Since winning the AMA District 6 Flat Track races at Shellhammer’s Speedway in April, it’s been a pretty slow start to the season. The weather we have been having on the east coast has been crazy; rain has kept us from running at the track. My next biggest race was in two weeks. I was racing at Smoky Mountain Speedway where Smoky Mountain Harley-Davidson was hosting a H.O.G. rally, and with that, they were having a Hooligan Flat Track race promoted by Flat Out Friday.
In mid-May, I started prepping the bike to get ready for the race. Before I knew it end of May way here and it was time to head to Tennessee. I asked my mother to go along on the trip; she’s big into any kind of racing and it had been a couple years since she and I went away somewhere together. So we rented a van and I basically packed my entire race shop inside and with the room that was left, I packed the basics. I want to make sure if we had and problems with the race bike they would be able to be fixed.
When it was time to leave, we headed south down I-81, and the first stop we made was Exit 247 in Harrisonburg, Virginia, only two hours into the trip. What is special about exit 247 is that it’s the closest Cook Out restaurant to me. If you never been to Cook Out, you’re missing out on life. It’s hands down the best fast food restaurant in America.
After filling up on gas and food we set back out on our southbound voyage. Before we knew it, we were in Knoxville, Tennessee, where we decided to just grab a room for the night. Although we were only 40 minutes from the track, we both felt it would be best to get a good night’s sleep before heading to practice the next day.
Friday morning, we woke up, grabbed breakfast and then headed to the track where we might have been the first to arrive. It was pouring down rain, but after checking the radar I saw it was going to pass quickly and I knew we’d be practicing. As we were setting up our pit area more and more people came in; there were Hooligan racers from all over the U.S. I was pumped; it was cool to see so many Hooligan riders from big-name Harley Hooligan teams like Speed Merchant and Noise Cycles to guys new to the sport that just built their bikes the night before.
It stopped raining, the sun stayed out and it was time to spin some laps. Friday was a test and tune for the track which really helped set up the bike. Before coming to this race I picked up a sponsorship with Baer Racing Products and was running their triple trees with Yamaha R6 forks, basically the same front end that some of the American Flat Track Twins riders are using. First lap out I could tell there was a huge difference in how my bike handled. I could actually put it where I wanted it to go without it fighting me so much.
As the day went on I got the bike and gearing set up to what I thought would work and by the end of the day, I felt all eyes were on me. I was one of the fastest guys there and I was running the high line WFO, my Ironhead was screaming and all I had to do was two wheel it in the corner and hit my points on the track. It just felt faster and faster.
Smoky Mountain Harley-Davidson invited all of the Hooligan riders to their dealership in Maryville for a small cookout and party which was cool. It was like we were treated as real athletes. They had a band playing and food and drinks, but I didn’t stay too long. I came to Tennessee to race, not party, and I wanted to get a good night’s rest and be the best I could for race day. That night I stayed at a nearby motel and finally, Saturday morning, race day arrived. I was ready. I felt fast.