Dirt track motorcycle racing returns to I-37 Raceway
PLEASANTON -- The legendary Giacomo Agostini had 122 Motorcycle Grand Prix wins and 15 World Championships, with 68 wins and eight titles in the 500cc class, the rest in the 350cc class. But, at his peak, he once commented that it was harder to win the U.S. National championship than a world championship.
Asked why, he pointed out that the world championship races were all on paved road courses, while the U.S. Nationals were contested on paved road courses, cross country courses, and flat tracks, and on pavement and dirt. The winner of the U.S. Nationals or the AMA Nationals had to be a very versatile rider who could race on a paved road course or on a flat track dirt oval in the middle of a fairground.
The Vintage Dirt Track Racers Association (VDTRA) brings some of that that spirit to I-37 Raceway at Newsome Motor Park this Saturday, April 23. It will be the fourth race of the season, with the most recent stop on the Waco half-mile the first weekend in April. (Left are stops in Sherman, Bullard, Waco, and Boyd.)
The racers come not just from Texas, but also from states as far away as Washington and Ohio. Flat Track (or Dirt Track) is the oldest form of motorcycle racing in the world. In the United States, this kind of racing originated on dirt and later evolved to steeply banked board tracks made from laying two-by-fours on edge that measured up to a mile. After numerous fatalities, the board tracks became part of history and Flat Track again moved to the dirt tracks. Many tracks are at fairgrounds, on local dirt ovals and car tracks, and even on kart tracks.
Unlike other forms of motorcycle racing, Flat Track began here in the United States and is considered to be the grass roots of all motor-cycle racing. In the early days, competitors rode their bikes to the race, taped the headlights so broken glass wouldn’t fall on the track, raced, then removed the tape and rode the bike home.
The VDTRA primarily holds races for older motorcycles from before the 1980s, though there are some modern classes. The VDTRA is also one of the few racing series that gives local racers the chance to be on the same track with Grand National Level racers. Many racers in the VDTRA are former Grand National level competitors who no longer wish to keep up the travel required to compete at the Grand National level. Other competitors raced in their younger days and have returned after raising families.
In some classes, having one rider hit the brakes in a pack going into a turn could be disastrous, so dirt track rules often require the brakes be removed. VDTRA holds classes for a wide variety of classic and modern bikes, which makes for a heck of a show.
The VDTRA riders come to I-37 Raceway this Saturday, April 23, with spectator gates opening at 5 p.m. and the racing action due to start at 7 p.m. Ticket prices are the same as for the regular stock car program, $10 for adults, eight bucks for seniors and active duty military with ID, and five dollars for kids be-tween six and 12. The concessions will be open as usual.