Saturday, July 20, 2019

ON SAFETY

PURSUING SAFETY IN NEW HAMPSHIRE


That's not a ‘flat’ track!
Riders didn’t enjoy the bumpy 

New Hampshire circuit.
In the Main,

Dalton Winkler got slammed to the
ground coming out of turn two.
He got up after the red flag,
shook it off and made the restart.
You could see by his aggressiveness after, 

that hitting the ground didn't faze him.
Being tougher than a two dollar steak is 
part of our flat track racer DNA.
Unfortunately, he got spit off coming out of two again, 

this time he wasn't so lucky. Winkler
tried to stand up but fell back to
his knees and rolled onto his back. 
You could tell he was hurting bad.
The ambulance headed out onto the
track to scoop up the injured racer.
But before he could be loaded onto the stretcher,
 another official took charge over 
the ambulance crew. I watched him
thoroughly check out the rider. I could
not tell if he was a doctor or not.
Had AFT stepped up with better medical personnel on site?

Dalton Winkler

I asked Michael Lock after the race.
Turns out AFT had a motorsports EMT at this event.
Michael told me they want to have a 
trauma doctor at all events next year.
Lock smiled when I mentioned that 
'word around the pits was air suits are 
going to be mandatory soon.'
I personally was impressed when AFT 
announced at the end-of-season banquet last year, 
a program, open to ALL racers, 
to buy top-shelf Dainese leathers at 
an extremely discounted price.
This move showed that they cared 
and were concerned too.
Michael Lock stated 
'American Flat Track 
is aggressively pursuing rider safety.'
He mentioned how AFT had
increased air fences and hay bales.
Also, he spoke of how AFT studied all the 
crashes over the year and have determined 
a stricter licensing system is needed.
That AFT must protect the racers 
if the 
show is to go on. I walked away from our 
conversation feeling very positive about 
the coming seasons.


Via Facebook Dalton Winkler confirmed 
he ‘shattered his collarbone, broke three ribs, 
fractured his neck, partially collapsed a lung 
and the lung ripped off his rib cage’ . 
I can’t help wonder what his injuries would 
be like if he had an air suit on during this crash?



   **Photos by MRSJJFIVE**

THRU MY EYES :

IF THEY ONLY KNEW



The dark side of our sport flies under
the radar of mainstream media.
What would they say if they knew how

many racers have been killed or paralyzed 
in the last few years.  I can’t name a 
more unforgiving sport than ours.



After a miserable night racing 
hooligan class at Timonium,
I knew the Buell would never be competitive.
It's no fun getting in the way of others.
With a busy work life,
there is no time to learn to get 
comfortable on my 450 either.


They said it might be best to sell
my bikes and focus on writing.
Felt empty when I cut them loose.
By springtime, I couldn’t take the 
mind-numbing grind of daily life.
The need to feel alive crept back.
I knew the 1/2 mile at Gratz was soon.
I had to find a ride.




I'm lucky Trevor Monn knows the feeling.
Trevor is one of the good guys of the sport
who tries to help and promote flat
track. (www.trevormonnracing.com)
He loaned me his short tracker 
hooligan bike for Gratz. There is always
some rust when you haven't raced in awhile.
Add to that the awkwardness of racing 
someone else's bike. Wouldn't want to end 
a friendship over a wadded up machine.
I was just two-wheeling it most of the day.
When the flagman held up the two pins,
I knew this dance was coming to an end,
figured it was now or never.
Banging her off the rev limiter 
at the end of the back straight,
I backed into 3, but started 
running out of steering lock by 4.
For those few brief seconds, 
everything is perfect. 
There is nothing like the magic of 
sliding on pea gravel. So alien after riding
your street bike and keeping your wheels
inline. The metal guard rail looms.
I change my focus point and
look down the straight at the flagman.
Tucked in tight, taking the white flag,
I realize the weight of the work week
and the day has caught me.
Knowing that if I reach for more,
could end my day in the ambulance.

I take it steady on the last lap.
Remembering to thank Him on the cool-off lap.
Racing makes me grateful.


It's all high fives and fist bumps back in the pits.
Olive hugs me and says let's get ice cream.
There is no place I'd rather be.
These times with friends and family 
are the ones I'll keep.

ALL PHOTOS BY STEVE  KOLETAR.

Sunday, July 14, 2019

FLAT TRACK : DETERMINATION

RACING FLAT TRACK : DETERMINATION


What's it take to give a good interview?
Bravery I replied.  
The young racer who asked 
the question seemed confused.  
Let me explain,
'You can take just as much of beating 
entering turn one too fast as you can 
saying the wrong thing to the press.'
Not every racer wants to risk it. 
Some have too much on their plate as it is.
Or maybe they're scared about 
what people might think.
I dunno...
My job is to capture the story 
that go with the pictures.
You know, like in that    
Jamey Johnson song 'In Color'. 
No one is going to know what it's like 
unless we capture those words. 
Just like in the wild west.   
Those stories would be just dust in the wind if 
people like me don't write them down.
The kid says 'you seem to favor Henry Wiles a lot'.
Well, he brave and he knows he can trust me.
He ain't afraid either.






