The Vallee Report (15)

Inside Motorcycles contributor and Flat Track Canada announcer, Todd Vallee, offers his thoughts on racing, motorcycles and much more!

So almost a year ago now I asked readers to share stories about their adventures on two wheels whether they were funny, inspirational or whatever. Wish I could come up with an excuse as to why this has taken me this long but I don’t really have one except “2020”. If this was a project in school where they subtract a few marks every day it is late, I would be getting a minus one million on this one. Please accept my apologies. While I didn’t get as many as I would have liked (disappointed in some of my peeps actually because I know they all have good stories), I would like to share a few that were sent to me.

Flat tracker and former road racer Steve Ball recalls a practice session in Welland a couple of years back. “Apparently I hit a wet spot on the clay exciting turn four and of course the resulting high side tossed me onto my head. I don’t remember my walk back to the pits but I was escorted by fellow rider Clayton Isherwood. Apparently once we were back in the pits I asked Isherwood why all the dirt bikes were at Mosport. Taking a cue from my question, Ish promptly told me I was done for the night and loaded my bike into my trailer. As we continued talking I slowly began to “come to” and then I realized that my bike was all loaded up and I wasn’t the one to put it there. Side note: While nobody would ever accuse Steve “Ra Ra” Ball of playing with a full deck, he came back from that crash stronger than ever and shows no side effects of his headstand on the clay.

Reigning Flat Track Canada champ Dustin Brown remembers the days gone by when he started riding on a PW 50 at home. “I would ride around all day and into the night and dad would have to peel me off the bike. After the 50 I graduated to a TTR 90 and it was the same thing. I even started turning on spotlights so I could continue to ride well past dark. Sometimes when we had two or three feet of snow in the winter my dad (all around good guy Glen Brown) would make a track around the yard with the snow blower so I could still ride. Side note: All of that riding seems to have paid off as Dustin has been ripping it on the Flat Track Canada circuit for years. I hear Glen is pretty good with a snow blower as well…..

Tom McCullough has flashbacks of the first time he took his son, “Jimmy the Jet” to a track on his new Honda. “Jimmy got a new CRF 50 for his 6th birthday and our little track didn’t seem challenging enough so we took a trip to a local track. Being newbies at transporting bikes, we weren’t quite as equipped as most when it came to bringing motorcycles to the track. With the Honda “securely” strapped to the old snowmobile trailer we normally used for yard waste and trash, we hopped into the Jeep and headed down the road. Amped up about going riding, I took the corners slow but apparently forgot about the dreaded train tracks we had to cross. After bouncing across the tracks I glanced in the mirror but couldn't see any sign of the handlebars. We stopped thinking the 50 had fallen off of the trailer but after a quick look we saw it had actually managed to stay on the trailer despite taking a good tumble from its original upright position. With bent handlebars being the worst of the damage, we continued on to the track with the bike "securely" fastened this time where Jimmy enjoyed a few hours of riding. Side note: Jimmy the Jet has come a long way since that CRF 50 and is now one of the up and coming Expert riders on the Canadian flat track scene. Tom is also available to give tie down pointers whenever they are needed.

Mark Noonan recounts the days way back when he twisted the throttle on his old Kawasaki KD 100 for everything it was worth as he struggled to keep up to his reckless buddy who was riding his new YZ 125. "I remember hitting the jumps and my wheels must have been at least two inches in the air as my mullet flowed magnificently out of the back of my helmet." Side note: While no longer sporting his beautiful mullet, Noonan is happy to share stories about bikes and hair over a couple of beverages.

David Thomas Sr. had an experience like no other as he toured communist Cuba on his BMW. Covering over 33,000 kms in one and a half years, Thomas wrote many articles in a collection titled "Cuba on Two Wheels".

I have one from a few years ago I should share as well. One of my co-workers had never rode a bike before so he wanted to come to Paris Speedway to try out my CRF 450. I'm sure he doesn't want his real name used so we will call him Paul Booth. Mr. Booth is a sports car enthusiast, raced go-karts and loves anything with a motor so throwing him on a bike to try it out didn't seem like much of a stretch. Showing up at the track, Booth borrowed my daughter's pink helmet and hopped onto the bike and seemed to locate the throttle, clutch and shifter lever. I'll admit I'm not much of a teacher but the only question I was asked was "Where is the brake?" which I promptly pointed out. Firing up the bike, Booth successfully got rolling and headed across the field with an audience of a dozen or so people watching. After a few hundred feet he made a right turn in order to head back in our direction. At this point he snapped the throttle and what happened next was amazing. Despite only moving at about 5 mph, Booth, who is not a large man, ejected off the seat with the expertise of a seasoned veteran. Somehow Booth ended up horizontal about seven feet in the air and did a full one and a half rotations as he did his best imitation of a helicopter. Barely able to make it to his side to check on him due to belly laughs, I picked up the bike as Booth brushed himself off with embarrassment. After assuring him everything was fine with the bike, Booth stuck around for a few hours watching the rest of us ride but called an end to his own two wheeled career. Side note: I still haven't been able to convince Booth to try again and he won't admit it but I know he feels a slight twinge in his shoulder every time he walks past my bike.

