Victory in Defeat
Indoor Flat Track to SuperMoto, Dirt Tracking, Electric Bikes, A Day with Scott Russell and AFM = LIVING!
Can you really find victory in defeat? Well, a one month span of racing would test me to my limits and let me know. I take pride in being good at something and when it is not something that come to me easily, I will work at it until I get better. In the last month, several new opportunities came up where I would find out about defeat. I am not saying I enjoyed such a lesson, but there it is just the same. If I had any ego at the start of the month, that was all about to change.
A little over a month ago we bought a supermoto bike for Jenn and a few days after buying it I thought I would drive to San Jose and race the indoor flat track. Turning a sumo bike to flat track bike is not that difficult really, at least it shouldn‘t be. As I sat in the garage and looked over the bike only one thought appeared in my head; I looked at the front brakes, yep those have to be removed. With procrastination my mind scrambled for anything else to do. Yeah, I’ll just do the oil first, then again I looked at the brakes, oooh the air filter needs servicing, looking at the brakes once more, better adjust the chain, looked at the brakes again, and again I would find something else to do. I felt like Linus front the Peanut’s trying to give up my blanket. After dealing with my anxiety, the bolts were slowly removed. Who the hell races something with no front brakes? well looks like I just joined that group of idiots, I mean racers.
I showed up and had no idea what the hell I was doing, having never raced a flat track race, I had no idea how unprepared I was. Newb, squid, noodle, rolling hay bail, any of these would apply. I did not show up with any of the right gearing or any idea how to handle the polished concrete. Garrett Willis helped both Martin and I, he told us to bring carpet for our boots. Yes, in true do it yourself fashion we taped carpet to our boots, and not with any tape, the one and only 200mph tape, held carpet to our boots.
We did eventually get out on track in what I thought would be an easy class. Little did I know that this was a big race and tons of guys showed to race the 150-230 class. Maybe with more time to ride the bike we had purchased only one week ago, I may have done better. At the end of the night, we were the last two guys to NOT make the main event. I sat and watched 8 other guys race the main event. Missing the main hurt my ego, but I have now raced a flat track race and plan to come back.
Embarrassed and upset at my performance I had a week to shake it off before my first Sumo race and dirt track race. Yup, both in one weekend. It took a few trips to Roseville Yamaha to get all the required parts that would make the bike legal to slide down the track. I put on the last of my parts Saturday afternoon and went to the track to learn the art of the sumo racing. We showed up Saturday afternoon for practice and we had 3 sessions to learn how to ride supermoto bikes. Jenn rode the 150 and I had a 250 to work with. Sebastio was able to show up with a borrowed bike and pitted with us; he spent some time explaining things, trying to minimize my newb status. His help was much appreciated and helped me get up to speed.
After a few sessions of Supermoto practice, I grabbed some Pirelli rain tires and mounted them up in time to do my first dirt track race. Keeping up with the theme from the polished concrete pummeling, I got my ass handed to me all night. The night was really breaking my spirit until the last race, where a holeshot and a 3rd place made me feel like I had plugged one of the many holes in my leaking dam of talent.
Sunday morning and another tire change back to some slicks CT Racing helped me pick out, I was ready to race. T1, 2, 3 are all a bit different in sumo racing. Elbows, bumping, nudging, and rubbing are all acceptable means of passing your fellow rider. After getting mugged like a rich person in the hood, I realized road racing etiquette was not going to fly. I spent the rest of the day nudging, rubbing, and bumping my way back to the podium. 4 races ended with 3 podiums and a slightly re-inflated ego.
Fast forward two weeks and to the AMA races, where we attempted to race the Zero electric bikes as well Supermoto USA with Brok McAllister. Practice went well, but we had to skip my heat races which left me at the back of the grid. I got close, but last to 4th was the best I could do. Saturday we enjoyed talking with our friends and had a good time. Sunday morning we had only one sumo practice available which we both looked to ride before heading down to race the electric bikes. Then the weekend came to an abrupt halt, as Jenn flipped over the bars and slammed into the dirt. We decided several friends already in the hospital needed a visit from us. Jenn thinks I drive like there is blind fold over my eyes and lead weights on my feet, so she went to hospital via the ambulance. A broken T12 would keep her in the hospital for a few days. I think she made up the injury to get out of loading the trailer up.
