Saturday, January 11, 2020

The Greatest Show On Dirt! (from my work in The Vintgent)

Do you ever feel dead inside?
Droning thru the workaday can feel like a waste of what could be.
Trolling down back roads and blue highways isn’t enough.
Can’t sit in the grandstands any longer.
Having gone over the limit, there’s no going back.
I miss my  Super Hooligan days.
Super Hooligan racing is tight! [Justin George]
There is nothing like grabbing a snarling V-twin by the tail.
The big street bike turned Super Hooligan racer dances all over the dirt, way out of control, And I’m riding on reflexes.
Nothing like slapping the bull to remind you that you’re alive.
Wrestling the beast on a short track is like doing aerial acrobatics with a Boeing 747.
All that weight takes a deft touch, because if she gets away from you, she ain’t coming back.
It’s about as much fun as you can have with your helmet on.
Sideshow races include atypical vehicles and riders, and often kids with e-bikes! [Justin George]
Roland Sands lit the fuse with his bunch of merry pranksters
And it turned into a phenomenon.
Super Hooligan events are pure mayhem.
Billed as ‘The Greatest Show on Dirt’.
Super Hooligan Racing is a national series where flat track meets rock & roll.
Always outrageous and out of control – you won’t forget your good time.
And you never know who you’ll see racing, or playing onstage.
You owe yourself: check it out if you haven’t.
Professionals mix with anything goes. [Mr. Pixelhead]
Hooligan racing is a garage sport.
One must buy a bike to build a racer.
More than marketing, it takes dedication.
Enjoy the free-spirited vibe hanging out in the hooligan pits.
You’ll feel like the badass you’ve always wanted to be when you pull onto the track.
These are the high water mark days.
Wrenching, road trips & racing, it’s all good.
Hooligan is carefree.
Hooligan series founder Roland Sands has a heart-to-heart with a racer. [Bad Beard]
Whenever I’ve raced Hooligan, I walk away thinking ‘that was Epic!’
Race promoters have noticed too.
They’ll tell you it’s helped bring in a ton of new, younger blood to the sport.
Even local flat track events have a Hooligan class now.
It’s a good way to try flat track racing on the cheap.
It’s a packed field sometimes, and a short track, but it makes for fun racing. [Justin George]
For me, the true spirit of Hooligan is racing your daily rider.
They’re air-cooled 750cc or bigger, dual shock, stock-framed street bikes.
Heck, I rode mine to and from work, number plates and all.
Just bolted on the front brake lever and lights to go home,
Didn’t bother to replace the instrument cluster.
That bike and I went through so much together.
It’s more about the experience than winning.
In fact, if you brag about your win, you can pick up the bar tab….for everybody.
Hope to seeya out there.
The sideshow electric minibike racing is fun too. [Cycle Dump]
It’s not as much fun to watch the circus once you have been in the circus…and Roland Sands IS the circus. [Mister Pixelhead]



Saturday, January 4, 2020

Will The Rain Never Stop (from The Vintagent)


    There are faces I won’t see in the pits anymore.
Some are gone forever.
I don’t think about the wreck that took them,
but about the wreckage left behind.
Would they want me to stop?

Cory Texler, #65. [Jodi Johnson]
Olive keeps hounding me.
Daddy, you keep breaking bones.
Why won’t you stop?
My ex coyly asks if she’s still on my life insurance plan.
I appreciate her humor.
Death is easy,
but being paralyzed or badly broken is not.
All I know is, I walk taller after a race.

Cali Kid, #49. [Jodi Johnson]
Racing is always somewhere in my mind.
It’s my feel-good time.
The reward for getting my work done.
When I’m racing, all I can focus on, is what’s going on,
The pain of life is washed away with speed.

Briar Bauman, #14. [Jodi Johnson]
There’s no relief at the day job.
Why you need Saturday off?
We need you on the floor.
If you get hurt don’t come back.
They’re not smiling.

Jake, #5. [Jodi Johnson]
I try to find it on the track,
but there’s too much rain in my head.
They show me they mean business
by being heavy and not showing.
I don’t want them to see
if it goes wrong anyway.
I’m not blind, but it’s what I am.
Sitting in the stands doesn’t work for me.
I live for the green flag.
Peace comes when I drop the clutch.