I know there are a million more stories out there and even if you didn't share them with me, I hope you are sharing them with others. Whether you are cruising the streets, riding the trails, or getting your butt handed to you at the track like I did back in September, the appeal of strapping on a helmet and firing up the engine is almost primal for motorcyclists. They say four wheels move the body and two wheels move the soul. Never has that been more apparent than the past twelve months or so.

In his latest blog, IM's Todd Vallee asked readers to write in with stories of their own two-wheeled adventures. Sarah Gamm, took him up on his offer and provided this look back at her the on the Tail of the Dragon. - Ed.

I grew up in a family of bikers, so it was in my blood growing up. My mom (Karen Gamm) and dad both rode, as well as both of my uncles. It was only a matter of time before I was on two-wheels myself. My parents had ridden the Tail of the Dragon on US129, on the border of Tennessee and North Carolina, in the Blue Ridge Mountains. It was the furthest my mom had ridden and she really enjoyed the trip.

In a conversation with my mom years after the trip, and years before she got sick, somehow the topic of “what do you want to happen when you die?” came up. She told us that she wanted to be cremated and have her ashes spread in several locations. One of them was at Welland County Speedway, one was off the back of a bike and one was at the Tail of the Dragon. Little did we know, we would be looking at fulfilling these wishes a lot sooner than we ever imagined.

My mom passed away from a short battle with lung cancer on July 4th 2010. On the 5th year anniversary of her passing, we granted one of her wishes and spread her ashes at Welland County Speedway. The second wish of having her ashes blown off the back of a bike would be easy to fulfill; we have yet to do it because we just needed to find the right time. But we didn’t know when we would get down to the Dragon to fulfill the last wish.

Not knowing when, or if, we’d ever make it back to the Dragon, my dad and step-mom spread her ashes at the other end of the Blue Ridge Mountains. We figured if we couldn’t get her to the Dragon, the mountains would be the closest we could do.

Last fall, my work sent me to South Carolina for a month, and while looking up things to do, I discovered that the Tail of the Dragon was only about 3 hours away from where I’d be. Realizing that this may be the only opportunity that we had, I rented myself a Harley for the day and was set to fulfill her wish. My sister was unable to join me because of work, and the thought of doing it without my sister or other family with me was heartbreaking, but I knew I couldn’t pass up on the opportunity. I planned to video call my sister so she could be there with me, but the mountains don’t have reception. I resorted to recording it on my phone. Little did I know, there would be a stranger there to support me when no one else could be.

I propped my phone up against my back pack. With the mountains in the background and the buzz of bikes riding by, I spread her ashes in the place she loved, at the beautiful lookout along the 11 mile stretch. I was visibly upset and a gentleman, whose name I don’t know, stepped in and gave me the hug I needed so badly. Although it felt like I hugged him for several minutes, it probably only lasted 10 seconds. It was exactly what I needed. This man had never met me before, but was there when I needed someone the most. I saw him and his wife back at the lodge and I thanked him for being there. When I got home, I posted the touching video. The common thought from friends and family was “your mom put that man there for you”. Although my family couldn’t be there, my biker family was.

This wasn’t what I was supposed to be writing. I should have been reporting on how Canadians made out at Bike Week, how the Daytona TT went, and the upcoming start of the Flat track Canada season. Of course none of this matters right now with the current state of the world as we have seen things go crazy in the past couple of weeks.

Pandemic is not a word that I thought I would ever in my lifetime include in one of my columns. Who knew that when we turned our clocks ahead in early March that it would propel us into the Twilight Zone?

I’m not sure what to write about but I do know we need something to read besides the sombre news reported daily via television, newspapers and social media. We all have our opinion on whether municipal, provincial and federal governments acted quickly or firmly enough during this terrible time. I have no interest in getting into a debate on those subjects as in reality there is no winning side right now.

I think what I am looking for is for readers to reach out to me and share funny, inspirational or amazing motorcycle stories from days gone by. Maybe I will edit them, maybe I will condense them, or maybe I will just post them verbatim. I can think of so many stories from my past involving two wheels and I know that everybody has them. Ever make a gasket in a pinch just before a race out of a pudding container? My brother-in-law has. How about losing a few layers of skin off your nose when you pulled the duct tape off that had been placed there to avoid fogging of your shield? Yep, been there.