Tuesday, was supposed to be all about her. A day with KH Coaching and special guest Mr Daytona (aka Scott Russell). Unable to ride she opted to let me ride in her spot. Most everyone knows that I picked up a 1000 for the 2012 AFM season, I had a few days on the bike, but just tried to get a base setup and tame the beast that is a 1000. Luckily Scott was able to chase me around and help me with a number of bad habits I picked up on the 600. Honestly, I was not sure what to expect, not all racers make good instructors. Together we found a vocabulary that worked for both of us and made me feel much better heading into my first race weekend. Thank you again to Ken and Scott for all your help! More than telling me what was wrong they also gave me some tools to continue learning how to get faster on the 1000.
All of this lead to my first weekend on liter bike with guys like Dave, Martin, Ricky, Go Go, Siggy, and the rest of the regular fast guys. Chris Maguire showed me what tires to run for the weekend and off I went. Saturday morning I took the bike out and started going to work. I felt bad as I seemed to be dragging an anchor for most of the day, not a cargo ship anchor but an anchor none the less. It could have been worse, but at least I felt like I belonged on the bike. It is all about relationships and my bike and I are developing ours.
Sunday, Sunday, Sunday here we go. Two months late I am finally racing my new toy. Race 1, gridded 19th the flag dropped and off I went. Every effort was made to get up front, but I just missed getting to the back of the lead pack. I used the rest of the race trying to manage my energy. After the race it was funny to listen how my description of the track changed from 600 to 1000. I now refer to those straight sections as short-aways not straight-aways. There is not a lot of time to rest on the 1000.
Race 2 was the same 19th place start, but after lap 2 my heart got a bit of adrenaline as I went for the brakes only to feel the lever pinch my fingers to the grip. Unable to do much after that I struggled to finish the race, with little to no brakes. Back in the pits I checked the brakes and flushed the fluid, looking for any reason to my failing brakes. FP was to be after lunch and I needed to be ready to play.
FP gave me the best grid of the day, Row 3 and 11th place. My start was good and I thought I may be able to latch onto the faster guys, but by lap 2 the brakes went bye-bye. Coming down the short away and flying into T1, I was doing my best not to suck the seat right off the bike, I managed to make the turn, but missed my down shifts and Go Go passed me, much like his name suggests. Immediately I tried to challenge, but as he tightened up the line we almost hit as I grabbed for what should have been brakes. My first race weekend could not end with me cleaning out one of the nicest guys in the pits because I was too stupid to back off. Don’t get me wrong I wanted to beat him, just not at the risk of hurting another rider.
At the end of the weekend it was a 5th in Open SB, a 5th in Open Grand Prix, and a 7th in Formula Pacific.
The 1000 class will be a challenge for me, I know it. Several guys talked with me and said nice things or were very encouraging about my new program. Some people can’t wait to see me struggle with the big bike and that’s ok with me. I watch racing interviews all the time, and listen to riders pussy foot around questions about the upcoming year. Well I was asked and want to make it perfectly clear, I came to win. I want to win every race I enter, every time I enter. I am setting reasonable goals along the way, but I expect to win this year. I have nothing but respect for the other racers on the grid, and that is what makes me want to beat them. Thank you to everyone who has helped me make this part of my racing dream become reality. I look forward to the day I get to say it from the top of the box.
Thank you as always to those who choose to support racers, and thank you to those who support those companies. See my sponsor links for information about the best companies in the business. Look for us riding at Pacific Track Time in the upcoming months.
Are you kidding me?
May 6, Sunday Late Morning:
What the ____ did I do? What was I thinking? The weekend was going great up until this point, now I am lying in the Santa Rosa Memorial Emergency Room with 12 doctors surrounding me; cutting off my new jersey and Underarmour, trying to remove my pants and knee braces without having to cut those off too, needles going into my arms and sensors being stuck to my chest and stomach. The TTXGP Race 1 is preparing to head onto the track right now, I am supposed to be out there racing with my husband, Martin Szwarc and Kenyon Kluge for Zero Motorcycles and instead I am being rolled away for a CT scan while my husband is desperately loading up the RV so he can come be with me at the hospital. “Do you want any pain medication?” they ask me again. I continue to refuse, hopeful that I was just having muscle spasms and that I am not “really” hurt. If I turn down the pain medications maybe they will release me this afternoon after I have been checked out and cleared, maybe I could make it back to the track in time for the rest of my Supermoto USA races and TTXGP Race 2. Why does my back hurt so much? What was I thinking?
