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The InSlide Line: Week 37

By Tyler Porter

Hello, and welcome to the InSlide Line Presented by Boughner Racing Suspension and Pro Plates. This week we'll feature a column that I haven't written in a while. This week we will have a column that neither reviews a race or rev's one up. It's been a VERY busy season for racers and teams, but for us media types, it has kept us busy too. Luckily for you however, we still have a few things to talk about, so let's get to work!

Let's kick things off this week with where you can find some racing action.
Hanover, PA Short Track
Port Crane, NY Short Track
Ramseur, NC Short Track
Indianapolis, IN Short Track
Owosso, MI Short Track & TT Two Day Event
Wheatley, ONT Canada

Next week the racing action continues coast to coast.
York, PA Half-Mile Randy Texter Memorial All-Star Series Event
Erie, CO Short Track
Rainier, WA Short Track
Chowchilla, CA Short Track King Of The Valley Series $$$
Perris, CA Short Track
Lodi, CA TT/100cc "National"

When there is not racing action to cover and no "behind the scenes" action going on worth mentioning, you guys probably know what time it is...that's right, time for be to climb up on a soap box and do a little bit of preaching. Right or wrong, I guess you guys will just have to deal with my opinion. Correct? Not always. However, this website is paid for out of my pocket, I have no one who has to approve of what I write and the only other contributor to this site on a steady basis is my secret weapon out in Colorado who makes sure everything is visually pleasing. That being said, here's a little something going on that we all need to think about if we ACTUALLY want this sport to grow.

Much like the economy of 2009 our sport also took a huge hit at about the same time. The people that I call "traditionalists" blame the Mike Kidd era of leadership for banning the framers as our demise. While it certainly didn't help our case at the time, I will tell you one thing it did, it brought several people who never really gave flattrack a try, into flattrack. When everybody who was going racing was doing so on a framer motorcycle, I don't hear of many people talking about how they got involved by saying "I saw it one night and thought I would give it a try." Most of the things from that generation was "My father did it, my grandfather did it, my uncles did it, so I built a bike and now I'm doing it." However, Once the motocross based flattracker became the norm, I can PERSONALLY tell you about 7 people who gave our sport a shot just because of how similar the bikes were to what they already have. No, 7 is not an impressive number, and I realize that, but I still believe that more people are involved now because of the 450's than would have been involved had we stayed with framers. You may also want to check your local vet classes. These are classes without rules as to what you can ride. Check out how many people in those classes are riding framers. Not very many. Success is about evolution, progressing while changing and as negative as some people want to be, as someone with a pretty close eye on the pulse of the sport, I see us growing in a few respects.

With growth however comes times where you are uncomfortable with the change. We have many teams in that zone right now. Yes, money is tight and I can attest that just as well as any one in our sport. However, at the highest level of our sport, we all love to call ourselves "Professionals." That is the best thing in the world. We hang that lanyard off of our rear views of our vans or pick ups, we made sure we have a crispy clean t-shirt from one of our sponsors on at all times, and if you are me, you pick out that one time in history where you appeared to have talent and you dwell on that for far too long. However, while we are playing up the fun aspects of being a professional, so few racers and teams actually want to do the nitty gritty things that should come along with calling yourself a "pro". I have caught flack SEVERAL times this year via text or email for not getting my "facts" 100% correct. While people call themselves professional racers or teams, apparently the two man show at Fight For Dirt Track is looked at as if we are Fox News. Complaints over errors have ranged from the distance that a rider was from the winner of the race to the wording on how I explained a team switch. Many times, I have to tell racers or team members how to read what I wrote to clear up a situation. Pointing the finger at someone who has spent the last 6 years or 312 weeks in a row covering the sport because you or your rider or your team couldn't put out a press release to detail your profession probably isn't the best course of action.

In 2010 I decided to throw my hat into the Pro rider ring for the 2011 season. Sure, I thought I could make main events on a national level and maybe eventually snag a top 10 here and there. While that never materialized, I justified what I did by telling myself it was a great way to provide insight right here on the InSLIDE Line each week. It also helped me build relationships with a lot of riders and team personnel which has lead me to getting a lot of behind the scenes information that you may not find in too many other places. I guess it has also lead me to believe that I can predict who will do well each weekend, but I think we all know how poorly that has gone! My situation is a little different than most because of this site. My sponsors are my advertisers. I do a weekly update, and yes, while I do post race reports any time there is a green light and a checkered flag in my life, I also usually give some sort of insight about what I'm doing right here week in and week out. I also have an advantage because of my job with Memphis Shades, I see and hang out with a lot of my supporters on nearly a weekly basis, and I know most racers don't have that luxury. However, every pro racer on AMA Pro Racing's roster has an email address. They all have a basic command of the english language. There is no reason why every racer in this country who wears a yellow lanyard this year can't sit down on a weekly or heck, even bi-weekly basis and type out a 10 minute update as to what is happening.