Brandon Robinson, #44. [Jodi Johnson]
I can’t get the ‘if you fall and get hurt’ vibe out of my head.
It’s just a fast street ride now.
It’s cold and lonely running second.
No traffic to heat it up.
Cold and uncompetitive is humbling.

Shawn Baer, #2. [Jodi Johnson]
I reflect in my black coffee.
I talk to him but he doesn’t answer.
The line between feels good
and what’s right is blurred.
Walking the line brings clarity.
Those are the times I carry with me.
The others were forgettable….

Thank you to Jodi Johnson for the use of her amazing photography.

Thursday, January 2, 2020

DON"T HOLD BACK! With James Rispoli in The Vintagent

You’re not only living like a rock star, you’re sponsored by one.
Trendy people want selfies with you.
An army of well-wishers and autograph hounds waits outside your pit box.
Luscious umbrella girls cling to you race day.
Your British road races are televised in sports bars and pubs.
Can anyone stop you?
James Rispoli with the late Keith Flint, lead singer of the band Prodigy, who sponsored British Superbike teams [Roadracing World]
Suddenly the music is over.
You gave it your all, every race, every lap.
The Brits loved your brash American persona and flashy riding.
Podiums and popularity weren’t enough.
Promises made in the dark hung you.
Too late to grab another seat.
You found yourself back in America, reflecting.
“Zero funding puts you in true mode.”
Reality became a beater van and a ‘leased to own’ 450 single.
You bet on yourself knowing the play is different when your chips are on the table.
It’s back to where it all began.
Still chasing and racing, all for passion.
James Rispoli in the British Superbike series. [Roadracing World]
James Rispoli was groomed for racing.
His father had him on the flat track by age 6,
Winning pro level road races at 16.
The first of two back to back AMA Pro SuperSport National Championships by 20.
Along the climb came two Bonneville speed records and a Wildcard ride in Moto2.
Somewhere under the rainbow…Rispoli celebrating a podium position at Meadowlands. [Steve Koletar]
At 23, James headed off to the British Superbike Championship, sponsored by ‘The Prodigy.’
Solid results followed despite tough local racers, living in a new country, learning new tracks.
The politics of racing can be cruel, and lack of a ride doesn’t mean lack of talent, just opportunity.
Do you need an American champion if the US market has collapsed?
James Rispoli taking air at Daytona on the ‘rent to own’ 450 single. [Steve Koletar]
Not one to give up, James headed back to America, to surf the rising tide of flat track.
The gamble was racing a Harley in the American Flat Track production class.
The bike had been there, but under you, she was up front.
Your professionalism shone through.
Working with the engineers to get the most from your electronics,
Adjusting your riding style to get the maximum from the machine.
Your off-track antics won hearts and minds.
No one could deny your fire.
Charisma at a standstill: a magic ingredient that cant be learned, only earned, or born with. [Steve Koletar]
What is it with the name James?
Bond, Hunt…Rispoli?
His charisma is immense.
Fans lost their minds when he beat his teammate by inches to put a Harley on the podium at Black Hills Half Mile during the Sturgis Rally.
He’s not a well-behaved rider who rattles off every last sponsor name.
No sir, James ran off the podium and into the crowd spraying champagne, celebrating the moment among the Harley faithful.
The season finale at ‘The Meadowlands Mile’ was even crazier.
Rispoli played it safe in qualifying due to the sketchy track conditions.
His team worried over his back-row results.
‘No worries, I’ll be up front soon,’ James smiled.
His back-row charge was electrifying, battling to the front in the opening laps brought the fans to their feet.
A solid third place finish.
What did he say? Winning hearts and minds with a few choice words. [Steve Koletar]
On the podium, his colorful comments shocked the female commentator,
But were met with thunderous applause.
There is more to being a professional racer than winning.
You must have the skills to win, but personality wins fans.
Don’t hold back. [Steve Koletar]
The fast laps are the best part.
Dreams come true when you spray champagne from the podium.
The mornings after seem empty.
It’s hard to go back to basic after being epic.
You’re forever chasing the glow of those moments.
Dealing with middle managers – the frustration and heartbreak.
Its a hard game emotionally with endless financial struggles.
We race for love, but we all gotta eat.
You know, those who can, do, those who can’t, manage or write about it.
James Rispoli telling it like it is. [Jodi Johnson]
James’ advice?
Be honest, be yourself, and don’t hold back.


