Photos by Scott Hunter
Some are bound to not appreciate this story’s headline. Some will think it’s rude, or sexist, or in bad taste. But those of you who’ve seen Shayna Texter in anger on a dirt oval racetrack – and especially during one her dominating AFT Singles wins against some of the best male motorcycle racers in the world – will understand exactly what we mean.
Boiled down, Shayna Texter – who’s all of five feet tall and 100 pounds – regularly beats men in a high-skill and physically demanding sport, one that plays out at speeds of well over 100 mph and demands high levels of physical strength and fitness. That almost never happens in sports.
Texter won her first professional Grand National race in 2011 (beating her fiancé Briar Bauman in the process after battling him all race long), and has racked up 18 National wins since, a feat that makes her the winningest AFT Singles rider in history. There have been other good female motorcycle racers, but Texter’s National-class wins put her at the very top of the list.
American Flat Track calls flat track racing “America’s original extreme sport” – and that’s not hype. Racing wide open around dirt ovals with other riders just inches away has been dangerous since the sport’s inception in the early 1900s. To quote the late Bruce Brown’s epic On Any Sunday, “They don’t all make it through the season.”
Texter’s aware of the dangers, but the risks don’t stop her. “I’ve seen friends pass away and get paralyzed,” she says. “It makes you think. But we were born to be motorcycle racers. We know the risks, but I kinda think that’s why you go out and enjoy every ride.”
Motorcycle racing is in Texter’s blood. Her grandfather and father both raced, and there’s a Harley-Davidson dealership in her family, so it’s no surprise that she started riding at age three. Her brother, Cory Texter, started racing flat track in 2003, and halfway through the season she decided she wanted to race, too. Sadly, her father passed away in 2010.
“I watched him battle and never give up,” she says, “and that was a huge inspiration. On the day he died Cory and I said, ‘we’re going racing’. It would have been an easy time to walk away from the sport, and I was struggling, but I continued to push.”
Despite hitting rock bottom after her father’s death, Texter showed up at Knoxville Raceway in 2011 without even a mechanic to help her out – and proceeded to make history with her first Grand National win. But one victory wasn’t enough. She went on to take three more wins in 2012, three in 2013, an incredible five wins in 2017, and three more in both 2018 and 2019.
Whether she wins or not, Texter’s autograph lines during AFT’s popular Fan Walk are always the longest, and from grizzled old bikers to school-age girls and boys, everyone wants to see and talk to her. She’s more than just the winningest AFT Singles rider ever; she’s an inspiration and she’s having a big influence on the next generation of riders.
In a day when young girls are bombarded with photoshopped, airbrushed models and pressured to look and act a certain way, Texter is a refreshing role model. “[Girls] let me know that they ride or race because of me. When I first got involved…it was tough for girls. Looking back and seeing how many girls are getting involved, it’s exciting and cool to be a part of that. Hearing that I’m inspiring them just continues to inspire me when the days are tough, and I know there are a lot of little girls watching and cheering for me.”
Texter doesn’t want to be known for being ‘good for a girl’ – she just wants to be good. “I want to be remembered as a motorcycle racer and a good one,” she says. “I’ve always had goals and dreams. One is to end up in the American Motorcycle Association’s Hall of Fame, and you can’t do that by wearing swimsuits and makeup. You’ve got to go out there and get results…Always a motorcycle racer first.”
Results. Brother Cory puts it well. “When Shayna decides she’s going to win the race,” he says, “she’s going to win the race.”
Like we said. Man Eater. — Joy Burgess