The experience of a life time or should I say, “Ride of a life time!”
What had once been a far away, almost unimaginable dream, became my reality, when my dream man and dream bike were right in my arms. Back in 2009 if you would have told me I would be racing an antique Harley, I would have laughed, because then I had no clue these extremely talented, passionate motorcycle racers were still racing board trackers. I had only fantasized about a big valve Excelsior that I would draw in my notebook, thinking, “this is going to be the first motorcycle I build.”
It wasn’t until 2011, when I met Matt, my incredible, oh-so talented husband, who told me about the races held at the Antique Motorcycle Club of America meets in Wauseon, Ohio and Davenport, Iowa. From there, as so many people already know, Matt proposed to me with a 1923 Harley-Davidson J motor and well the rest is history!
Fast forward to 2013 and now I am one fortunate woman who is racing a 90 year old motorcycle with the guys and… it is completely exhilarating!
I must say that all the practice in the world could never prepare me for the pea gravel half mile track in Wauseon, rolling starts and racing with no brakes! Wauseon had been quite the experience, having never raced motorcycles in my life. We began with a lap or two to get grouped together, then once the flagman’s arm moves the slightest bit, the race is on! Of course I did not understand the entire rolling start flag situation, so I quickly found myself way in the back at eleventh place, however before I knew it, I had fought my way up to seventh and with one lap to go, I started getting a taste of sixth place. Unfortunately, he ended up getting me on the last straight away and I crossed the finish line in seventh place. It didn’t bother me though, because in the end I finished, I did not crash, and I carefully passed the fellow who did wipe out. I had began a new chapter in life.
Davenport was a completely different situation and track! I now fully understood the rolling starts and Davenport is a 1/2 clay track, which I had been comfortable riding on because I previously trained with Jim Wall, 10 time board track class champ, at Phillips County Raceway, a clay 3/8ths mile track in Colorado. Needless to say, I had a lot of confidence in my performance as well as the performance of my board tracker, plus the track was in perfect condition that day.
I started out strong, only be passed once in the first practice round. During the second practice round, fortunately, I had allowed my racing coach Jim to pass me and stuck right behind him for the rest of the practice, not once being passed.
Then came the heat race, where the class is split in to two groups and each group races like it is the main event. Right away we all grouped up on lap one and got our green flag, which was almost near impossible to see, however the second I saw the flagman’s arm move I held my throttle wide open. I completely credit my reaction time and speed due to my experience in drag racing cars. Boy did it really pay off too! I got so comfortable with my bike and my ability to ride that I stuck right with two former Davenport track champions, Jim Wall #33 and Mike Lange #21, both who I consider great mentors of mine. During lap two I experienced my front end to pogo pretty bad coming out of turn two and had to completely let off the throttle, however I did not lose my third place spot, in fact I had a half track lead in front of the fourth place racer, who was on a Harley-Davidson Eight Valve. I kept my line and rode hard, harder than I ever have, especially with my race bike. I held my spot the entire race and finished in third place. After coming back into the pits and being praised by fellow racers and friends for doing an excellent job, we took notice that my bike’s motor had locked up. Quickly, we got it unstuck and fired it up. The chirping, tweeting sound that followed would determine whether I was to race in the main event or not. Matt and I began to check the whole bike over, the cam chest, sprockets, chains, everything, parts and tools spilled out across our pit space just to find the problem to solve! As dusk started to set in and the main events started getting underway, I had to make a choice, race it with motor issues or take it home. We narrowed the problem area down to the top end and because we did not have the time to take the entire motor out, we could not calculate how much damage had already been done. I made the right choice and decided to take it home for complete tear down. With the decision behind us, I continue to show my support for all the board track racers during the main event by cheering them on from the sidelines!
It is so much fun to watch the these talented guys who, year after year come back to these race tracks and compete with their primitive, historic, early American race bikes, not to mention being able to compete against them.
I guess the saying goes a racer is only as good as their motor and machine or maybe you are not racing hard enough until something breaks. All I do know is that the race in Davenport really meant I am on the right track, I am doing what I love, I am setting a positive attitude about women in racing and I am exposing people to antique motorcycle racing.
I would like to thank all of my 2013 Sponsors who helped me succeed in this years racing season…
-The Harley-Davidson Museum
-Carl’s Cycle Supply
-Pat & Cris Summer Simmons
-The Rutledge Family
-Union Speed Shop
-The Born Free Show
-Phillips County Raceway
…and thank you to all our family and friends for your continued support!