Michael Lawless [@electric_horseman], our ‘Poet of Packed Earth’, is the Flat Track Editor for TheVintagent.com, and has his own blog: Electric Horseman

Sunday, December 8, 2019

THE TEMPTATION (As seen on THE VINTAGENT)

Sometimes you just can’t say no.
“You want to take her out in last practice?”
More than life itself.
Friend and fellow racer Dave Evans is my enabler.
He knows there is nothing worse than being at a racetrack without a ride.
I have not been on a 450 in over a year.

“She’s a motocrosser turned flat tracker. An animal of questionable breeding.” [Steve Koletar]
She’s a motocrosser turned flat tracker.
An animal of questionable breeding, and an unforgiving high-strung bitch.
You don’t grab a fist full of anything or she’ll slam your ass to the ground.
The slightest input changes her attitude.
Sixty horsepower and two hundred twenty pounds dry.
You’re either in attack mode or off the throttle.
Its an alien experience after riding a 550-pound street bike.
Believe it or not, a 450 single is way harder to ride than a big twin.
I sold mine because I knew she’d send me to Orthopedic again.
Running my local short tracks isn’t fun unless you can steer with the rear.
For me, the hardest part is changing direction abruptly.
What’s a short track?
A very small, unforgiving oval track lined with walls to catch your mistakes.
A bullring, and no place for fools.
On a loose short track, a 450 wants to go anywhere but forward.
Luckily for me, the track in New Egypt, New Jersey is a 5/8 mile oval billed as ‘The Fastest Dirt Track in the East’.
Its about as beautiful as a big dirt oval gets.

“It’s pure madness going fast on a bike I barely know, but so intoxicating.” [Steve Koletar]
I find it much easier to go fast on the big tracks.
The corners are sweeping and you can get away with ‘two-wheeling’ her around. Plenty of room to gather her up if you swing wide before hitting something solid.
Oh the temptation.  I can’t say no.
There’s a window of opportunity as the track is prepped, when they water and grade the surface.
Oh the madness.
I jog back to the truck, get into my leathers and boots, grab my helmet and steel shoe, and jog back to the pits on the other side of the track.
I’m slightly out of breath but high on the promise.
Panic sets in as they announce ‘Last Call!’
Dave kicks her to life and hands her over.
I am NOT signed up to race.
This is a big ‘No-No’ on many levels.
Still I hear her calling my name.
I don’t belong in the Open Expert class either.
It’s no country for old men.

Dave Evans and Nick Henderson. [Michael Lawless]
Nick Henderson is already there in staging.
Handsome and way fast, he is an amateur in name only, packing pro-level skills.
He is the nicest cold-blooded killer you’ll ever meet.
If that wasn’t enough, Dan Bromley pulls up on the Indian FTR750 that he will be racing in Super Twins next year!
Yes, the Bromley who won the 2018 American Flat Track Singles Championship.
Only three of us heading out for this last, quick session.
Oddly, I feel completely at peace with myself.
I know I’m on the path that God chose for me.
Its a Nietzche moment*.

“I know I’m on the right track.” [Steve Koletar]
The track marshal looks at me dubiously while waving us forward.
We all drop the hammer.
Second gear, the front wheel come off the ground under glorious acceleration.
They’re gone by the time I hit the back straight.
I enter three easy with my eye on getting good drive thru 4 and onto the front straight.
The track is D-shaped, so the front straight is really a long sweeping left, it heads gently uphill out of turn four and slowly arches down into turn one.
On this ‘dry-slick’ track you gotta be on the meat of the tire.
She squirts forward under hard acceleration out of four, emitting the hard mechanical sound of power.
You feel it as your neck muscles flex.
Your body coils like a spring as you keep her pointed, while drifting slightly sideways up toward the ugly metal guard rails that line the outside of the front straight, and diving back into turn one.

