about. 
Smooth silent French efficiency at its best. 
The crew shows no emotion when working-its all business. 
When the work is completed they relax and joke with Olive. 
To a man all goodwill ambassadors for France.



    Nico is quite impressed with team rider 
Marcel Schrotter being able to pull out
strong rides race after race. 
Schrotter top speed is down, 
I guess most fans might think he is not 
getting good drive onto the straight,
 but data shows otherwise. 
The team makes the normal adjustments 
with only minor gains. 
Looking deeper they realize Schotter is 
more fit/ slightly larger than his teammate. 
Changing fairing mounting to keep Marcel 
out of the wind and now we have the 
top speed needed-the benefits of having 
a strong team behind you.

The Speedway at Indy is Huge! 
Impressive infrastructure and museum too.
I swear they must screen the staff...everyone, 
who works there is just so nice.
We even get offered a ride into the speedway from the 
parking area by a staff member in a golf cart.
Between sessions, we walk the vendor area. 
Olive spots the Yamaha Kids
Rider program. Can I do it, Dad...Please? Absolutely!
Yamaha has smart people working for them.
They will teach you, child, to ride in a safe area with instructors for FREE.
Yamaha is building the riders of tomorrow.
What will these riders say? The first bike I rode was a blue Yamaha....very clever.
Thank-You Yamaha for supporting the sport.




Who doesn't love a carnival or state fair? 
Yup across town from the Speedway is the Indiana State Fair. 
The Legendary Indy Mile AMA Flat Track race is
held at the state fair grounds on the MotoGp weekend. 

Olive & I did both State Fair and 
flat track race-Good Times.



The Legendary Indy Mile is one of the great spectacle of motorcycle racing.
Our own Tyson Beckford said The Mile 
should be on the must-see list. 
Many MotoGP racers also come to watch 
this uniquely American form of racing. 
Seeing the big, booming twins enter the 
first turn inches apart sliding sideways 
at close to 140 mph leaves the MotoGP boys slack-jawed.
If you go, do the fan walk. 
A great way to get a close look at the machine and meet
the riders. Even revered MotoGP tuners like 
Guy Coulon are impressed by the 
mechanical artwork prepared by teams like Zanotti Harley Davidson or Villa-Esparza /Crosley Radio Kawasaki. 
Olive brings her blade scooter to play with the 
other kids in the paddock. I help Jake
Shoemaker(#55) out in the pits while his girlfriend, 
the lovely Ms. Megan Miller keeps an eye
on Olive while caring for her baby Mya-its a family affair. 
I'm blessed to have such great friends. 
Jake pulls off another great night of racing too.
After an amazing weekend, we get on the highway home. 
Top down in my old jeep, sun in our faces & wind in out hair. 
I ask Olive-On a scale to ten-how do you score your adventure?

She holds up both hands... 10.


Special Thanks To Rob Anderson 
for his words of encouragement.
Rob told me to take Olive with me.


Wednesday, September 12, 2018

CAM SMITH : RACING TOWARD HIS DREAMS

photos by Jodi Johnson #5

Cameron Smith is the only African American rider 
in American Flat Track Racing.
Color does not matter in the rough and tumble 
world of motorcycle racing.
It's about whether you're fast or not.
The Smith family calls Coatesville, Pennsylvania home.
Motorcycle racing is popular in the area 
due to the several local race tracks.
His mom and dad started him racing at age five.
He said he still feels the same sense of excitement
when he goes racing all these years later.



Just like any other sports or music-you need to start them early.
Cameron has grown up racing many of 
the same guys he is still racing today.
His friendly and outgoing father is one of the 
nicest people you will meet at the track.
It would not be a race unless the Smith family was there.
His parents allowed him to race all through grade and
high school as long as he maintained his grades. 
Racing has been a constant in his life thanks to his family.
Cameron is grateful for their love and support.




   Cam showed he "got game" by his 
first big win in a professional race last year.
The hard work, blood, sweat and tears finally paid off.
His family was over the moon when he pulled into the pits.
After a race, the winner normally takes 
a Victory Lap with the checkered flag.
He offered to take his mom with him on the Victory Lap,  
but she wanted her son to enjoy his moment in the spotlight.
Cam even won the intense sprint race before 
the main event, known as "The Dash for Cash".
I'm sure he will cherish the memories of 
this day for the rest of his life.
It was a long way from that first motorcycle race at age five.