Before the race weekend:
I was really… I mean really, really, looking forward to this race weekend. Jason and I had decided not to race AMA SuperSport this year; Jason had sold his R6 and is now racing a 1000 so he can no longer race SuperSport, and though I have not entirely given up my goal of racing some AMA rounds, I decided that it fell lower on the priority list this year than some other things I want to accomplish, so I have put that goal aside for the time being. We weren’t headed to the West Coast Moto Jam to race AMA SuperSport, instead we were going to be there racing Round 2 of the SupermotoUSA series. Thanks to Jason, and his magic fairies, I would be riding my CRF150R this round, he managed to locate a used motor and get it installed in Lily since the motor blew at the 1st round, and now she was running great. I couldn’t wait to race on the Infineon Kart Track, I had actually ridden there once before and really enjoyed the track and I heard the dirt sections for the Supermoto race were going to be challenging and fun. I was optimistic about the weekend and looking to improve on my race finishes in each of the classes from what I had accomplished at Round 1.
And then…. It got even more exciting… a few weeks before West Coast Moto Jam; Jason got a call from our friend and fellow AFM racer Kenyon Kluge asking if we would be interested in racing on his team from Zero Motorcycles in the TTXGP (electric bike series) at Infineon during West Coast Moto Jam weekend. Jason and I talked it over and decided to do it, Jason had raced the inaugural TTXGP race with another team a couple years ago and the electric bikes have really come a long way in development in this short time. We thought it would be exciting to be a part of the race and fun to ride some really cool Zero Electric bikes, so we signed up for the team. To make it even more fun and exciting, our good friend Martin Szwarc signed up with the Zero team as well. In the days leading up to the race weekend, I made sure to razz the boys on FaceBook letting them know my plans to beat them to the checkers in the race, maybe I have a little competitive spirit.
Zero Motorcycles May 1
Zero Motorcycles rider #7, Jason Lauritzen
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Racing in both TTXGP and SupermotoUSA was going to be challenging, I mapped out our weekend schedule carefully, we were going to have some overlap on track time between the two events, but I was sure we could still race the mains for both. We called in our great friends to help us with the logistics and preparation for the two events; Cat Stadler came out to the track on Friday and took care of all the little things that make the day go smoother (and took some great pictures for us) and Greg McCullough showed up to lend us a hand for the events on Saturday and Sunday. It may not have seemed like much help, but sometimes it is the little things that make a huge difference, thank you so much to Cat and Greg for their help.
May 4, Friday:
Friday was pretty mellow, we had several Supermoto practice sessions in the afternoon. As I was getting familiar with the track, I found the transitions from asphalt to dirt and back from dirt to asphalt was the most challenging part for me… the traction goes from very loose on the dirt to suddenly having grip on the pavement or vice versa, it forced me to be smooth, yet quickly responsive on the throttle. I also found that, despite having some MX experience, I was not a big fan of the dirt jumps, I was being mental about the idea of jumping in the dirt on slick tires (tires with no tread.) Part of the reason that I gave up motocross is, that after a couple of significant accidents while jumping, I concluded that I am not very good at jumping, thus road racing - where we stay firmly planted on the ground - became my preferred sport. As a Supermoto racer, we don’t have big dirt sections, but I would have an advantage if I could find that courage to jump again. It just didn’t seem to be within me today… I would roll through the dirt sections, trying to carry as much speed as possible without catching too much air.
At the end of the day on Friday we had our first practice session on the Zero bikes, I swapped from my dirt gear to my leathers and headed down to the main track for practice. The Zero bikes were so fun to ride, but so different; no clutch, no shifter… direct drive. Just twist the throttle and go… no sound. I spent the practice session getting familiar with the lean angle, traction and corner speeds available on the electric bike, I worked on my tuck and trying to minimize any wind resistance. It was incredibly windy during practice so it really amplified if I wasn’t in a good tuck. We came in from practice and compared notes, Martin and Kenyon were turning the fastest lap times, but Kenyon has loads of experience riding the Zero bike and Martin had the opportunity to test it out at a track day earlier in the week, so it was expected that they had the advantage on the learning curve. I had started using the speed gauge as an indicator of how I was doing with corner speed and drive out of the corners, when I told the guys how fast I was going on the straights their jaws hit the floor because I was able to get a good 10 mph faster than they were. I joked with them and told them to stop eating so many cookies. :) All I needed was to carry a little more corner speed, trusting those Pirelli tires like I do on my R6, and I should be able to use my lighter weight to my advantage. Maybe…. I would be able to beat out two of the AFM top 10 plate holders, that would be bragging rights forever! LOL!