Remember, I don’t want to be your sounding board for what is going on in the world right now. Don’t bother sending that stuff. I want you to make me laugh, feel inspired, or dream to take a walk in your shoes (or on your two wheels) as you share your stories with myself and our readers.

Please share with as many of your two wheeled friends as possible and send your stuff to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Don’t be shy, it’s just a few friends sharing stories around the campfire as we enjoy a beverage or two. Maybe if inspiration is needed, roll that bike out of the garage, throw on your riding boots and start pecking away on the laptop as you sit on your machine.

Even if you don’t feel like sharing a story feel free to send me a line and let me know what you think of the regular stuff I write. Do you love it? Do you hate it? Either way feel free to let me know what you think.

Look forward to hearing from you. Stay safe my friends.

As the calendar has turned to 2020, action has been fast and furious in the AFT series as riders have made the jump to new teams. Harley Davidson was the first to announce their team as former champ Bryan Smith and 2019 Singles champ Dalton Gauthier join incumbent Jarod Vanderkooi as the HD name tries to return to glory in the flat track ranks. Estenson Racing announced their team shortly after and while JD Beach and Kolby Carlile will remain with the team, Mikey Rush will join them under the Estenson canopy after being plucked from Richie Morris Racing and Honda. Richie Morris Racing caused a stir when they announced that they had filled their open slot by signing Henry Wiles. A perennial frontrunner in the Twins class, Wiles will now find himself battling some of the best young talent in the Singles class. Another big name shifting teams is Sammy Halbert. After riding for Harley last year, Halbert has signed with Coolbeth-Nila for 2020 and will be looking to run at the front of the pack on an Indian FTR 750.

Speaking of Indian, 2015 Flat Track Canada Champion Doug Lawrence may have a new gig this year. Along with joining me in the announcer’s booth for FTC events, Lawrence has been named as an alternate rider for the Roof Systems of Dallas AFT team should any of their riders get injured. Lawrence will be taking part in a test session in early spring in order to come to terms with twisting the throttle on the potent Indians.

With the announcement of their 15 rider SuperTwins lineup (you’ll have to look it up, I’m not even going to try to explain the SuperTwins thing), the breakdown of brands is 3 Harley-Davidsons, 10 Indians and 2 Yamahas. With fifteen riders already registered for this class, frontrunner and fan favourite Jeffrey Carver finds himself listed as a wildcard while former champ Jake Johnson is currently without a ride.

As I feared, it looks like fans in Canada will be unable to view live AFT events this season. With the switch in coverage from Fanschoice to NBC Trackpass, it seems we may be out of luck as the channel is currently not available in Canada. I have contacted TrackPass and they told me they had confidence there would be a way for Canada to view the races before the season started. Well we are just over 40 days from the Daytona event and I have yet to hear anything regarding this and oh yeah, they have failed to answer my last two emails. Stay tuned.

Flat Track Canada has released their 2020 schedule and along with what has become their regular stops throughout the season, a new event has been added this year. In August the national series will have a race at Jukasa Speedway which will coincide with a weekend motorcycle festival at the track. The track will be a TT layout and will incorporate part of the paved oval much like Daytona does in the AFT series.

Five races into the Supercross season and as of now it is beginning to look like a two-rider race to the championship. Eli Tomac and Ken Roczen have both won two events and are within a few points of each other in the points chase. 2019 champ Cooper Webb struggled through the first few rounds and poor Adam Cianciarulo has been the fastest qualifier every round but has yet to win a race.

Finally, some sad news out of the racing world as I was informed that former Canadian Speedway rider Terry Rideout passed away last week after an accident in Alberta. Rideout, the 2013 and 2014 CMA Speedway Champion, was an accomplished rider but more than that he was an absolute riot to talk to. It was pretty well impossible to speak with Rideout without laughing out loud as he spun a tale with his ‘Newfie’ enthusiasm. There are so many stories I would love to tell here but I can’t share many of them because they would be lost without his colourful language. However, there is one story from a few years back that I would like to share so readers can get a small glimpse of the world according to Terry. It had been a rough couple of weeks for Rideout and between racing Friday nights in Paris and Saturday nights in Welland he had managed to crash four times in eight days. While none of the crashes were serious, you can imagine how tender his left hip was getting as it was the initial impact point every time he laid the bike down. The night after the fourth mishap we were in Welland when Terry approached me in the pits. “Check this out” he said as he pointed to a large bulge on the left side of his motocross pants. I was shocked and exclaimed, “Holy crap is that just from swelling?” With a smile on his face bigger than the kid who just stole the last cookie from the cookie jar Rideout proudly bragged, “Hell no. I cut up a couch cushion to use as padding. Let me tell you Corinne (his wife) is some pissed!”

