I’ve participated in my fair share of April fools pranks over the years. Most of them had to do with the captive audience I had at one of my former ventures, Fight For Dirt Track. You see, Fight For Dirt Track was my take on flattrack motorcycle racing news. When I founded it in 2006 I wanted to basically have flattrack themed apparel, but by 2008 I had found my niche telling the “behind the scenes” stores of the sport.
By 2011 I had decided to make a lifelong dream come true and apply for my AMA Pro (at the time) license. With the spending of $200 and a plastic card with my face on it, I hitched a ride with a team owner named George Mack and made my way to Daytona for the opening round. What followed could have potentially been grown into a paying self-employed job for me that I could still be doing to this day. Like most people, I wasn’t willing to take that kind of risk. Instead, I turned my part time job with Memphis Shades into full time gig by 2012. The owner of the company is an old flattracker himself, so he heavily enabled my racing pursuits. He let me use the company hauler, schedule my sales trips around the race schedule and put me on his sponsored race team’s equipment a few times. He also loved my weekly columns on the site too, so it all worked out. I had a fantastic run in pro racing if you don’t look at my results. I rode the best tracks on some of the coolest bikes all while making incredible friends. However, by 2014 the dream was running out of steam, my credit cards were racked up and I was knocking on 30’s door still trying to race with 16 year olds armed with Daddy’s money and one other thing I didn’t have a lot of, talent.
Because I wasn’t racing anymore, I didn’t need the discounted parts, free oil, and free entry fees from tracks that I wrote favorably about on the website. I looked around and realized that without any actual money coming across the table for the website and not much racing in my future, I didn’t need to spend 20+ hours of my week typing out 4000 word columns about the sport that I was ready to move away from. The site closed but one important thing remained, the Fight For Dirt Track facebook page. From time to time I would hop on there, fan some flames and just kind of stir the pot. I promoted some causes near and dear to my heart and even did a successful bike raffle to help an injured racer. With over 3,000 fans, I could capture a passionate audience and tell a story when I needed to.
I say all of that to tell this story: back in December of 2021 I found a smoking good deal on a 2019 Kawasaki KX450. My old 2007 KX450 flattracker had reached the usable limits in my opinion and I wanted a more updated steed to take on what I’m hoping will be some really fun vet (30+ age classes) events in my future. With the bike now in my possession, I made up a parts list, saw where my employee discount here at Direct Cycle Parts would get me, and plotted some old guy racing domination. At some point though in February, maybe I was suffering from an illness with no symptoms other than idiocy, but I got this idea to give pro racing one more shot. Except this time, I wouldn’t be the one in the saddle.
I still have close ties with the best people in the sport of flattrack, so building a race winning bike wasn’t a problem, it just costs a lot of money. Would I do a whole season? Just one race? What about a pilot? I don’t have the funding to do a whole season. I don’t even have the money to pay a rider. One race. Winning rider. A walk off grand slam if you will. The longest running national on the AFT Pro tour is the Peoria TT. It’s a special race to me and it was a special race to my mentor, George Mack, who passed away suddenly in 2020. “Geo” won the race as a team owner on several occasions, most notably with the undisputed king of the Peoria TT, Henry “Hammerin’ Hank” Wiles.
Henry’s breakthrough win at the Peoria TT propelled him to legendary status throughout his pro career. With dozens of grand national wins to his name and a good working relationship between the two of us, he was the first person I called. Henry has been suspended from the pro ranks for a rules violation that most of us would find insane. I think deep down, he was ready to step away. He’s got kids, and he’s accomplished just about everything one person can do in the sport. But what if he wanted to come in and accomplish the same thing I wanted to do? After a couple of weeks of back and forth, Henry came to me and said that he didn’t want to do a come back on a single cylinder bike. If he returned to the sport, it would have to be on a twin. It was a really thoughtful and strategic explanation that I fully understood. Racing the singles class is the lowest division of the sport, even if it does tend to feature the best racing on any given night, anyone who has been at the pinnacle, probably isn’t interested in coming back in to a lower ranking.
I wasn’t ready to give up though. I contacted one other former champion who declined and for a last ditch hail mary, I contacted a former winner of the Peoria TT in the singles division, Hayden Gillim, who is like a little brother to me. Hayden was all in until he looked at his calendar where he was slated to compete in a Moto America road race for his team in the Superstock 1000 class. You can’t take a guy away from his day job right? So at this point, it’s give up time. There’s nobody in the wings that can legit win the race for me, and I had figured up that I would need to invest about $15,000 of my own money to do this right. Walk away.
END OF PART 1