Father & Son

Race day can be hectic, exciting and yes dangerous.

But the day to day life of a racer requires a lot of discipline.
A racer must be in top physical condition.
Cam is on a strict diet, works out daily, 
and has a personal trainer too.
There is plenty of monotonous travel involved which leaves
no time for partying, fronting or stunting.
He is totally committed to his dream of being champion.
It's not all sunshine and victories though.
Sometimes a racer can struggle all day trying to get the bike to
do what he wants it to do and be comfortable 
at speed without showing results.
Flat track racing can be a very unforgiving sport too.
Things happen even if you do all the 
proper preparation and make the right moves.   
Last April, Cameron was looking forward to the 
promise of warmer weather at a race in 
Georgia after the long winter.
The cold damp weather was a surprise 
after the drive from Philadelphia.
When the lights turned green, a pack of 
racers charged through the first corners.
One of the front runners spun out,
Cam was directly behind him and had nowhere 
to go due to the riders on either side.
He collided with the downed machine, 
was thrown over the handlebars and 
slammed to the ground.
Cam was fortunate not to have broken any 
bones but was so dazed from the impact of
banging his head on the hard clay track, 

 that he could not continue to race. 
Thank God for a good helmet.
Unfortunately, when he does not complete the race,
he does not earn any prize money either.
Financially, racing is a stretch for him and his family.
While it would be great to have two of the newest/latest machines waiting for him in the pits,
Cameron does his best racing a 2015 Honda CRF450.

He never loses sight of that dream to be Champion and 
is doing his best to attract new sponsors 
and keep good people around him.
Cam hopes to ride the growing wave of 
popularity that flat track is experiencing.
We have spoken about holding an event in 
Philadelphia to promote the
sport of flat track racing with various motorcycle groups.
The goal would be to help get guys off 
the street and get them racing.
You can help him in his pursuit of a national championship 
by following him on Facebook or
can watch him on television on 
FanChoice.TV or NBCSN too
(written for ScoopUSA Newspaper)



Thursday, September 6, 2018

A BRILLANT GESTURE (For The Family Of Alec Muth)

     Such a brilliant gesture in dark times.
This print was signed by riders who competed
against the fallen racer Alec Muth and will be
given to the Muth family in memoriam.
The people who make up 
American Flat Track Racing
never fail to amaze on or off the track.
Thank-You to Jesse Janisch & Renee Elizabeth
for taking their time to share this with me,
moments before the main in Springfield.
Ride Free Alec
Note:The Class of ’79 has established
a Memorial Fund for Alec Muth

see http://www.amaft79.com to make donations or
by writing a check for Alec Muth Memorial Fund,
payable to the Class of ’79 at 3989 Springer Lane,
Springfield, Ill. 62711.


Sunday, August 26, 2018

PAID THE COST TO BE THE BOSS (Jared Mees from 2016)


It's the last lap on the mile. 
You're wide open throttle in top gear,
over a 140mph on dirt, 
so close to the racer in front of you 
that you could reach out and touch him.
Do you seize the moment and make a risky move 
that could end with one of you hurt or worst? 
Or do you suck it up, play smart and give a prudent try?
If you make a mistake your championship run is over. 

   A racer makes difficult decisions.
He must do what right for the championship 
and not what feels good.
He can't be led by his ego. 
Years later people remember 
who won championships more than one race.
After the battle, he says its good to finish second, 
smile & sign autographs. 
But inside it burns a hole in him.
It takes a big man to win a championship.
 Jared Mees has paid the cost to be the boss. 
He has won four championships. 
It irks me when I hear a racer say 
in a dismissive tone "Jared Mees?  
Yeah, he only knows how to win championships". 
Is that not enough? 

  Being a racer is a hard life, 
all your moves are under a microscope. 
You need to be mentally tough.
There is no room for self-doubt. 
You are only as good as your
last result or mistake.
You got to believe in yourself.
In the pits, I'm a fly on the wall. 
I've been impressed by Jared's focus. 
  He is the most professional racer in flat track racing.  
Whether it's the presentation in the pits or his swagger.
You feel you're dealing with a champion. 
He is one of the few racers to have a personal trainer.
When someone made a smarmy comment about 
Jared having a man giving him a rub down, 
I point out that men have stronger hands,
furthermore, do you want some arm-candy 
giving you a rub down in the middle of the 
pits with your wife watching? 