Terry you’ve left a big hole in the racing world as everyone will miss your jovial (and endless) banter. Godspeed my friend, and I hope as you race in circles in the clouds there are lots of couch cushions available if needed.

We are barely into snowy season and already I yearn for my next trip to the track. Much like some other things in life, two wheeled motorsports are addicting and I’m already craving my next fix. While my next trip to the tack is still months away, figured now would be a good time to pass on some news so other fans can start planning their summer road trips for 2020.

Flat Track Canada has yet to confirm their schedule but the AFT series has released theirs for next season. For the third year in a row The AFT schedule will begin in Daytona and end at the Meadowlands, but there will be a few changes from 2019 on the way to the season finale in New Jersey. After being recognized as one of the most unique tracks on the circuit this past season, The Super TT which took place in Chandler Arizona has been dropped from the schedule. Couple that with the departure of Arizona mile the year before and fans in Arizona are left without a national race in their home state. The Minnesota mile has also been dropped for next season while after a one year hiatus the series will return to Oklahoma. After dealing with rainouts many times in the spring, promoters in Springfield have dropped the traditional May race in exchange for a double header come September. This format was used this past season after the spring race was cancelled and received rave reviews from fans.

Speaking of AFT, the past few season’s fans have been able to watch races live via computer on FansChoiceTV. While many complained online about problems during the live feed, I always thought the product was pretty good and it was sure hard to beat the price of zero to watch some great racing. For 2020 AFT has teamed with TrackPass on NBC Sports Gold to air their events. Fans will now have to put up or shut up as there will now be a charge to watch the races. Early indications are that this will not be available in Canada which is terrible for fans like myself. I have reached out to AFT Communications to confirm and I’m hoping that the early information I have seen is incorrect. Stay tuned.
January will see the start of another Supercross season and if you’ve never attended one of these events please put it on your list. You will be treated to an evening filled with great racing, fireworks, jacked-up announcers and a fully charged up experience that is second to none. While there are no Canadian dates on the tour, March 21st will see action at Ford Field in Detroit. I attended this round last season and there is a good chance I will again in 2020. Hope to see you there.

2018 and 2019 FTC champ Dustin Brown has dreams of racing stateside. After putting out some feelers with some AFT teams, Brown realizes he will have to attend some rounds as a privateer in hopes of gaining some attention from the big guys. While Brown has yet to finalize a schedule, the half mile in Lima Ohio seems like a logical choice among the half dozen or so events he hopes to attend.

Finally I just wanted to give a shout out to my daughter Taylor. As mentioned in my last post she organized a raffle to raise funds for some injured AFT riders. Along with recruiting some great prize donations, she has put many miles on her car picking up and delivering prizes and almost as much time on social media promoting her draw. While she didn’t raise enough to save the world, she did have a modest goal in mind and she surpassed that. Way to go Taylor. We’re proud of you and thanks once again to those who donated prizes and purchased tickets.

If you live in the world of motorcycles you are part of a special group. Whether you are a serious racer, two wheel commuter, or just enjoy playing around the trails or the farm, if you ride a motorcycle you are part of something that is greater than just a motorcycle and its rider. The feeling of community, camaraderie and family is second to none in the motorcycle world. I have yet to see a gaggle of Pontiac Sunfires leading the parade out of a funeral home parking lot. I have however seen lots of instances where a bunch of Harleys, sport bikes or whatever two wheeled creations lead the pack out of the parking lot as one last salute to their lost riding buddy. Also I should point out that I’m really starting to feel like a fool when I’m driving my wife’s Corolla and shoot the peace sign out the window to another Corolla driver, only to be greeted by a blank stare instead of the friendly hand gesture I was expecting in return. Are we not doing this? Was there a memo?

Flat track racing is my passion and I’ve found the feeling of family in this little world to be second to none. Riders will lend gear, parts, and in many cases complete race bikes to ensure their competitors make it out on the track. In one of those cases where a rider gets hurt, the pits will suddenly resemble an ant hill as everybody within shouting distance scurries around the injured riders pit to make sure everything is packed up safe and secure.

It breaks my heart to say it but the last month of the AFT season was horrific as four riders sustained very serious, and life changing injuries while competing in the sport that they love.

