Man, I gotta tell ya, we had a show here in Indy a while back. No, it wasn’t the MotoGP, sure it’s nice, the worlds finest facility, the worlds fastest bikes, the highest paid riders, everything should have made the GP the perfect event. But no, it’s not much.
Oh don’t get me wrong, it’s a great day at the races, sights and sounds from around the world. The Indianapolis Motor Speedway truly has to be one of the best racing facilities in the world. No I have not been to Monza or Spa, but I don’t know how they could be any nicer. For the Indianapolis 500, admission for practice is $5 and free parking. Decent sandwich and a beer, less than $10 so even for me, it’s a pretty cheap date.
But the GP is kinda lame, sorry to say, it’s not a sport I follow and I’m sure not going to shave number 46 in my back hair, although I could. No, it’s so disjointed from the public I feel left out. I’ve sat everywhere in the track, first turn, last turn, pit lane, infield outfield. The noise and speed are impressive, but I’m old school, I want the Isle of Man, I want to lean over the fence with bikes piercing by at 180 mph. I want to feel the wind, I want to feel the sound, the vibrations of 18,000 RPM on my fragile ear drum, that’s motorcycle racing.
Am I thinking of the Indy Mile at the State Fair Grounds? It’s pretty awesome too, elbow to elbow at 130 mph and throwing them sideways to scrub off enough speed to make the turn. As wide and smooth as that track is, it would sure look narrow at that speed. The mile is much more relaxed than the GP, you can walk the pits early in the day to meet and greet the riders, ogle the bikes, the Harley’s, the Kawasaki’s, the odd Ducati some KTM’s mad scientist all of them.
But again, I’m so far from the action, if you sit in the stands you can see the race, but no details. Bugs flying down the back stretch at top speed is cool, the noise is good, I do like the V-Twins held wide but they zip by on the front stretch and it’s just a roaring blur.
The lucky one’s sneak past the guards and stand on the guard rail in turn one. Now you can’t see the race from here, but you can see the action. A couple of years ago, we were watching from the infield and Gary Nixon came stomping up, he was mad and started in on me. Now I know who he is, but there is no way he knows who I am. He was mad because the guard would not let him past the gate and up to track edge.
“Hell, I made this place! He would not have a job if it were not for me!”
“Well Gary, would you like me to go talk to him for you?”
“No dammit, I’ll get in there, I’ll have his job…..”
Gary may have been right, because after a while, the guard was gone and we all snuck up to the guard rail. It’s a great place to watch the action. You could hear the bikes bombing down the straight and we would all think to our selves, ‘this time I’m not backing up, I’m staying right up front.’ But as the bikes came into view at a frightening pace, we would all take a step back away from the edge. All of us but one, Gary Nixon would take a step forward up to the rail! Once the bikes passed, we would all step forward, Gary would step back, it was awesome and we really lost a great guy when Nixon passed away.
This year Nixon was gone and the guard was on point, I could not get close to the action and left early. Heck, you cant tell what race is happening, who is who, just helmets flying by on the other side of the tall guard rail, let me out of here and beat the traffic.
No the best show during the greatest weekend of racing was Friday night at the County Fair Grounds. Short Track on the dirt oval. Indiana has had a great resurgence of Short Track racing over the last few years. The leader of the movement has changed a few times over the years, guys get burnt out, feelings get hurt, money is always a sticky subject but lucky for us, the racing has continued. Right now, the lead guy is Jim Terchila. He’s a Speedway guy and has ridden all over the world. World Champion? I don’t think so but world class supporter for sure!
If I could get a dime for every lap he’s driven a tractor or a water truck or a drying truck around this track I could buy the moon. It is an unbelievable amount of work to build a good track. Truck load after truck load of dirt had to be hauled in, see the good Indiana top soil might be good for raising corn, but way too soft for racing. So a special dirt had to be bought and hauled in, hundreds of truck loads. Then it had to be smoothed out, all the rocks picked up and dragged and watered and more rocks picked up and holes filled and ruts filled and high spots ground down. Smooth and flat as a billiard table. I’m telling you, I’d have a big pile of dimes.
