Defending Lucas Oil Indy Mile Champion to Ride Indy-Designed High-Tech Motorcycle at 2012 Race
NEWS August 14, 2012
Photo by Dave Hoenig
On behalf of Family Events - Promoter of the 2012 Indy Mile:
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (April 14, 2012) - Ricky Howerton does very well at his day job working for the very successful family business called Howerton Motorsports located on Gasoline Alley in Indianapolis. The company builds exhaust systems, primarily for Indy Cars, but also for everything on racing on four wheels from NASCAR, to NHRA, to Formula 1. But Ricky loves machines that are on two wheels and go fast on dirt. He got the bug as a kid watching Honda Factory team riders like Bubba Shobert and Ricky Graham burn up flat tracks like the legendary Indy Mile. So, in his “spare” time, he decided to design a dream bike that would dominate the dirt miles…and build it from the ground up.
Bryan Smith broke through years of Harley-Davidson domination to win the last edition of The Lucas Oil Indy Mile AMA Pro Flat Track Grand National in 2010 on a Kawasaki-powered bike tuned by the legendary Bill Werner. When the race returns after to the Indiana State Fairgrounds in Indianapolis, Indiana on Saturday, August 18, 2012, Bryan will attempt to defend his title again on a bike with Kawasaki power, but this time on the radically designed bike hand-built by Ricky Howerton and tuned by successful veteran mechanic Skip Eaken.
Howerton says, “Basically, I wanted to build a street bike that was a worthy dirt track bike. I had stayed in contact with Skip Eaken a bit over the past 30 years since I was a teenager. He asked me what engine I wanted to put in it; and I liked the Kawasaki parallel twin a lot. It’s a really nice engine. It’s real compact. Being a parallel twin, the package is really nice. It lends itself to a lot of freedom in your design work in the rear suspension. At that time he was really interested in that engine as well. He knew that Bryan had won two races with Bill Werner on the Springfield and Indy Mile. He asked if I was interested in building another motorcycle. At the time I was going to build just one. Originally, I thought no; why would I want to do that. I was in the design phase at that time, doing all the computer modeling. The more I talked to Skip, and then my dad convinced me to go ahead and build a second one and let Skip race it.
Bryan Smith went to Howerton and expressed an interest in running the bike on the mile tracks this year. Ricky says; “That was a big deal to have a kid like that want to run for pretty much a no-name like myself in that series at that level. I got my other bike back from Skip, and put a couple more engines together and then really fined tuned those things—really massaged them and got them ready to run on the track. We took something you could run on the street and got them to where you could change parts on them quicker on the race track and have spares, etc. That all happened in February of this year, before the dealer show. I call them the number 1 and number 2 bikes, but they are so similar, but I had to use decals so we can identify them. The number 2 bike is actually the street bike I rode around on for two weeks before this deal happened. The 1 bike actually has a VIN number, so I guess you could actually ride it to the Indy Mile. If you know what nice is; well then it’s pretty obvious that it’s really nice. It’s more like a two-wheeled Indy Car.”
And the bike has been fast—very fast. In Bryan’s first outing at the Springfield Mile, he had a great showing and was a threat to win. At Sacramento, Bryan had a dominating day, winning on just his second go-round on the new bike. Howerton says that the team has big ambitions going into Indy. He notes that the shape of the tracks at Indy and Sacramento are similar. But what gives the team the biggest edge? Howerton says, “First and foremost it’s the guy sitting on the seat. That’s one of the reasons I’ve always liked motorcycle racing. I make my living in car forms of racing. Obviously, there’s more money in that. But it’s the human element in motorcycle racing at whatever level whether it’s Moto GP or Motocross that’s the most important thing. Other than that, I think Kawasaki on the engine side of it shows huge potential. That thing makes great power. I’d have to say that the engine on that thing on the miles is just a horse. But the rear tires on the motorcycles across the board are like a restrictor plate. There are a lot of engines out there that make a lot of power. The KTM—that big engine makes a lot of power. The Wood Brothers Ducati makes great power. I think building your power profile and getting the power to the ground is the biggest thing. That’s where Skip Eaken, with his history of building Harley engines for decades and him being a part of the Honda factory team…he just has so much knowledge of what to do and what not to do. He’s not a guy who’s a dyno racer who looks for the most peak power. He knows that on dirt tracks it’s hard to get enough grip. He just does a great job with the engines.”
The #42 team will be sponsored by Crosley Radio of Louisville, KY. Bo LeMastus is the CEO and owner of the company. LeMastus says, “We do everything from turntables, jukeboxes, various radios, to telephones. Everything looks like it came from back in the day; be it the ‘30’s, 40’s, 50’s etc. But, obviously everything is state of the art. I was a competitive motorcycle racer as an amateur. That’s how I met Ricky. I’ve been involved in motorcycle racing since the late ‘70’s. It was a natural marriage when Ricky got involved in flat track that Crosley would be a perfect sponsor. Flat track racing is so grassroots. To me it takes you back to the ‘30’s and ‘40’s and that was the earliest form of bike racing, really. It felt like a nice natural tie-in for us. For the coming Indy Mile, from our company here, we will probably bring up a good 50 to 75 of our teammates and their families. So it’s been a neat connection for us to really get our staff involved. I love anything with two wheels. And to be able to partner up and do something with Rick Howerton was just a dream. He is so talented.”
After seeing the huge reaction to the new bike in person at Sacramento, LeMastus is excited about seeing what Bryan can accomplish. He says, “It’s going to be a big night. That’s for sure.”
Why would Ricky Howerton build his labor of love? He says, “I think to tie in what I’ve learned throughout my life and to go to the track and to kind of re-live what I used to watch through Bubba and Ricky back in the day… I’ve got about 3,000 hours now in building the two motorcycles to really get them ready for Springfield this year, and other than a few times when I’ve gotten tired from working 18 hour days or something; it’s been fun the whole time. I think that’s important for me because it’s nothing we’re making money on. It’s a big personal deal, and I’ve had fun the whole time I’ve been doing it.”
The Lucas Oil Indy Mile returns as a featured event of the Indiana State Fair, and again coincides with the Red Bull Indianapolis GP weekend. Activities will be begin with gates opening at 2:00pm, timed-qualifying from 3:00pm-5:00pm, opening ceremonies 7:00pm with the first race at 7:30pm.
Tickets on sale now
Advance tickets available at The Indiana State Fairgrounds Box Office, any Ticketmaster location, www.ticketmaster.com, or by calling 1-800-745-3000. For additional ticket information and web links, please visit www.IndyMile.com. Advance tickets include admission to the Indiana State Fair and race ticket.