While all of us in the flat track world were rattled by what happened, it was hard not to be impressed by the immediate reaction in the community to raise money for the injured. One AFT rider, who himself suffered life changing injuries in a crash in April, even donated $1000 of the money that was supposed to be going to him to another injured rider. Thank you, Jeremy Werner. That is the classiest, most selfless, most badass thing I have ever heard, and it brings tears to my eyes as I type this. It would be impossible to name everybody involved in raising funds for the injured riders but I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Charlie Roberts and the Class of ’79. What they do to help injured riders is amazing.

Despite the injured riders being American, fundraising started here in Canada right away as well in the hopes of helping any little way we could. Maybe it is because three of the riders have participated in our racing series but I really don’t think so. Welland County Speedway passed around a helmet on a race night and gathered a good amount of cash and just a couple of weeks later many of the same people that donated were handing me cash as I raffled off a little craft that I had made.

Now my daughter Taylor is working on a raffle and to see some of the prizes that are rolling in is impressive. Again, keep in mind she has been contacting people looking for prizes to benefit riders from another country that most of these people wouldn’t even know. While some that are donating are involved in our racing series such as Parts Canada, others like KW Honda are not but still just as willing to jump in for the cause. This is just another case of our community coming together to help riders in need.

So as the raffle shapes up I would like to say thanks to the following: On The Gas Photos, Klair Farrington, Royal Distributing, Parts Canada, Flat Track Canada, KW Honda, Cory Texter, James Downie, Brodie Buchan, Vortex Racing, Hudson Motorcycles and SPH Motorsports. Thanks to all of you from the bottom of my heart. You all rock!

While I am crushed at the damage suffered by the injured riders, I still feel pride at the way the motorcycle family pulls together. Clayton Isherwood was talking to the father of one of the injured riders and might have summed it up best when he said, “This thing we call a border will never separate us as a family.”

Well said Clayton. Well said.

I apologize for not having any content for a while. It seems for the month of June I got caught up in the role of racing spectator and thus I found it hard to make time for this column. With two AFT races, a Canadian Superbike round, and of course a Flat Track Canada round that I announced at, the month of June flew by faster than ever but man was it a good time. So without any more delays, I thought now would be a good time to share some thoughts on the two AFT rounds I attended.

I’m sure I’ve mentioned before but I am part of a regular foursome that usually heads to the spring running of the Springfield Mile. The foursome consists of my lovely wife Kim, my high school buddy Gary (best seven years of my life), and my brother-in-law Paul. This year we decided to buck tradition and instead of Springfield we marked the Red Mile in Kentucky on the calendar. Nothing against Springfield but we thought we would try something new and check out a new part of the United States that we had never seen. (This change in plans turned out to be prophetic as the Springfield Mile was rained out and re-scheduled for September).

Friday evening we hopped into the Corolla hot rod and set sail with a planned stop in Toledo for the night. Five minutes from the bridge into Port Huron, we got an email saying that due to wet weather the race had now been changed from Saturday to Sunday. After a few half-hearted groans, we recovered quickly and began to send out emails and texts to our respective bosses to let them know that according to the race gods we would now all need Monday off work. After the obligatory stop at Cheap Charlie’s for some great pizza and cheap beer (the soda is $2.25 but the beer is $1.00????), we made our first (yes first) stop at a Dollar Tree. Then of course we headed to a larger store to grab some snacks, beverages and so on before heading for Toledo.

Saturday morning the sun was shining as we piled into the red racer and took off with Lexington Kentucky on our minds. Several more Dollar Tree’s (it’s crazy but everything in there is really a dollar) and a few outdoor stores later, we reached Lexington and made our way to our hotel. Our hotel was reasonably priced and very nice actually and even had a full size fridge to hold our beverages. After a bit of exploring we met Jay and Trent Pickle for supper and then spent the rest of the evening watching a hockey game and working on my beer can pyramid skills.

Sunday morning looked like a great day for racing and we eagerly packed up and headed out the door for the track. From the little bit of driving we did, Lexington looks like a beautiful city and the Red Mile did not disappoint when we got our first glimpse. Yes the track is red and boy does it look huge. We toured the pits for a bit and I got a chance to get my hands a bit dirty helping Pickle on his bike for a few minutes. The racing, much like what we have grown accustomed to in Springfield, was spectacular with bikes in packs using the draft to get towed along to the front of the group. Although Trent came up just short in his bid to make the semis, admittedly he had a great time battling on the mile against the best singles riders that AFT has to offer.

With JD Beach off taking part in a roadrace, there was an opening on his bike for the weekend and that slot just happened to be filled by Kentucky native Roger Hayden. Coincidently, the Hayden family had also been chosen to be Grand Marshalls for the event. While I was a little bummed that I couldn’t find any Nicky memorabilia for sale, it seemed like every third person in the crowd was wearing a shirt with the 69 on it. Earl Hayden waved the green flag for the opening lap of Roger’s semi and there was something almost biblical about watching him wave that flag and cheer his son on from the sidelines but it was all for naught as Roger came up just one position short. It still gave me chills to watch racing royalty and I will remember those moments for the rest of my life.

