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?
Saturday, 13 July 2019 21:27 Published in The Vallee Report
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.
Thursday, 21 February 2019 18:49 Published in The Vallee Report