The 10 minutes you spend writing to the people who support you, or maybe even us media types, keeps information current. It also makes my "job" a lot easier because I don't have to rely on fans in the stands or face book posts to figure out what is going on. Facebook brings up another subject...facebook posts are NOT press releases. Sure you want to keep your family and friends updated, and sure you may have a "fan" page for your racing for people to follow along, but when you look at PROFESSIONAL companies, you don't see them posting their latest product information on their CEO's personal facebook page. It goes, via email, to their distributors, their dealers, their "mailing list", and on their own website. How many teams and riders have their own website? Social media has given people the impression that they no longer need their own site, but nothing could be further from the truth. Calling yourselves professionals is all about being one thing. Professional.

Because of AMA Pro Racing's involvement in dirt track we are now live streaming EVERY national event to anyone with an internet connection. People are watching from home. I have friends in the industry who are watching nearly every race live who may have never even been to a national before. This is huge. We are living in a world of digital media, a world that has to have everything RIGHT NOW and guess what, AMA Pro Racing is giving the people what they want! No more watching on an obscure network at 3am. We have professionally edited coverage live and on tap for everyone. Sure, it can improve, one would be having a separate PA feed so that the youtube watchers such as myself don't have to hear about the blue Chevy Impala that needs to be moved in the parking lot or how hot dogs are half price until the heat races are over, but hey, those are just the little things. We are reaching a lot of people these days. On youtube, nearly every GNC Main Event video has at least 8,000 views. Most are over 10,000. The 2nd night of Daytona and the 1st Springfield Mile of the year have over 20,000 views. While there is a video making fun of Chevy Truck commercials and a few cat videos in the millions of views, this goes to show you that there are people following the sport and there are people who are interested.

What I challenge riders and teams to do is something I have pleaded for during the last several years. If you want to call yourselves professional, act professional. Send race reports out after every race, no matter if it is your county fair race or a Grand National. Sponsors and fans want an update. I know several companies who are terminating their sponsorship programs if they do not hear from their riders on AT LEAST a monthly basis. How hard is it to keep people updated once a month? I'll even throw my email out right here, once again, for people to send things to. I'm not trying to be the angry media guy here, but I can promise one thing, the next time Fight For Dirt Track is slammed over the details that we provide in the column because we didn't get information from the team after a race, when we should have, that team is going to get a long explanation why. A few riders and teams have already heard this response. AMA Pro Racing is doing everything in their budget to try to boost our sports marketing power, can't you do a little to take the same steps? Get those emails fired up!

Now that I've stepped off the soap box and though you were hoping for it, I didn't trip and fall, here's a little insider're going to see a lot of blue next year. The Yamaha's are coming. One prominent fame builder in our sport has a motor to build a chassis around and has an order for 10 I hear, some of those teams who are funded through Yamaha directly. The great thing about Yamaha is that they actually do care about flattrack. Sure, Kawasaki came in with some support, and there are a couple of teams that still get a motor or two from them, but for the most part, they haven't done a lot for our sport. Yamaha though is headed up by people who were around during that historic ride from Kenny Roberts in Indy, they know the heart and soul of flattrack and they are looking for their piece of the pie. The FZ-07 motor in stock trim is already much more powerful than a Kawasaki, though it is true that it has a displacement advantage from the factory. However, even AMA Pro Racing has taken notice and I'm hearing things swirling around that they are going to mandate that the Yamaha's must keep their stock throttle body diameter to try to rein them in and to keep things fair for the teams who are heavily invested in Harley Davidson or Kawasaki platforms.

Likewise, I hear that a few builders have the new Harley Davidson motors from the "Street" 750. There was an article published in Cycle World that stated Harley Davidson designed the 750 motor with racing in mind, but I'm not totally sure I am going to believe that. Harley Davidson is a company focused on profit and while racing is a great marketing tool, it rarely boosts the bottom line. Harley though doesn't want to get booted out of the sport that it has kept alive over the years however and I hear that at least 6 motors have made it into the hands of some of our most famous engine builders in hopes that they find some power and durability in those mills. From the teams I have talked to, about 95 horsepower to the wheels is the optimum number for a twin. After 95 they start having traction issues, or sometimes the motors made so much torque that it can cause adverse handling effects. With 95% of our main events filled with Kawasaki's and Harley Davidsons, I feel like we have the most even playing field that we have had since I have been around the sport. The Kawasaki's can win on a half-mile and the Harley's can still get the job done on the mile, especially if your last name is Coolbeth.

Will we have a Factory Harley squad racing their new liquid cooled motor? Will the people with these Yamaha frames on order complete those bikes and have them ready for the first twins race of the season? Will the Kawasaki teams find a little extra in those motors? I can tell you one thing, if you thought the 2014 season has been interesting, 2015 is going to prove to be an even better one, especially if you enjoy the technical aspects of our sport as much as I do.

That's all that I have for the week. I apologize if you don't like to hear my rants, but it's vital for our sport for our riders and teams to make some changes if they truly want to grow. If we truly want our sport to be taken serious, we have to take it serious ourselves as the first step. If we treat it like a hobby, sponsors will treat us like a hobby. Next week's column will be the first one in a while not typed out in the Quilt Capitol as I hit the road next week to do a little midwest touring for the greatest windshield company in the world, Memphis Shades. Maybe I'll be stopping by your local shop! Either way, thank you for reading and have a great weekend!

Best Of's

Fastest Race Wrench: JD Beach

Most Bored Mechanic: Clayton Shambaugh

First Candidate For Save Of The Season: Brad Baker