May 5, Saturday:
We kicked the day off with Supermoto practice first thing; I had one Supermoto race on the schedule today, the Women’s race, and I wanted to win it. There were a few girls that were getting through the dirt section faster than me and if I wanted to win I needed to fix that or make sure I was that much faster on the pavement. I focused on getting faster in the dirt and by the end of practice I was able to jump the rollers and table tops, but there was this annoying little “double” that I was nervous about jumping, so I continued to roll it, each time wondering why I was letting it get to me so much.
The Supermoto heat races (a pre-race to determine your grid start spot for the main) were mid-morning, and unfortunately we had a conflict with the TTXGP practice scheduled at the same time. Jason managed to race one of his heat races, finishing 4th, and then we scooted off down the hill to get more time in on the electric bikes. By missing my heat, I would be starting dead last (on the 4th row) for the women’s main.
My second practice on the electric bike went much better. I was learning that I really didn’t need to brake AT ALL for most of the corners, carrying corner speed and momentum would be the key for this race. It is a very strange feeling to not brake for turn 1, or turn 2, or turn 3 and 3a… and it is kind of difficult to override the survival instincts that wanted me to brake. After some hard negotiations between my self preservation - left brain and my thrill seeking – right brain, I managed to convince myself that it was safe enough and even quite fun to charge full speed, pinned to the stops over the hill, wide into the carousel and then ride it like a roller coaster down and around, toes and footpegs dragging as I spit out at a full 73 miles per hour onto the back straight, where I would immediately tuck as tight as possible to the bike, knees and elbows in, chin dropped to the tank. At one point in my new found full tuck position, I was charging down the hill towards turn 9 trying to latch onto Kenyon, who had just come by me, and as I moved from the tuck to hang off the right side of my bike for the corner, I bumped the kill switch with my chin. I didn’t hear it die, but as soon as I rolled on the throttle exiting 9, I realized what I had done. Oops… I won’t be catching Kenyon now.
Several laps into the session, Steve Atlas came by me on the Brammo development bike, then as I came around turn 7, I was shocked to see Steve’s bike lying on the outside of the track and Steve was crawling his way off the edge of the curbing. It looked like he had a nasty high side at the exit of turn 7, our session was red flagged.
We later learned Steve had broken several ribs, I wish him a speedy recovery.
With our last electric bike practice now complete, it was time to head back up the hill for our Supermoto Mains, I had the Women’s race and Jason had 2 races, 250 lites and Vet +30.
Jason’s 250 lites race was up first, followed immediately by my Women’s main. I lined up on the inside of the last row. I gave it a couple attempts to set my hole shot device, but it looked like they were about to wave the green flag so I forgot about that and got ready for the start. Just like the days of MX racing, body forward up over the bars to keep from wheeling, elbows out, rev the motor and green flag!!! Pinned and feather off the clutch and we are off. As we head off the line my plan was to swing around the outside, but a row in front of me Kristy Miller wheelied off the start and her bike swerved slightly to the right pushing the group out just enough. I saw a line… an opening up the inside and I forced my way into it.
By turn 1 I was up to the 8th spot, and as we filed thru turn 1, I forced the inside line and held it tight to turn 2 making a close pass on Sarah Pittiglio, I left her just enough room as we transitioned from the left to the right so she wouldn’t have to run off track. I stayed pinned on the gas to turn 4, taking a tight, inside line again into the left handed hairpin of turn 4. Here I managed to put a couple more bikes behind me, but I could see Carrie Looney and Sarah Preston getting away at the front. I made a couple more passes in the high speed section after turn 5 leading up to the front straight. By the time I hit the front straight I was in 3rd. Now time to see if I could reel in Carrie and Sarah. Three more laps I chased and inched forward into the gap they had pulled at the start. I was making progress, but it was not as quickly as I needed. A lap after we passed the ½ way flag (telling us we were half way thru the race) we came into the dirt section and one of the speedy younger girls was lying in the dirt section. Yellow flags waving, she wasn’t getting up quickly. I finished the lap and wasn’t surprised to see the red flag as I came onto the straight. The race was called over since we were more than ½ way, and I had a solid 3rd place podium spot. I was pretty excited about that, with the talent and number of women racers in the field and my back row grid spot… it was a good race! (And I was glad to see the young lady up and ok, ready to race again later that day.)