Nothing like fumbling in the dark for your buzzing cell phone.
I knocked over half the stuff on my nightstand trying to grab it.
'Sorry to call ya back so late Michael.'
There was a rhythmic, metal clanking noise in the background.
His breathing was very controlled.
He exhaled after he answered each of my questions.
Where are you calling from me?
Henry Wiles squeezed out,
I'm at the gym.
Daytona is only a few months away.
You know working all day
is no excuse in my book.
Ya gotta want it to get it.
I know my dream requires sacrifice.









Another glimpse behind the curtain came
in the press room at Daytona post race.
There is a lot of media attention
from around the world under the
bright lights of the Speedway. A variety
of journalists were in the press room to
question the three riders who finished on the podium.
Some of these mainstream writers were obviously
looking to add to that wild biker image.
After all, Daytona is known for its night life.
So one asked Wiles, since the race was over, was he
heading downtown to blow off some steam in the
Main Street bars?
Henry paused,
'Well...I was thinking about getting some fried food.
I haven't had any for the last 6 months'.
The journalist looked stunned and confused.
Us flat trackers looked down at
our notepads and smirked.
That was classic Henry.


Photos by Lawless & AFT


Henry later laughed telling me 
'we might be racers but really we're entertainers.'
That 'It's not easy or everybody would do it.'
How you got be dedicated and keep motivated.
Half-assing it won't cut it.
You gotta be fit and be ready.
Look at some of the new guys in the class-do they look in shape?  
That's why they get hurt.
They get tired and make mistakes.
They are reaching for something that's not there.
Ya gotta give it your all or just go home.
So this is what it takes to be a front runner in the championship.
I walked away inspired to push myself harder.







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Saturday, June 8, 2019

WHEN YOUR DREAM CHANGES #WERENERSTRONG


Atlanta had been cruel to Jeremy in 2018, 
during an ugly crash at the start of his race, his
head was run over by another competitor. He
said his Arai helmet saved him that day for sure.
Beaten and battered, he made his way thru
the season, making the races he could afford.
Jeremy was another journeyman flat track racer
chasing the dream, to step up to the  
twins, and be a paid, professional racer.
Who wouldn't want to leave their day job behind?


 He couldn't swing Daytona for 2019, so the 
next round at Atlanta would be his first 
American Flat Track race of the season. 
He had no hard feelings toward Atlanta 
from last year, just the excitement 
that comes with going racing.



He was chasing settings and focusing on 
making the main. The rider in front of him 
pitched it away coming out of two. He tried
to go round the outside, but got closed off.
Nowhere to go, he got catapulted over the wall.
Seeing the cut-down telephone pole coming 
up fast, he tried to change directions 
in mid-flight with no luck.
  His helmet slammed off the pole, 
flicking him around like a rag doll.
Still fully conscious, he saw the sky 
and earth flash by repeatedly, a common sight 
to many a crashing rider.  Jeremy said his
helmet hitting the pole was the loudest 
cracking noise he ever heard.
He said 'I just knew, just knew I was 
paralyzed when my helmet hit
that pole.' Jeremy believes wearing 
an Arai  helmet saved his life a second time.


He could barely breathe when he came to a
halt, lying on the race track. His fears were
realized when he tried to move but couldn't.
'Please God, don't let me be paralyzed.'
  Jeremy was taken by ambulance
to a hospital on March 23rd,
where his injuries were confirmed
and where he stayed until April 8th,
when he was flown to Craig
Hospital in Colorado for
rehabilitation with a tentative
release date of mid-July.
The cost of treatment is ferocious.


For a lot of us racers, death is not
the worst thing that can happen.
One second you think 'I got it'  
and the next it's lights out.
No, the pain is left behind
for those who loved us.
   To go on living is the hardest
challenge a racer can face.
It's a long, hard road to recover 
from an injury like this.
It takes strength on many levels to do it.
And just like in racing, it takes a team.
From the glue that hold them together, his
sister Heather with the rest of his family, to
the 'AMA Rookie Class of 79' for support,
our flat track family & friends.
I gotta tip my hat to the volunteer
fire department that Jeremy
belongs to, these guys have been mowing
his grass since he has been laid up.
Sometimes things like this 
bring out the best in people.


During our interview Jeremy told 
me that his dad used to race and that's
how he and his brother Brandon got started. 
Both brothers did well in flat track racing.
Sadly, Brandon suffered a severe brain 
injury in a car crash in December of 2018.
Hard to believe both brothers could suffer
life-changing injuries just months apart.
Now both brothers can encourage 
the other toward recovery.


Jeremy is attacking his rehabilitation
with the same intensity of racing. He
knows God put him here for a reason.
He tells me how Brad Baker called and
gave words of encouragement,
how they spoke about how their
lives have changed and what they face.
As a matter of fact, this interview happened

because of Brad and Charlie Roberts. 
Trying to focus on the good,
I asked Jeremy to tell me about
his favorite memories in flat track. He
said 'racing with my brother was always great.
I loved to race handlebar to handlebar with
some of friends like Dalton and Dylan Bell.
Ya know it was a real honor to have lined
up with Brad Baker and Chris Carr too.'
Jeremy laughs when I tell him
that they’re a lot of people who
only dream of doing stuff like that.


If you're up on Facebook, stop by and
say hello Jeremy and Brandon.
Also keep in mind the
'AMA Rookie Class on 79' is taking
donations to help Jeremy and his family.