Somebody asked me " Hey, do you want to do some indoor flat track racing in Milwaukee the Friday night before the Mama Tried Show?" Without hesitation I said " Hell Yeah!" Their response was " Oh, forgot to mention, it's on concrete and the track is coated with Dr. Pepper." My first thought was "What the [email protected]?" as visions of bikes coated in the sticky refreshment sliding across the concrete in an uncontrollable manner danced in my head and immediately I retorted " Hell Yeah!" I'm always up for something new and this was some uncharted racing endeavors that at the very least would be a good tale to tell while sitting at the bar knocking back a few cold ones.
I knew absolutely ZERO about this kind of racing so I let my fingers do the walking on my keyboard to get some info on the Interwebs. I came to find out that Soda Syrup racing was somewhat of a midwest tradition as a way to escape cabin fever from those pesky winter months. The more info I uncovered the more bizarre it got. Taping up the left boot with some carpet, using a wood rasp to freshen up tires between races and running super high tire pressures were just some of the tips I tried to process through my skull. I didn't think too much about it until a few weeks later when I was in the pits on race day, in the belly of the UWM Panther Arena as a sold out crowd filtered in above us thirsty for some action.
And action is what they got, in spades. Everything from purpose built indoor short track bikes, 70's Choppers, pre-war Harley-Davidson's and the ever popular street bike based "Hooligan" class battled all night on the sticky, syrupy track. Traction was actually really , really good. Unbelievably good in fact, until it went away and then it was as slippery as sliding on a banana peel. Finding that limit of traction was key and separated the winners from the wipeout victims.
I myself tested the limits of traction on my 1200 Sportster throughout the night of racing. I gained more and more confidence through practice and the heat race. As I rolled out to the line of my semi race and last chance to make the Hooligan man , I felt I was finally getting the hang of it. A quick blip of the throttle as the green flag dropped resulted in a holeshot and everything was going great.Then it started to go bad as I got sketchy going into turn 3 after stomping on the rear brake too hard. Just like that Roland Sands was by me as I drifted wide and my main event dreams were slipping away.A lap later and a heated battle with another rider resulted in my rear end sweeping out from under me like a high school janitor pushing a broom. I had found the limit now, haha.
The Hooligan main event was a thriller to the checkered flag. Mark Atkins AKA " Rusty Butcher" had just completed the build of a Harley-Davidson Street 750 race bike and was blazing fast all night. He looked like shoo-in for the "W". But a Professional ringer, a former national champion at that, had other ideas and just edged out Mark for the victory. Mark got the holeshot at the start of the hooligan main and led until about the half way point and then the Ringer got by him in some traffic. Refusing to Lose, Mark rode like a man possessed and got right on the rear of the ringer and looked ready to attempt a pass but then more lappers got in the way and that was that as the checkered flag dropped. There was plenty of bar banging and carnage throughout the Hooligan main and the crowd went crazy with all the high speed thrills and spills.
The more I learned about the event, the more bizarre it got. Taping up the left boot with some carpet, using a wood rasp to freshen up tires between races, etc.
Along with the headlining Hooligan class there were a few other standout races. " The Frozen Few"brought out an amazing array of pre-war Harley-Davidson machines and weren't afraid to flog the hell out of them around the sticky, tricky track. The " Inappropriate " class featured a hodgepodge of questionable race ready machinery. Everything from Diggers, Shovelhead Choppers, Side cars, and luggage laden touring bikes.
Ronny Zastrow dressed in full "Prince" garb along with a fully outfitted "Purple Rain" bike wowed the crowd with his costumery and skills behind the bars. He slid and power-wheelied his way to a very popular victory. He could be seen partying like it was 1999 soon after.
Flat Out Friday was an astounding sweet success , thanks to some Dr. Pepper , some amazing racers and the loads of fans that came out to partake in the fun. I can't wait until next year's Flat Out Friday, as this year's event was some of the best fun I've ever had on a motorcycle. I'll also be sure to bring some carpet for my boot.
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