Jason headed out for his 30+ Vet race and like me he had a back row start (17th position.) Jason made a great start and put on a good charge getting up to 4th by the time the checkers flew.
After he came off the track, we had a short break before it was time to head down to the main track for our TTXGP qualifying. We walked over to the edge of the hilltop to watch, from afar, the end of the SuperSport race on the track below. Jason had the binoculars and told me that Cameron Gish (a young gun, fast kid and our former team-mate when we raced with Z2) had crashed in turn one and the race was red flagged. We loaded up our leathers and headed down to the Zero pit to get ready for qualifying and get an update on how Cam was doing. Greg was already at the Zero pit as he had helped get our electric bikes set up and put the tire warmers on them.
We found out Cam was pretty hurt and was being transported to Santa Rosa Memorial, though we were relieved to hear that he had given the thumbs up as they loaded him into the bus. Our qualify session was delayed for ½ hour due to the red flag.
Finally at 5:30 it was time to get on the track for qualifying. We went out and put in several laps with the goal of being the fastest in the session so we could get the best grid position for the race. Zero had turned up the settings on the bikes to allow us to get to max speeds, but it meant that the bikes would get hot faster. We had to do a few flying laps, then run a slower lap to allow the bike to cool, then back to a few flyers and repeat. The session was pretty fun as I was really starting to get a feel for the bike, the traction and staying on the throttle thru many of the corners.
Unfortunately during the Qualifying session Brammo had another crash, they had brought in Steve Rapp to ride in place of Steve Atlas, and Rapp ended the day with a broken wrist. I hope Rapp heals up quickly and can get back to racing soon.
It was a very busy day for us, but Jason and I had a blast with the racing and action. We hung out in the paddock for awhile and spent some time visiting with great friends then headed back up to our Toy Hauler on the hilltop to get some rest for Sunday.
May 6, Sunday
Our schedule for Sunday was even busier than our schedule from Saturday. We would start the morning at 8:30, with one Supermoto practice session. Both Jason and I had 2 heats and 2 mains for Supermoto races, and we had 2 TTXGP races. TTXGP race 1 was scheduled for 10:00 am, in the same time block as our Supermoto heat races, so we were going to have to skip the heat races again and just grid at the back for our mains, but at least we would be able to race all our mains before heading back down to the main track for TTXGP race 2. Since there wasn’t very much time between Supermoto practice and our TTXGP race, I contemplated skipping the morning practice. Then I decided it would be a good warm up and after talking to Carrie and Sarah, I decided that I also wanted to try to jump that stupid little double and get it out of my head. Practice lap 1, I sized up the jump and the best line. Lap 2, I followed another rider and measured the speed they were carrying to clear the double. Lap 3, I rolled it again I was trying to build up my nerve… Lap 4, this is it, I am committing to jumping it, (the double is after turn 3) I make my way thru T1 transitioning from the pavement to the dirt, turn 2 I line up the exiting the dirt berm to make sure I am on the right line in turn 3. Turn 3, I am on the line I want and I clear the roller as I exit the turn and then the double is in front of me, I get on the gas to clear it and just as I am heading up the face I realize I don’t have the speed to clear it!!!! The right thing to do would have been to stay on the gas and try to keep it upright as I short the jump and bounce… but I didn’t do the right thing. I panicked and I rolled off the throttle just after my front tire came off the top of the ramp, it happened so fast from there, the front tire dropped like something had knocked it down out of the air and it went straight into the upslope of the double, the rear tire came up into the air throwing me into a front handspring over the bars and slammed me onto my back on the top of the double landing and then my bike followed my path of travel and landed on my belly, then bounced into the track. I rolled to the edge of the track and sat up. I wanted to get off the track, but as I sat up I felt the sharp pain in my back, I planted my hands on the dirt and pushed up with my arms I felt pain relieve a little. “Crap,” I thought, realizing what this probably meant, “I’ve just fractured my back.” The medics came and put me in the C-spine, and strapped me to the board… off to the hospital I went.
