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Mikey Martin (91) racing by the Indy Mile grandstands at 135 MPH.

Well it finally happened! I experienced my first AMA Pro Flat Track racing event around a 1-mile flat dirt track and it didn’t get rained out! Truly amazing after getting rained out two times earlier this year, once at Springfield, IL and once at Lima, OH!

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AMA Pro Flat Track truck used to haul all the officials gear and equipment from event to event.

The Trip to Indy

I left home near Chicago on Saturday morning, August 17 on my 2008 Triumph Bonneville, and headed for Indianapolis, Indiana. The weather was perfect… sunny, warm, with no chance of rain in the forecast anywhere between Chicago and Indy. I arrived at the Indiana State Fairgrounds in the early afternoon just before the practice sessions and qualifying time trials were scheduled to began.

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I used the “My Tracks” app on my Samsung Galaxy S4 Android phone to record my trip and save it to Google Maps. Pretty cool!

Getting my AMA Pit Pass

Waiting for me at the AMA trailer were pit passes provided by Bill Gately, owner of the Factory Triumph Team and my host. I worked my way to the paddock area and found the Triumph Team tents located in a great position right on the front row of the pit area.

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The Factory Triumph AMA Pro Flat Track Team pit area.

Bill introduced me to everyone on the team including his two brothers, Steve and Jim Gately, Jim’s wife Terri, another set of brothers named Mike and John … and of course Mikey Martin (91) the rider. Everyone was busy with things to do, so I tried to keep out of their way, started taking photos and video clips, and soaking it all in. I tried to keep my questions to a minimum, but man, I had a lot to learn!

In the Pits!

In the pit, work was being done on the main Bonneville Performance Super Tracker Race Bike (91) to prepare it for the time trials. There were 2 backup bikes (91) also standing ready.

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Jim Gately and Mike prepping the Bonneville Performance Super Tracker race bikes in the pit area.

Bonneville Performance Street Trackers

Bill’s personal Bonneville Performance Street Tracker was also on display. This bike is incredible. It’s based on a Triumph Bonneville engine that is now 1200cc (up from 865), outputs 104 HP and weighs only 350 lbs. You can’t beat this bike off the line! To learn more about the spec’s and features and components of these special Street Trackers visit the Bonneville Performance website.

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Bill Gately cleaning his Bonneville Performance Street Tracker.

I parked my 2008 Bonneville right across the paved flat area in front of the Team Triumph tents… and it looked right at home. Over the course of the day, it got a lot of eyeballs checking it out!

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My personal 2008 Bonneville that includes a pair of Bonneville Performance Mikuni 42mm carbs, purchased from Bill Gately.

The Steel Toe

In Chicago there is a business called Steel Toe Press that sponsors many motorcycle related events. So what does “steel toe” have to do with motorcycles? It turns out that flat track riders wear a “steel toe” strapped over their left foot boot because they put their left foot down while making their high speed (100+ MPH) left hand turns around the track. Here is Mikey Martin (91) with his game face on, and his steel toe strapped on and ready to go.

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Mikey Martin with his game face and steel toe.

The Racing Event Process

Here is the schedule for the day to give you an idea of an AMA Pro Flat Track event.

2013-AMAP-FT-Indy-Mile-Schedule-8-13 Download the official program in PDF: 2013-AMAP-FT-Indy-Mile-Schedule-8-13

Mike did well in his timed practice trials, and was able to finish 4th in his Expert Heat #2 thus bypassing all the semi-finals until the evening Expert Main Event race. The top four finishers in each heat go directly to the Expert Main Event. His starting position in the Expert Main Event was 7th… basically the middle of the second row. Not too bad out of 30 or so racers!

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Mikey Martin (91) ready to enter the track for one of his timed qualifying sessions. That’s Johnny Lewis (10) right behind him on another Bonneville Performance Super Tracker.

Between times on the track, Steve Gately is responsible for making mechanical adjustments to the Super Tracker based upon feedback from Mikey about track conditions, tires, suspension, gearing, etc. Being a crew chief and mechanic for a day like this is a lot of work and Steve does it well and with a great attitude.

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Chief mechanic Steve Gately working on the Super Tracker between events. Here he is preparing to change the rear sprocket to a size with one more tooth!

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The Bonneville Performance Super Tracker. 995cc.

Down Time

It is a busy day, but there are moments of down time and time to connect with team members and family and friends who have known and seen each other over many years at flat track race events. The Gately’s have been involved in this racing life as a family going back to the 1950’s and 60’s.

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John and Terri enjoying a few lighter moments.

The Dirt Flat Track

The Indy race track (Not the Indy 500) is a 1-mile flat dirt oval with a huge grandstand and other facilities located right within the Indiana State Fairgrounds, within the city limits of Indianapolis, the state capitol.

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Where it all happens.

One Fast Young Lady

Shayna Texter (25) won her time trails, heats and the Pro Single Main Event. She was riding a single-cylinder 450cc Honda and is one impressively fast (and little) young lady.

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Friendly Competitors

Even though they are officially competitors, Bill and the team still take time and have the personal motivation to help out the other guy. In this case it was Joe Kopp, manager of the Latus Racing Triumph Team who Johnny Lewis (10) rides for. Steve Gately also helped the Latus team troubleshoot a mechanical issue on their bike.

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Bill Gately (right) giving a helping hand to Joe Kopp (left) in cleaning a Bonneville Performance Super Tracker used by Latus Racing (10) between races.

At the end of the day, everything in the pit area gets packed up and put in its place within the traveling truck/camper rig. It’s pretty impressive!

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Somehow it all packs up and fits in here!

Closing Thoughts

An AMA Pro Flat Track event is a well produced event. They have announcers, sound systems, lighting, trucks, tents, t-shirts, banners, live streaming Internet coverage, iPhone and Android apps, you name it.

The other aspect of an AMA Pro Flat Track event is that it is a family oriented and patriotic event. Not only is there the national anthem, but there are moments of silence paying respect to those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice, and there are invocation prayers by a pastor who ends his prayer, “In Jesus name, Amen!” When I heard this, I definitely knew I was NOT in Oak Park! I was reminded and thankful that there are still thousands of people with a different perspective and set of values than where I live near Chicago. It warms my heart and I feel at home.

Even though Mikey was not able to finish the Expert Main Event race (this time) because of a combination of some contact with another bike, and a leaking head gasket, it was a very fulfilling day for me. These things happen and are unpredictable. There is a combination of many factors that all have to go perfect to win. Some things you can control (sort of) and others you can’t… a lot like life.

I am very grateful to Bill Gately and his team for allowing me the opportunity to be a part of the day, to learn and observe and experience for the first time what is very familiar to them. I am looking forward to spending another two days at the Springfield Mile double header over the Labor Day weekend.