Then there was the project of lighting. It takes me about 3 months to get the batteries changed in the smoke alarms at home, the beeping is maddening, but getting the batteries and the ladder and enough energy to do the job, takes time. Sure I can hire it done, but that man is two weeks behind. So it just boggles my mind to think about putting up telephone poles, string all that heavy wire then the giant heavy lights and that stuff all had to be paid for.
Then there are the bleachers, first class aluminum bleachers, enough seats for 2,000 people or more, announcer box, speakers, porta johns, parking lot lighting, concession stand area, ticket takers, track workers, flaggers, starters, water truck fillers, and I’m sure there are a hundred details behind the curtain I’m not aware of. Official papers with the Fair Grounds, insurance, advertising, trophy purchasing, more insurance, it’s amazing we ever got to see the first green flag.
Jim Terchila and gang have been pushing this turd up a hill for years, and it would rain him out…. Seems like every time he planned a big event, it would rain, we called it the Terchila Curse. But finally, the astrological signs aligned and all that work paid off. Years of effort all paid off in one night. Maybe not a money pay out, but better, the pay out that feeds the soul, and money can’t buy that.
What if you poured your heart and soul and savings account into building a track, what if it rained out every big event you planned? What if you kept pushing and one night, all the coolest riders of all time came and raced the coolest bikes of all time, would that make your soul smile?
Introducing The Astro Cup. What’s that? Well in the late 60s early 70s Bultaco built a bike called the Astro. It was built just for short track racing. In my eyes it’s always been one of the best looking bikes ever made. Astro owners got their own class on Friday night before the Moto GP and they came from everywhere. Some better than perfect, some ratty and loose. Just having them on display would have made many of us happy, but no, they got to race.
The riders came from all over the country and from several generations. From kids on Grandpas old bike to famous riders like Jay Springsteen. Here’s an interesting side note. Jay Springsteen’s heat race was 4 seconds slower than the 450 class heat race. That’s pretty darn close for a 40 year old bike and 50 year old rider.
One of the most popular riders of all time, Dave Aldana was there too. No he didn’t turn the fastest laps, but he’s like 62 years old and still fit in his leathers! Now that’s an accomplishment!
Steve Morehead wound up winning the event. Springsteen’s bike was tuned just a little too tight and it blew up, he had the fastest laps, but had to use a back up bike in the final and it was not as fast. Morehead put on a school and took the prize, it was awesome to see him ride.
One of the guy’s I know is Brett Miller, he’s a Tucker Rocky sales rep from Ohio and I knew he did some flat track, but nobody ever got to see him in action.
Well, strings were pulled, a bike came from Michigan and Brett saw it for the first time on race day. Brett rode the hell out of the old tires and made the main event. Finished out the night with a fifth place in the main event and he could not wipe the smile off his face the whole weekend. We actually won his front number plate from the race in an e-bay auction, it looks cool hanging up in the garage, glad to call Brett one of the guy’s I know.
But my favorite memory was when my Dad and I first got there and walked up to the staging area. It was loud and smoky, the noise was sweet, two stokes, air cooled two stokes and they sound better. Exhaust noise and parts rattling. I get more flashbacks from sounds. At the RacerX Inter AM a few years ago I could hear a old Husky being kicked and recognized the noise and identified the bike much to the amazement of my friends.
Dad and I walked up and he pointed at something, then his arm just moved around pointing all all sorts of stuff. Beautiful Astros, Springsteen, Aldana’s skeleton leathers, ratty Astros, Morehead, Atherton, red Astros, blue Astros. Blue smoke and dust filled the air. It was a really cool moment, one I will never forget, one I got to share with my Dad and my Brother.
Thanks Jim Terchila and all the people who have worked so hard for so many years to make this moment possible. May we all be blessed with flashbacks.
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