Scottie Deubler is more than an ex-racer-turned-announcer; he’s the heart and soul of American Flat Track
Words by Joy Burgess
Photos by Scottie Deubler archives/Flat Trak Fotos, Jodi Johnson, Chris Carter and Scott Hunter/AFT
Known as “The voice of American Flat Track” in racing circles, Scottie Deubler’s a master at telling flat track stories – except perhaps his own. His is the voice you hear at every AFT National, whether in person or on AFT’s FansChoice.TV live-streaming service. All you have to do is listen to him announce one race and you quickly realize he has inside knowledge that can only come from someone who’s thrown a leg over a bike and done countless in-anger laps around a dirt oval himself.
And as his superb flat track announcing skills suggest, there’s a whole lot more to Scottie Deubler the man than simply his years in the announcer’s booth. He’s a third-generation flat tracker, so the people and the culture and the bikes and the skills and the history of America’s oldest extreme sport flow through his veins. Deubler raced for years in a variety of classes (including the 883 Sportster class), had a crash he still doesn’t think he’s completely over, and eventually made the decision to stop racing for the sake of family. But even after his days of powersliding through corners he continues to live and breathe flat track, and you only have to talk to him for a few moments to realize how much he loves the sport and, most importantly, the people in it. And according to everyone we spoke to, including ‘Gram,’ Scottie’s grandma, “He has a heart bigger than anyone you know.”
Flat Track – A Family Affair
Born in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, Deubler was quite literally born into flat track. His grandmother Kathy ‘Gram’ Deubler – 87 years old, sharp as a tack, and known to pretty much everyone in the flat track community – filled me in on some family history. “We started out in flat track in the ’50s,” she said, “and that’s 70 years ago. My husband had a Pro license in the state of South Dakota, and he’ll be 89 years old soon, and right now he’s out riding. I just don’t know another form of life.”
His grandfather, dad, uncles and aunts all raced, and Scottie was present at the race track at just one week old. “I really grew up at the racetrack,” he said. “I don’t remember anything different as a child. And my dad had a motorcycle shop as a kid, so I spent a lot of time there.”
“One of us always had Scottie on the track,” Gram continued, “and he rode on the tank of my motorcycle for years as a baby. When we went trail riding, of course we took him. He had no choice or other direction to go in life.”
He started riding at a young age, raced go-karts by age six, and then moved to Oklahoma around third grade where he did some trail riding and raced cross-country events. By Jr. High he was doing BMX, but he notes, “That wasn’t fast enough, so I switched to motocross. I was decent at it, but I went over the handlebars at a local race, breaking my collarbone and five ribs. At that point, my dad asked if I’d thought about doing flat track.
“I got a 600cc Rotax” he continued, “and that was the first flat track bike I bought. I went pro really early since I had a decent resume from motocross and a lot of friends in the sport, and I got my Pro Sport license at around age 19 and held it for ten or eleven years.”
Although Deubler never raced the whole circuit and wasn’t a full-time pro racer, it was a family affair. “My dad and I would go racing as much as we could,” he told us. “We’d leave work on Fridays, go race the weekend, and then head back to work Monday. If we made money, it was a bonus, but if we had fun – that’s what we wanted.”
Even in his younger days Deubler’s quick smile and genuine kindness grabbed the attention of people at the track. His longtime friend and flat track racer Sammy Sabedra described how the two met: “We happened to pit next to each other at a race in Stockton, Kansas, in 1993, and we became friends instantly. I can picture it like it was yesterday. He came over smiling ear-to-ear and introduced himself. It was like we’d been friends forever. There is still no one at the racetrack that puts a smile on my face like Scottie Deubler does.”
Through the years Deubler raced a Yamaha in the Super Track class, his 600 Rotax (his favorite bike) and 883 Harleys in the 883 Sportster class. Racing twins seemed to suit him, too. “The 883s were really heavy,” he noted, “but they fit my style for some reason. You had carry the momentum through the corners to go fast, so corner speed was key, and that made it fun.”
According to Gram, Scottie won many races along the way, and Sammy Sabedra calls his riding style smooth. “I can tell you one thing for sure,” Sabedra said, “Scottie was super smooth. In fact, I don’t think I ever really remember seeing him get out of shape on two wheels.”
Laying it Down
As Scottie recalls, it was 1992 or ’93 at the Jeeps Motorcycle Club track in Wichita, Kansas when he suffered a pretty serious crash. “I was completing lap one and was in second place,” he recalled, “and the leader jammed on the brakes in the corner. I went in way faster and was about to hit him, so I laid it down instead of hitting him. Everyone else was behind us, and someone hit me when I was almost to the ground. I was knocked out, and there was no ambulance at the track at the time. My friend Stoney, who was a fireman, got to me quickly and kept me from swallowing my tongue [likely saving his life]. He took care of me until the ambulance arrived.”
