Peoria Grand National Race Report
NEWS August 13, 2013
Photo by Dave Hoenig
Courtesy of Fight for Dirt Track's Tyler Porter:
August 13, 2013 - Well, I promised a few people that this would be out on Monday, but man, the catch up from the Sturgis rally and then the Peoria Grand National weekend has me busier than expected. I'm still not sure why somebody didn't tell me that my new job with Memphis Shades was going to be a lot of work! The best part is, so many racers think it's just life on easy street. I know most of the industry friends getting this email understand EXACTLY where I'm coming from.
First of all, my Peoria weekend wouldn't have been possible without Allen Mueller and Steve Freeman. My boss Allen said it would be OK to leave the Sturgis rally a day and a half early and then Steve soldiered on through the rally a man down and then did the tear down alone just so I could hop a plane to Peoria and play on a few dirt scooters. Working with a crew like that is really great! The rally was a busy one, as usual, and we broke our one day installation record by doing 54 installations in 1 day. I was pretty proud of that! That is averaging an install every 11 minutes for the hours that we worked.
On to the racing stuff! I landed at midnight in Peoria and did my best to get a little sleep. Saturday was one of my favorite races of the year at the Galesburg Motorcycle Club. They have one of the best short tracks in the world, and their night before the TT race means big money and big crowds. I was happy to finally be alone for the first time in nearly 3 weeks. I had the country tunes cranked in the race van and was trying my best to wear out my vocal chords on the way to the track. On the way there, I really couldn't remember a time where I was more excited to be heading to a race. I was supposed to be getting my Kawasaki back from yet another rebuild, and was anxious to see it. I took a lot of pride and time building that bike and it seems that I have had a lot of trouble with it, so I am always on somebody else's equipment. My excitement was short lived, when I got a phone call from my motor builder about 10 minutes from the track and he claimed that he didn't know I was racing that night. So, here I am on top of the world only to be slammed in a grave with a short phone call. I went on to the race track and thanks to my long time friend Rick Kent, I had a bike to ride. Rick was racing the bike in the VET class, and I promised that I wouldn't make any changes to the bike. We struggled with fuel mapping all night long, and Galesburg is the kind of place where you have to have VERY crisp response off the bottom. There was also a MAXXIS front tire on the bike, which I had never ridden with before, and well, I just couldn't get comfortable on the bike. Last year there I got 2 holeshots and punched my ticket to the main where I did pretty well, and this year, I got bad starts and though I was riding OK by the end of the night and being aggressive, I never got to that comfortable feeling. On the drive back to my friend's house where I was staying, I just kind of gave up on things. It seems like the more I try, the more things go wrong. I can lose weight, get in shape, eat right, spend money on go-fast parts, try to ride every chance I get, try to build the best news site in our sport, try to help other racers out where I can, and still, I can't catch too much of a break. It was a lonely van ride home and I can promise you I wasn't screaming my favorite songs at the top of my lungs. I think I even turned the radio off. It's really tough being in my position in the sport sometimes. I want to focus on my program, but then my program revolves around being a part of everybody's program in our sport to put the news out there. When I pulled into the drive, I just let out a sigh and told myself that tomorrow would be another day and to put the disappointment behind me.
When you race Galesburg on Saturday night, the alarm always goes off too early on Sunday morning to make it to the TT. I got ready and headed out for the best race on our schedule, stopping at McDonald's along the way to get some breakfast just ahead of Jake Johnson in line at the drive thru. Oh yeah, giving up on the eating healthy right off the bat! I was still worried about my bike, so I made a phone call to Dave Zanotti who had mentioned the night before that I could ride his back up bike if I wanted to at the TT. Dave said I was more than welcome to it and though I knew I had a lot of work to do to get it ready for tech inspection, the chance to ride one of his machines at my favorite track had my pulse racing all over again. Peoria is tough for a racer and crew because the pits are tiny and we have to unload all of our stuff and then park our vehicles outside of the track. I got my pit stall set up and Dave's team rolled my bike for the day over, which had carried their new team rider Stevie Bonsey to the win the night before at the Galesburg short track. All it needed was a front and rear wheel change, gearing change, footpeg rubber installation and a safety wire job and it was ready for tech. I was able to get through tech about 10 minutes before it closed. I could FINALLY relax a little bit and get ready for practice.
