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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
The Racing Event Process
Here is the schedule for the day to give you an idea of an AMA Pro Flat Track event.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.