Just four weeks later it was time for the Lima half mile and this time I was joined by Kim and my daughter Taylor for the trip. We went to our seats near the top of the grandstands and we knew most of the people within shouting distance which led to lots of bench racing during track prep. Having been to Lima many times before, we knew what to expect and this night was no different. With Lima being a cushion half mile (we are blessed in our Canadian series with a bunch of these), many different lines were available to be used and use them they did. It seems like every time I have been to Lima it is declared afterwards as the best race ever and once again this proved to be true. As excited as the fans were I kept thinking if only we could get some of these people across the bridge to check out some of our cushion racing. Sheepishly I almost felt spoiled as I thought of the five gorgeous half miles we have upcoming on our schedule because I know the racing will be great. Along with the great racing, fans were also blessed with a great sunset over top of the roughly five hundred bikes that had made the trip to the track and this stunning view was the cherry on top of a spectacular night.

With three Canadians racing, only Brodie Buchan made the final of his class but his result was hampered by a rough start. Try as they might, Pickle and Clayton Isherwood came up a bit short and saw their night end up short of making the semis.

I guess the point of all this rambling is that even though I find we are spoiled here in Canada, man I really enjoy my trips to check out the AFT rounds. I talked to Tim Balcombe recently and he told me that going to Springfield is on his bucket list. Well Tim, as a certain shoe manufacturer would say, just do it! Life is short, and my weekend trips to races are among the most fun times I have had in my life. In fact, if Tim needs another body to fill a seat in a car for said trip, give me a call. Maybe I’ll find a way to make it happen. Do your best to make the trip Tim, you won’t regret it. Also, how cool is it that my wife happens to be a racing fan (oh, and Dollar Tree fan).

One last note I’m excited to announce that former national champion Doug Lawrence will be joining me in the announcer’s booth for a bunch of the Flat Track Canada rounds. I look forward to working with Doug and can’t wait to hear the insight he will share with fans. I guess the Mississauga Missile will need a new nickname. Wonder how he feels about the Stoney Creek Sidekick?

As a middle-aged man, there are many random thoughts running through my head at any given time. The good news is that random thoughts seem to be the way to go when it comes to a blog. So here are some things to ponder after the first rounds in both the Flat Track Canada and CSBK series.

As I predicted in the current issue of Inside Motorcycles magazine, 14-year-old rookie Expert Hunter “Showtime” Bauer is going to be one to watch. I first profiled a then 6-year-old Bauer in the magazine way back in 2011 when he was included in a story I did on kids taking part in flat track. Even then I saw something special in the kid and on Saturday in Trois Rivieres the kid had an Expert debut for the ages. Bauer not only won both his DTX and Open heats, but he set the fastest lap time in both classes during each race. Bauer finished second behind KBR teammate Dustin Brown in the Open Expert final and likely only a last row start on a back-up bike in the DTX final prevented him from grabbing a podium in that class as well. Although he admitted he was nervous the night before the race, Bauer showed no signs of those nerves on race night and looked right at home on the front row between former champions Brodie Buchan and Dominic Beaulac.

Speaking of Beaulac I spent a few minutes talking to him after the races on Saturday. Beaulac told me he is hard to impress but even he was taken aback by Bauer’s Expert debut. Beaulac told me he watched Bauer’s DTX heat race and his mouth was hanging open the whole time because he was caught off guard by the talent of the young rookie. Beaulac also reflected on his AMA Grand National win in Lima in 2006. He said it was just one of those nights where he knew right after practice that he was going to win. His crew took a bit of convincing, but no doubt they were asking him for lottery numbers after his prediction came true on that magical night. Beaulac also had a funny story of a fan talking to him the other night and telling Beaulac that he used to watch his dad race about twenty years ago (must have been his dad because they have the same last name) and he was fast as hell. After a few minutes going back and forth Beaulac was finally able to convince the fan that it was actually him that he had been watching and that he indeed was fast as hell 20 years ago and hasn’t slowed down much these days.

Big news for the Flat Track Canada series. President Aaron Hesmer has announced that the series will be shown on both TSN and FansChoice this season. This is major exposure for the series and Hesmer is thrilled at the direction things are headed.
Dustin Brown has continued where he left off last season as the 2018 champ won both the DTX and Open races at Trois Rivieres on his new KBR ride. If the first race is any indication Jarrett Phibbs will be one to watch in the Intermediate class. Phibbs had a dominant victory in the DTX class and after an early lead in the Open race he came in second after a wild battle with Gabriel Beaulac. Speaking of Beaulac (part 2) Gabriel had an amazing charge from the last row to take the victory after having a textbook sky shot wheelie from hell that saw him flip his bike in his heat race.