At the All-Star race, they cut the famous jump way down, and I think it was because there were amateurs on the track. However, hitting the jump the first time in practice, I could tell that not only had they built it back up just a little bit, but it had a very weird kicker in it. All day long crashes over the jump were a common thing, taking out people regardless of skill level. In qualifying 1 I hit it one lap and honestly, I deserved to head to the hospital. I hit it straight, felt like I went straight up in the air, landed in the grass near the spectators, crossed the track in the right hander and headed towards the creek, then bounced back on the turn in turn 4. When I looked up, the photographers on the outside of turn 4 had their jaws on the ground. I had escaped the clutches of that evil mistress parked at the PMC Race Park! I have never had much trouble with the jump there, but I struggled with it all day Sunday. The good thing was, I wasn't the only one. I had a good enough lap to make the cut into the day program, but it left me on the 3rd row for the heats. Although my bike had 2 Grand National wins to its credit, it couldn't ride itself, and I struggled off the start and thought I could make up time going around the outside in turn one. WRONG. Everybody blew wide heading to the jump and put me off in the grass. Top 7 go to the main from the heat and I was sitting 16th and struggling. That's where I finished. At that point, it's just give up time. I know that doesn't sound like the racer's mentality that you want to hear, but it's honesty. I'm no racing hero. I'm a guy who found a calling reporting what is going on who just so happens to think he has what it takes to beat a person or two at a race. I got ready for the LCQ and told myself just to have fun. Having this rocketship of a motorcycle to ride and no expectations, I went out there, got a decent jump, and ran it into turn one and came out fairly decent. Top 4 go out of the LCQ to the main and I could tell right there that unless a sink hole formed at the front of the field and I made it around, today wasn't the day I make my first main event. I had a lot of fun, I raced with some quick people and didn't come in last. I also took off my gear without any road rash or a limp and I didn't hurt Dave's magical motorcycle. You can't complain too much about that.
What happened next was some amazing racing. Both Dan Bromley coming from the 3rd row to finish second in like 6 laps in the Pro Singles race and Rodney Spencer getting his first Pro Singles race win was cool to see. In the Expert class I got to see one of my best friends, JD Beach make the podium and Henry Wiles win a record breaking 9th straight Peoria TT from the 3rd row. There were a ton of crashes, there are some broken fingers, concussions, ribs and other things, but thankfully, nothing real serious like we had there last year.
I am very disappointed that I didn't make the main there, or even get close. I've always felt like I had some sort of advantage at that track and this year I had a nearly perfect motorcycle. This will be my last national of the year unless somebody finds a twin to ride in Springfield and I'm not real sure what my plans are for next year. They are ushering in a new Basic Twins class for us and I don't have the budget to build a twin, so I'm trying to decide in the next few months if paying for a pro license for just 3 or 4 races where my luck has always been rough is even worth it. It's easy to see that I'm not sitting on top of the world waiting to conquer my class, but I'm also not a quitter. I set my goal to make a main, and I will do it. I didn't like running my marathon, but I trained for 4 months and did it. Going on 3 years now with a Pro License and haven't had that perfect day, but I think I will. Trying to figure out if I am going give up on my Kawasaki finally and start over with another motorcycle or not. Again, budget. I have had nothing but bad luck out of the bike mechanically, and nobody seems to be able to make any power out of it, and nobody seems to want to try any more. I don't think I'm too safe with a dremel tool either. I have a lot to think about on my side of things before 2014 shows itself!
This weekend I will be heading to Indianapolis to race the night before the mile short track at Mid America Speedway. Hopefully my Kawasaki will make it through the night and I can make it into the main. It will be a tough one to do though! If I'm feeling up to it, I may hop on a speedway bike and enjoy that for the first time this season. Thank you so much for your support, and don't think of this report as a debbie downer type of thing, but just a journal entry from a struggling racer. Maybe I can turn this thing around and you guys will be saying "man, look how far we've all come!" In the mean time, there are windshields to sell, bicycles to ride and miles to run. Thanks for taking the time to read it and thank you for your continued support. Even though I'm not upfront, I hope that through the site you guys are seeing a great return on your investment in my program. I know I have a great time representing and talking about all of the companies that make my little hobby possible! Until next time remember, all it takes sometimes is belting out your favorite song to turn your day around!