He spent several days in intensive care, it was a slow recovery, and his depth perception was off, which meant he couldn’t get back on the bike for some time. And today he feels that the head injury still affects him, telling us, “I often say I’m still not at 100% after that.”
A few years later his cousin was killed racing flat track right in front of him. “Scottie was there and picked up his cousin when he crashed,” Gram said. “It messed him up. He didn’t know what he was going to do.”
Scottie told us, “That just takes the wind out of your sails. I had a daughter at the time who was seven, and I didn’t want to leave her without a dad, so I sorta hung it up for a little while.”
Moving to the Announcer’s Booth
Scottie raced a couple more times in 2001 and ’02, and then he gave his bikes back to the people he was riding for. But according to Gram, “The flat track family stepped in and said, ‘Scottie, you can quit racing, but you cannot leave this family.’” And despite hanging up his steel shoe Scottie couldn’t completely leave behind what he’d known and loved for so many years. And so he continued going to races, maintaining the friendships he’d built over the years.
In 2002 he headed to a local race in Oklahoma … and the announcer didn’t show up. “They asked if I’d do it,” he said, “so I did. It just seemed like fun, and I could share the information I knew with people who were there.” And that led to announcing more races locally.
Later in 2002, Mike Kidd – who won a Grand National Championship in 1981 and currently worked for SRO Pace (which became Clear Channel Entertainment) – posted in a flat track forum that he had an opportunity for an individual who wanted to be at the races and in the limelight. “I filled out the application and made a video,” Scottie remembered, “and I had a resume of my racing career and the handful of races I’d done as a local announcer. About six months later a guy from Clear Channel Motorsports called me and I was hired to work with Monster Jam. That really got my foot in the door for announcing.”
In 2005, Doug Stewart started Live I Sports, a website much like FansChoice.TV, that allowed people on the internet to buy access to the races. “He hired me to be the play-by-play guy, and I did that for a year-and-a-half until he ran out of money. Then I actually got to work with [AMA Hall of Famer] Ronnie Jones as a color commentator.”
A year or so later, announcer J.B. Norris had a heart attack and passed away at Lima, Ohio. The next weekend there was a race in Topeka, Kansas, and Scottie got the call. On July 4, 2008, he announced his first Grand National flat track race. And the next year he began announcing for the series full-time.
“When I started announcing flat track,” he told us, “I was down on the track doing podium and race interviews, and I worked with well-known announcer Barry Boone (who also had his own Talking Motorcycles show). He started having vision problems, so they switched us and I’ve done the play-by-play ever since. I just completed my 11th season, and I’m planning to be back in 2020.”
Through the years he’s announced for American Flat Track, Monster Jam, Kicker Arenacross Series, the X Games, Steve Nace Racing, ICE races and more. And people often comment that Scottie’s one of the most knowledgeable people at the track. With characteristic humility, Scottie said, “Wow, that’s an awesome compliment. I do have a lot of knowledge, and I try to share my knowledge. I appreciate compliments, but I do it to help people learn more about the greatest sport in the world. Bragging isn’t my style; I just go to have fun. That’s how I roll.”
One of the most difficult things for Scottie is watching riders crash. “It’s really hard,” he said choking up a bit. “I have the privilege to see the replay, and I know how bad it’s going to be, so I try to divert attention from the accident. It’s in my nature to try to stay calm, and I relay the information I can without breaking HIPPA laws. I try to think about what the racer’s family at home would want to know, but it’s the hardest part of the sport for me.”
Off the Groove
Along with announcing American Flat Track races, Scottie and friend Chris Carter (who previously worked for both NASCAR and AFT productions) put out the beloved Off the Groove podcast. “We started Off the Groove because there wasn’t another podcast talking about flat track,” Scottie said. “Carter and I wanted to bring to light stories about all these riders, mechanics, promoters, and people behind the scenes. Everyone has a story.”
According to Chris, “For the first show, I just put him in front of the microphone. Our first three guests were Briar Bauman, Jeffrey Carver Jr. and Oliver Brindley. The minute we finished the first show we knew we had something here.”
And for Scottie, whether it’s announcing or doing Off the Groove, it’s really all about the people of flat track. “I love the racing,” he said, “but on top of that I love all the people involved in racing. And flat track is a family like no other sport I’ve been around.”
Scottie doesn’t just talk about the flat track family – he lives it. When we asked Gram what the world should know about Scottie, she said this: “Scottie will never let the riders down. Never. If they come to him and need something, he’ll never turn anyone away. He’s got a big heart, and it’s all over him.”
Chris Carter wrapped it up best, saying, “Scottie is the heart of what keeps AFT going on a lot of different levels. He’s a special dude, third-generation flat tracker, he was raised in it. They’re all badasses in that family. And he’s the kindest dude in flat track – the most genuine human I’ve ever met.” We couldn’t have said it better!