Turns out Jordan Szoke is human after all. Szoke crashed hard in practice at the season opener on Saturday in Shannonville and put in a brave ride on Sunday to take a third place finish. Szoke doesn’t hit the ground very often which is one of the reasons he has pretty well owned the past two decades of Superbike racing here in Canada. One race doesn’t win you a championship but it can help you lose one so the damage control done by Szoke on Sunday was commendable.

Congrats to Ben Young for taking his second career victory at the CSBK opener. Don’t let the fact that Szoke was riding hurt fool you, Young is fast and he is also one of the nicest young men in the paddock.

Finally my posse and I usually head to Springfield for the May race and have done so for a few years now. This year we’ve changed it up a bit and instead will be going to check out the Red Mile in Lexington Kentucky on June 1st. We will have some Canadian boys to cheer for while we are there as Brodie Buchan will be racing the Production Twins class on his Baer Racing Kawasaki and Trent “Sweet Heat” Pickle will be trying his luck in the ever competitive Singles class. This will be my first trip to Kentucky and I’m eager to try out some of the local fare. Apparently KFC isn’t on the menu there but squirrel and raccoon are. Can’t wait. I’m sure they taste like chicken…

With no more Supercross action in Toronto, Gary, Heather, Kim and I headed to Ford Field in Detroit to join many other Canadians taking in the action (the B-Team was out in full force). After a quick stop at Dollar Tree in Mexican town (everything is a dollar but they still have a flyer???), we headed to Nemo’s for a quick bite before the race. Voted the number three best sports bar in America, Nemo’s only serves chicken and fries or burgers and fries but those burgers are the bomb. Off to the race and like every other Supercross event I have attended, it was excellent. It seems to be a great mix of intense racing mixed with tremendous entertainment energy. With the excited announcer who has to be hopped up on Red Bull, pyrotechnics and endless action, Supercross never fails to please. Bonus for us as it was a Triple Crown Race so extra feature races were on the menu.

I feel like a fool but I’ve never noticed Detroit’s fascination with predatory cats until I hit the concrete jungle of downtown. Detroit Lions. Detroit Tigers. What the hell were the Red Wings thinking? Didn’t like Detroit Cheetahs? Or maybe the Detroit Cougars? I guess that last one may be a totally different column…….

Speaking of Supercross, is there anybody out there who picked Cooper Webb to possibly take the title other than perhaps Cooper Webb’s mom? Webb is a contender every week and is looking pretty good on that bright orange KTM. Stay tuned.

AFT has done a complete flip on the front fender rule. After banning front fenders last season, they are mandatory for this year. This change could have a bit to do with safety but I’m guessing with increased manufacturer support it has more to do with the bikes looking more like the ones you see in your local showroom. Regardless, more manufacturers involved in the sport is always a good thing.

The first AFT round is in the books as the Daytona TT took place on March 14th. Alex Dumas and Brodie Buchan took their shot at the TT but despite valiant efforts, they were unable to make the final in the event which saw 64 riders competing for just 16 spots in the Singles main event. 57-year-old motorsports legend Jeff Ward tried at the TT as well, but a bad start in his semi wrecked his chances of making the final. I attended the first two Daytona TT’s and watched this one on the computer but I’m still not a fan of the layout. The two hairpin turns at the end of the track just don’t do it for me. Shouldn’t there be at least one turn were the riders are on the gas in full lock, with both feet up on the pegs powering out of the corner?

A couple of days after the Daytona TT there was an outlaw race at New Senoia Raceway in Georgia, which is a clay short track. Buchan and Trent Pickle took part and as a fan I’ll admit the racing was fun to watch although I still get sketched out by the concrete walls that surround many of the American venues. Social media lit up after this race as fans praised the many different racing lines available to the riders and the action that created. I almost feel bad because practically every track we have in Canada offers a multitude of racing lines with incredible action at each round. The Dash for Cash race from our round at Flamboro Downs last year has been shared well over 600 times on social media receiving plenty of praise, mostly by excited residents of the US. Cross the bridge and come see us my American friends. I promise it will be worth it.

How cool is it to be Sean Dylan Kelly right now? The 16-year-old not only finished a very close second in the Daytona 200 but he actually sat on the pole for the race. Picture most of the other 16-year-olds in North America playing video games while Kelly was riding at death defying speeds around the most iconic superspeedway in the world. Wonder if he is on the radar for any MotoGP teams?