They took me to Santa Rosa Memorial, Jason had called the only person he knew that was at the hospital, Cam, and talked to his dad and asked if they had someone who could go down to the ER to check on me. Thank you to Kim for coming down, she was allowed in to see me just as Jason arrived at the hospital, so she only stayed a moment, as her son really needed her up in the ICU, but I am thankful for her support.
Eventually I got the CT scan and the news, I have a “minor” compression fracture to my T12, at the bottom of the rib cage. They insisted that I need to stay in the hospital for 2-3 days, but I disagreed. They already told me it was minor… I wanted to go home. We agreed on an overnight stay. The next day, I found out I needed to be fitted for a brace and seen by the Physical Therapist before they would release me. My day nurse on Monday was amazing, she followed up with my doctor, the guy who had to measure me and fit me for a brace and the PT. It was because of the persistence of that nurse that I was in my brace and released on Monday evening.
May 8, Tuesday
Today was the day I had been awaiting for half the year, my one on one coaching day with Scott Russell and Ken Hill. Obviously I didn’t get to ride. My husband spent the day with them instead. I tried to listen in on the video review and feedback sessions as much as I could, but unfortunately I was still in pretty decent pain. I spent the majority of the day sleeping in the Toy Hauler, while Jason rode.
But at least I got to meet Scott and get a photo with him and Ken. (I’m blaming my goofy smile on the pain meds.)
May 18, Friday
It’s been nearly 2 weeks (already) and I am starting to feel much better. I saw my local specialist on Wednesday and he advised that I should stay in the brace for 4 weeks. June 1st, I am free of it. I had to sit out the first AFM race last weekend at Thunderhill and I really don’t want to miss another one. The next AFM race is June 2-3 at Infineon, just after I am free of the brace, so I will just have to wait and see how my recovery goes in the next week before I can determine if I will be able to race. *Fingers Crossed*
I want to thank all my sponsors; your ongoing support is greatly appreciated. Also, thank you to Joe Salas, 4theriders for hooking me up with my Supermoto pictures from Saturday and to Max Klein for the “Eye of the Tiger” shot on the Zero bike. Cat and Greg for the help over the weekend, and more pictures from Cat. Also a big thank you to Ernie Montegue and my BFF, Kyle Schirrmacher, for filling in for Jason and I, racing in the TTXGP Races. KH Coaching for being the best Coach EVER! Brok McAllister for the AMAZING dirt track schools and for running the fun and competitive SupermotoUSA series. (Sorry I crashed and delayed the Sunday program.) I’ll be back for more SM racing soon.
One of the three well-known California road racing clubs; AFM offers a place where you can participate in races, watch as a spectator, or even take part as a turn-worker on the course. There are competition classes for almost all motorcycles; you can race what you own, build a bike specifically for racing, or maybe even pick up a pre-set-up bike through member want ads. Competing in expert club racing can be used to qualify for a pro racing license. Explore the website for further information.
Women race with the men?
Yes, races are structured by bike size. Women race in the same classes as men that have the same sized bike. However, there is a growing interest among women in racing , so many racing clubs have added a women’s class to encourage the ladies to give it a try.
Formed in 2001, SMUSA is now the premier Pro/Am supermoto series in the country. Many of the well known American road racers such as Bobby Fong, Joey Pascarella, Cameron Beaubier, Elena Myers, Tyler O'Hara, Garrett Willis and others all competed in Supermoto USA's Nor Cal Championship where they developed their skills.
PC Dirt Track in Sacramento, Ca holds a series of the oldest and most traditional type of motorcycle racing, flat track - sometimes referred to as “dirt track” racing. A uniquely American type of motorcycle racing. Riders finesse their machines sideways through the turns, just inches apart from each other.
Since 1924, the AMA has protected the future of motorcycling and promoted the motorcycle lifestyle. AMA members come from all walks of life, and they navigate many different routes on their journey to the same destination: freedom on two wheels. The AMA sanctions more motorsports competition and motorcycle recreational events than any other organization in the world. No one who has ever seen an AMA Pro motorcycle race ever forgets it.