[Steve Koletar]
It’s pure madness going fast on a bike I barely know, but so intoxicating.
Out of turn two and onto the back straight.
The rush of acceleration while dancing on the edge of traction is euphoric.
Loud and heavy like the line between joy and pain.
I’m walking the line.
I forget everything else in life when I’m going fast.
It’s better than any drug I’ve ever had.
For me, racing is like dancing.
Its about hitting your marks time after time.
Sometimes I feel like I’m watching someone else go through the motions.
Brake here, accelerator there, the laps blur by.
She might be out of my league but we had fun.
I didn’t end up face-down on the track, and somehow I didn’t get lapped.
Like a hot mess, I blow the exit getting off the track, and execute a perfect 270 degree U-turn.
It’s all high fives back in Dave’s pit.
For the rest of the night, I’m walking on air.
I got away with a taste, without taking it too far.

*”The true man wants two things: danger and play.”  Friedrich Nietzsche

Thursday, November 14, 2019

What The Racer Fears (from The Vintagent)

It’s every professional racers’ worst nightmare.
You finally sit down in your narrow seat for a six-hour flight to tomorrow’s race.
It’s the usual pandemonium as the passengers elbow their way on board.
Flying brings out the worst in people.
You look up the aisle to see a reporter who’s been hounding you for an interview.

East Rutherford, NJ – October 6, 2018 – American Flat Track At Meadowlands Racing and Entertainment [Brandon Robinson]
He spots you before you can fake sleep or look away.
‘Hey, it’s Brandon Robinson!
This is perfect, we can talk on the flight.’
You consider hiding in the rest room, wondering ‘is there no justice?’
Is it not bad enough we’re treated like cattle going through the airport,
taking off my belt and boots for what?
After struggling through the work day, rushing through traffic,
dealing with pushy people and endless lines and now this?’
Realizing you’re trapped, you give in.
‘Where you coming from?’
Um…work.
‘Oh, I though you were a full-time professional racer.
So what’s your day job?’
You slowly exhale.

Springfield, Illinois – September 1-2, 2018 – American Flat Track at Illinois State Fairgrounds [Brandon Robinson]
Like most of us in and around flat track racing, Brandon has a dual life.
He works weekdays to live the dream on weekends.
Not many earn enough to race only.
His day job is assistant physical therapist.
You deal with motorcycle accident injuries too – do you tell them you’re a racer?
‘Not really, like if someone asked what I did over the weekend l would say I was riding with friends, but that about it.’
‘Speaking of motorcycle injures, tell me about the wreck you had in 2009.’
The look on his face told me he was surprised I knew.

Pointed here, sliding there – the essence of flat-track style. [Brandon Robinson]
When we head to a race track there’s the promise of becoming a day we won’t forget.
More so when it’s somewhere mythical like the ‘Indy Mile’.
Stepping onto the track surface is walking on hallowed ground.
Robinson tells me everything was going well until the rider in front of him crashed at the end of the front straight.
Brandon collided with the bike on the ground, got out of shape, hit and bounced off the air fence,
his body slammed into a telephone pole then ricocheted over the top of the track fence.
His twisted body crashed to earth on a lonely access road outside the track.
A witness said she thought she watched him die that day.

Fort Worth, TX – April 28, 2018 – American Flat Track at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, TX. [Scott Hunter/American Flat Track]
The road to recovery was long.
Doing even the simplest things took help from others.
Brandon was riding within months but admits ‘it took two years to get back to where I was’.
Since then, I’ve watched Robinson almost win the ‘Sacramento Mile’ on an overweight Triumph
and even beat the mighty Bryan Smith at the ‘Springfield Mile’.
His hard work was rewarded with an offer to ride for Harley Davidson.
It’s every flat track kid’s dream.
But the factory was struggling those years, developing a new machine.
The frustration.
The non-racing ‘experts’ started questioning – had he passed his sell-by date?

SEPTEMBER 03, 2017 – American Flat Track at the Illinois State Fairgrounds in Springfield, IL. [AFT]
Redemption came when he switched to a privateer team, and won two races in 2019.
The life of a racer is ever-changing and never-perfect.
After the glow of victory, crashes and injuries followed.
Then darkness came as the privateer team folded.
Brandon favors loyalty and is not one to burn bridges.
Harley-Davidson asked him back for the final two rounds.
As the dust settles on this season, he looks forward to rising over the beatings he took this year.
The promise of next season is on the horizon.
For Brandon, the ROI of racing is happiness.