Blue Groove: My Flat Track Addiction

Just as Mick Jagger of the ’Stones sang all those years ago… “Please allow me to introduce myself…” 

For those who don’t know me, my name is Chris Carr. I am 52 years old, married to Pam, we have two sons, Cale and Cameron, and I am a flat track motorcycle racing addict. I don’t know if there’s a cure for my addiction, but with the support of my family I have been able to manage it and still lead a productive life. I’m originally from Stockton, California, and we currently reside in Fleetwood, Pennsylvania.

My first laps on two wheels were around the beer bar at the Lodi Cycle Bowl (Lodi, California) on a push bike at the age of three. I did my best impersonation of the kids on bicycles during the opening scene of On Any Sunday, complete with the sounds of motorcycles and running over a few toes along the way.

I first raced at the same Lodi Cycle Bowl at the age of six, in 1973, on a Moto-Villa 38cc minibike. I earned my first gift certificate ($10, in lieu of another trophy) at the age of 10. At semi-pro races I earned cash ($60) for the first time at age 14. That was the day I realized I could very well make a living racing flat track. Looking back, that’s the day flat track racing fused to my very core.

My conversations with high school guidance counselors were interesting. Their canned “Plan B” speeches were uninspiring attempts to steer me onto a different life track. The look on their faces when they asked how many people actually made a living racing flat track (and my answer of “less than 10 in the world”) was pure entertainment for my self-assured view of my future.

I look back on those years fondly. Knowing that each step up the ladder wasn’t just a step, but on a ladder set in quicksand, where each step up meant you continually had to prove you were worthy. I relished each and every racing challenge that came my way. Every milestone reached became my validation for ignoring those counselors frustrated by my career choice.

I rode my first Pro race at Ascot Park in Gardena, CA in 1983. From then until my retirement from Grand National racing at the end of 2011, I accomplished more than I ever dreamed of in those previous 10 years as an amateur racer. I was fulfilled … or so I thought.

The 12 months following my retirement were pretty empty. I followed the sport from afar, but it was not enough to satisfy my Jones… until opportunity came knocking. A tire brand based in Italy, GoldenTyre (no longer in business), was new to market with off-road and trials tires, and had built some flat track tires and was looking for guidance and development for the U.S. market.

After receiving a shipment of test tires I was literally, off to the races. Not to compete, but to test. For an initial evaluation, and with the blessing of All Star Series promoter Steve Nace, I was allowed to start at the back of the pack at an event in Virginia. After determining the tires were safe, I decided to go racing again to see how the tires stacked up against other tires in competition.

It’s gonna be sweet indeed when I get my restored Can-Am 250 flat track racer back from Chris Hawkins.

I was racing again. Not at a Grand National level but against some former and current Pros. My Jones was being fed on a regular enough basis.

I was able to determine the tires were worthy of bringing to market, and agreed to become the sole importer, distributor and dealer. My multiple roles prevented me from racing much, but working with customers, travelling to the races and interacting with the flat track community was satisfying my addiction.

All this put me back in proximity to the Grand National scene. After convincing (at the time) Zanotti Racing’s Jake Johnson to try my tires at an All Star race in Savannah, Georgia (with a good result by Jake) I formed a working relationship with Dave Zanotti, who agreed to be a West Coast distributor of tires, and I eventually became a rider coach for his team. My addiction was being satisfied.

My Jones was also being fed by my moonlighting as a color commentator, as the Daytona Short Tracks were airing on Speed Channel, where I gained some television experience. Concurrently, AMA Pro Racing was making a significant investment in its FansChoice.tv live-streaming platform, and I was offered the color commentary role for live coverage of all the AMA Pro flat track events during 2015 and 2016. I was traveling to the Nationals and became embedded again in the Pro Flat Track community. My addiction was well fed.

This connection to AMA Pro Racing led to my being tapped to create the racing format and supplemental rules for the Superprestigio of the Americas (Las Vegas, ’15) and being hired as a consultant in 2016 to assist in the modernization the AMA Pro Flat Track rule book. I was becoming an integral part of Pro flat track racing and my addiction was once again being fed, but in a different way than before.

My consulting work was received well enough by AMA Pro Racing to offer me the position of Chief Competition Officer of what we have come to know as American Flat Track, and I served in that role for the 2017 and 2018 seasons. That responsibility, along with my previously mentioned gigs, have satisfied my addiction to flat track pretty well since my retirement.

I am no longer affiliated with AFT, and with the exception of writing about professional flat track for Thunder Press (thanks, Mitch!) I am starting to feel an urge to ride in circles again. No, I don’t plan to solicit AFT for a competition license, but I do miss strapping a steel shoe to my left boot and buckling a helmet to my head.

Prior to my work with AFT and during my ‘tire’ years I came to know a gentleman (please don’t tell him I referred to him as such) by the name of Chris Hawkins. As much as I’m addicted to flat track, Hawkins is as addicted to Bultaco Astros – and restoring them. I raced a handful times on Chris’ Astros between 2014 and 2016.

During that time I was contacted by Frank Hardman, GM of Pig Trail Harley-Davidson in Arkansas. Frank is a flat track nut like Hawkins and myself, and he informed me he had my Pro Novice year flat tracker, a Boss-framed 250cc Can-Am air-cooled two-stroke. After tracing the bike’s path since we sold it at the end of 1984, and confirming it was in fact my old bike, I sent Frank a check.

When I let Hawkins know what I bought he offered to pick it up and restore it for me as long as I agreed to continue riding his Astros when I could. I know you are shocked, dear reader, but I will be racing Hawkins’ Bultacos in Davenport, Iowa, at the Mississippi Valley Fairgrounds on Friday Aug. 30, satisfying my addiction once again.

I have yet to lay eyes on my Can-Am. I eagerly await my reunion with it and will share that experience with you. After all, that Can-Am was not only my 1983 Pro Novice bike (the last year for 250cc two-strokes in AMA Pro Flat Track competition), but the same bike I won that $60 on as a 14-year-old.

Stay tuned… 

If you also suffer from a flat track addiction, reach out to Chris for tips on chasing the dragon at bluegroove@thunderpress.net

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