   What does it take to be a professional?
Jareds' approach encompasses intense physical training, diet, riding and constantly working the business side of the sport.
His latest endeavor is to try his hand as race promoter 
for the Lima Half-Mile race.


 It's a well-run event,
but Jared thinks he can make it even better. 
It's an interesting challenge for him.
They call this a cushion track due to the 
unique loose surface which produces great racing.
This night race that has a summer carnival feel.
You could watch it on television, 
but you miss the ambiance of Lima.
Going to a flat track race 
brings back memories of simpler times.
They still do the pre-race prayer and national anthem,
you can meet the riders during the fan walk then
the racers are introduced one by one before the main event. 
Intense flat track racing followed by post-race 
fireworks add to the patriotic feel of the night.  
If you don't go you miss the pageantry at this altar of speed.
    When I asked for an interview, Jared joked that I just
wanted to ride his race bike like the last press guy.
I would, but I know in my heart I could not ride it to its fullest.
Jared does and that's why he is number one.
I couldn't resist joking 'do you think 
I am capable ride an XR in anger?'
He laughs "only if you want to end up in the air fence".
I tried to bait him by asking if he has ridden it anger?
Jared rubs his chin and says when people 
make me angry I try and learn from it.
I get the feeling he doesn't waste his time on negative thoughts. 
Jared is quick to credit his success to his 
team, Rogers Racing & his wife Nicole.
It's common to see a pretty woman on 
the arm of a successful racer but Nicole is much more.
Until the end of 2015 season, 
Nicole Mees was a front-running pro flat track racers herself.
Before Nicole retired didn't you worry about your wife racing?
Jared said not at all-we had been racing each other since before we were dating.
"It was just part of our lives." 
Not many couples compete against each 
other facing mortal danger.

   After our conversation, 
I walked away even more impressed with Jared. 
Considering the harsh training schedule, 
hectic lifestyle & the glamour of race day.
Jared is humble and grateful to have the opportunity 
to be a paid professional motorcycle racer.
Being Champ is just the icing on the cake.






Sent from my iPhone 

Friday, August 17, 2018

38 BRAVO ( Flat Track & Being Army with Austin Luczak )

Photos from Luczak/Malys

He holds it all inside,
but he just wants to explode.
It came down to the last race.
The worst part is the waiting.
All the noise in his head stops when the flag drops. 
The first few laps are hectic but he settles into second
knowing he must finish third or 
better to clinch the championship.
Austin Luczak has been trained to follow orders, 
he rode smart and brought her home in second
to achieve his goal-mission accomplished. 
The local championship was especially sweet after 
Austin finished second the two years prior. 




Many people feel the noble obligation to serve our country.
But Austin Luczak is not your typical soldier 
in the United States Army.
When he is not being a 38 Bravo, 
he is doing his day job of being a 
mason's apprentice or off racing flat track.
While drill keeps him fit, 
he does not get all the seat time the other racers do.  
Austin admits that he has to work twice as
hard to keep the same speed. 
Luczak dreams of being able to focus all his
energies on racing, but he needs to fulfill his 
obligations to the Army and earn a living.
The Albany, New York resident laughs that 'the upside to being 
an Army Reservist is that insurance is only $50.00 a month'.
Flat track racing is an unforgiving sport.
Medical bills from mistakes or being at the 
wrong place at the wrong time can be monstrous.
That's the upside of being of service to America.
Who knew you could be racing flat track and be in the Army?



I caught up with the likable young man at an 
American Flat Track race at Lima, Ohio.
I tried not to take up too much of his time,
being aware that he's got racing to do.
I learn his role in the Army fits his personality well.
A 38 Bravo is Civil Affairs Specialist, 
he is the face of the United States Army 
many will deal with, in a time of need.
The friendly and humble young man will do a fine job. 

(note: for sponsor opportunities please see 
Adam Malys at talusenergy@gmail.com )