Don Galloway had another successful trip to Georgia and Florida during Bike Week. Riding pretty well every vintage class you can think of on his fleet of pristine bikes, Galloway once again gained his share of podiums throughout the week. Congrats Don. Dustin Brown ran some races at Bike Week as well and picked up the checkered flag in the Super Singles class at Volusia Speedway.

Family day has come and gone and like many others I consider those in the racing world to be “family.” I was pleased to get a call from CSBK Series announcer Frank Wood on Family Day and we spent a good two hours talking about everything regarding two wheels. I have shared the announcer’s booth many times with Frank and have the utmost respect and admiration for him. After a few years now I think the feeling is ALMOST mutual. Thanks for the call my friend. We’ll see you at the track soon.

Finally, my wife and I cancelled our annual trip to Bike Week this year choosing instead to allocate those funds towards a trip to Cuba for us and the kids. We had a blast in Cuba and I don’t regret our decision for a moment. Two days after getting home from Cuba however my daughter hopped on a plane with some friends and flew to Bike Week without mom and dad. Well played Taylor. Well Played.

With Daytona Bike Week only a couple of weeks away, many Canadians will be headed to the Sunshine State for a little two-wheeled fun. While I won't be able to attend this year, last year’s Bike Week was the logical destination for a little fun with my buddy Gary as we were both celebrating our 50th birthday. With our wives Kim and Heather in tow along with friends John, Irene and Brent, we invaded Daytona and did our best to fill our week with good times. Although your list may differ from mine, here are five great things to check out in Daytona if you happen to be making the trip this year.

Daytona Supercross. In a series that is normally set inside stadiums, there is something special about taking in the race at Daytona International Speedway. While the track layout is quite different from the norm, there is still plenty of action to get the crowd fired up in the giant grandstand. Under the stars the bikes seem to stand out a little more and the fireworks seem to pop just a little brighter. The event was perhaps even more special in 2018 as Justin Brayton took his first ever main event victory and in the process, became the oldest ever Daytona winner in history. Congrats Justin.

Daytona TT. Also taking place at the speedway, the Daytona TT is the season opener for the AFT series. Like Supercross, there is something a little different about seeing your favourite flat track stars do battle inside the giant speedway. With 2019 being the third Daytona TT event, AFT has modified the track layout to include a paved stretch of the iconic superspeedway which could prove to be a game changer come race night. Along with the races at the speedway there is also a huge motorcycle midway with everything from demo rides to parts, gear and so much more. You can easily spend a full day at the Speedway and still wouldn't be able to take in all it has to offer.

Bruce Rossmeyer’s Destination Daytona. Located about 15 miles north of Daytona Beach, Rossmeyer’s little slice of heaven can maybe be best described as a day camp for bikers. Over 150-plus acres where you can find a 109,000-square-foot Harley showroom, a hotel, restaurants and more. Much like Daytona there are vendors everywhere, bands playing, beer chilling and just overall good times. Last year while visiting Rossmeyer's we saw the Wall of Death, the Globe of Death and all kinds of meat on sticks that may clog your arteries and lead to your death… While bikers are given the best spots for parking, they do provide a shuttle from the far side of the property for those driving cars.

Daytona 200 Monument. Located beside the beach not far from Main Street, the Daytona Monument is a tribute to the original Daytona beach races and the origins of bike week. The monument itself is stunning with granite plaques honouring past and current racers. The project was spearheaded by Dick Klamfoth who happened to win the 200 in ’49, ’51 and ’52. Klamfoth was on hand for the ceremony last year and along with him I spoke to Hall of Fame announcer Pat Gonsalves, flagman extraordinaire Kevin Clark, flat track pro Sammy Halbert and many others. AFT Chaplain Raymond Rizzo was also on hand to speak about a few of the motorcycle greats we had lost recently including Jamison Minor and the man with the great voice Barry Boone. You can easily spend hours here reading all the plaques and stones and you can even purchase your own customized brick to go into the design surrounding the monument.

Main Street. The best way to describe Main Street is to say it is like Port Dover on steroids. The street is lined on both sides with bikes, people and bars. Every bar has three things in common; cold beer, street meat and great bands. You won’t hear much Justin Bieber or Abba here, but you will get your share of AC DC, Aerosmith, and Def Leppard. Somehow, we always ended up at The Boot Hill Saloon and I drank my share of cheap beer to ensure I had some cash left for some of the delicious shooters. Canadian racing dad James Phibbs showed me some great dance moves and I even got to see one happy/tired patron being wheeled home in a luggage cart one night! Remember though, throttles and bottles don’t mix so if you are going to partake in the festivities leave your two-wheeler at the condo.

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