As a lot of you know already, I am the 2017 Roland Sands Super Hooligan National Champion! It was quite the journey. I wanted to share with you how it all happened, as well as some stories from the year as I chased the title. The start of the 2018 Super Hooligans series is just over a week away, so I better tell this now before it's all forgotten! First off, I would like to thank my amazing sponsors who played a part in obtaining the championship!
Thor and See See Motorcycles - Thanks for the encouragement, support, and the Harley-Davidson Street 750 to race! Thanks for taking time out of your busy schedule to work on the bike, get parts for it, and help me chase this title anyway you could!
EDR Performance and K-Tech Suspension - Thank you Eric Dorn of EDR and Skip Dowling from K-Tech Suspension for coming together to get me dialed in mid-season with new 25mm fork cartridges, and a pair of Tracker shocks! It was by far the biggest upgrade I made to the bike all season. Thank you Eric for the setup help!
Latus Motors Harley-Davidson - Thank you Mike Stegmann for installing the 800 kit and doing some tuning to the bike! Thank you George Latus, Amanda Zito and John Canales for the support as well!
Harley-Davidson - Thank you H-D for backing me this year! It's been an honor to represent such an iconic manufacturer. Thank you Chris and Eric for all the help.
ASV Inventions - Thank you Bob for all the hospitality you, your family and employees have given me! It was a real pleasure to hang out with you all at the last race in Huntington Beach.
Maxima Racing Oils - Thank you Garrett for the support!
Oregon Motorcycle Attorney - Thank you Mike for the support and encouragement!
Fox Racing - Thank you Todd, Dave, Chris and Clay for all the threads! I always had the sickest gear. It's a dream come true to be working with Fox.
Alpinestars - Thank you JP, Troy and Joaquin for the help with boots and street gear this year!
Ride 100% - Thank you Russ for the support!
Bell Helmets - Thank you Chris and Brett for all the support this year!
Roland Sands and the SHNC crew - Thank you Roland for putting together a sweet series with some amazing trophies, prizes, and payouts! Thank you Cameron and Natalie for all your hard work at every round too.
WeBig Inc - Thanks Todd for sick hats and everything you've done for me at Fox!
Vanilla Cycles - Thank you Ryan, Dan and Cole for the ride and the top notch support at Mama Tried! The bike you lent me was awesome, and that was a super critical round looking back at this season. Had a blast with you guys!
MotoSport.com - Thank you guys and gals for the support!
Bob Lanphere's Beaverton Motorcycles- Thanks for having odd and ends stuff I needed and for the support!
Mom and Dad - Thank you both for all the love and support. Thank you Dad for taking the time to come out to some of the races and wrench for me. It made all the difference in the world having you there to help me with the bike!
It was the week of The One Motorcycle Show in Portland, Oregon, that my friend Aaron Guardado of Suicide Machine Company told me about this new Hooligan national series starting up.
It had just been announced that week at the last moment, and it just so happened the first race of the championship was part of The One Pro race at Salem Speedway (Hosted by The One Show) that very weekend. I was already planning on racing the See See Motorycles Harley-Davidson Street 750 there in the Hooligan race. Aaron really stressed the opportunity of the series to me, including the prizes like an Indian FTR-750 flat track bike, and thousands of dollars up for grabs. I told my Dad about the series, but at the time, I had almost a full season of MotoAmerica planned that had multiple schedule conflicts with the RSD Super Hooligan National Championship. For the time being, it was just a wild idea.
The race at Salem went well for me.
I won my heat race, and had an epic battle with Sammy Halbert in the Dash for Cash.
We bounced off each other like a pin ball in an arcade machine. In the main event, I did ride as well as I wanted and I got a 3rd. But it was enough to get my Dad and road racing engine builder, Eric Dorn, all excited about the series and the idea of running it. The next challenge was the fact round 2 of the series was in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, just 5 days later! I was in school at the time, and there wasn't a way for me to get a bike to the race. I was very lucky to have had Hunter Klee of S&S Cycles arrange me a ride with Vanilla Cycles on an H-D Street 750 at the Mama Tried race in Wisconsin. In just a couple days a race bike was tracked down, plane tickets were paid for, and I was headed to Milwaukee for round 2.
It was safe to say I was pretty nervous traveling so far across the country to race not only a motorcycle I've never rode before, and had no idea whether it was decent and competitive or not, as well as the fact the track I would be racing on was polished concrete with coke syrup sprayed on it. I've never raced on that kind of surface before, and I had no idea what to expect! Everyone told me how small of a track it was and how crucial getting starts was.
It had all the makings of a disaster, but it turned into one of the biggest payoffs of the season! The bike I was provided by Vanilla Cycles was dialed, the Vanilla Cycles team was dialed, and I adapted to the track in an instant. I went on to win the Dash for Cash and get 2nd place in the main event! I had an incredible time, and took over the points lead in the series.
The next stop about a month later was at Dixie Speedway just outside Atlanta, Georgia. By this point and time, I had completely re-planned my entire race season with my Dad and sponsors so I could chase the Super Hooligan National Championship. The only hiccup was that it was just so late notice, I was forced to drive cross-country to Atlanta for a ONE NIGHT RACE. Pretty darn crazy, even for a motorcycle nut like me to drive over 6,000 miles roundtrip just to race for one night. Luckily, my good friend Jimmy Hill, an accomplished freestyle-motocross rider went with me to the race. The race itself wasn't bad, I was a little disappointed with a 4th, but Jimmy made the trip very memorable. We packed our skateboards, stopping at skate parks all across the country for some sessions. A few spots we stopped in were Albuquerque, New Mexico and Little Rock, Arkansas. We did all kinds of random stuff, like stop at Cadillac Ranch in Texas to spray paint the buried caddy's sticking out of the ground. We also became all too familiar with staying at Motel 6's along the way. We didn't have a lot of money, so that was our spot on our travels!
On the way home my Sprinter van broke a tie-rod. We got so lucky that it happened as we got off the highway for gas in downtown Amarillo, Texas. There is literally nothing for a hundred miles on either side, and we would've been screwed. That breakdown forced us to stay there for 2 ½ days. My Dad was nice enough to let me use his card to get a decent hotel room. The placed we stayed at downtown was something out of an old movie.
A super small town, with older buildings and intriguing architecture. The weather was eerie, as it was grey outside with some thunder and lightning now and then. We even had tornado warnings. The entire 2 days felt like a weird dream. But on the bright side, there was an AMAZING Italian restaurant across the street from us. Eventually we made it back home. We were beat by the end of it to say the least.
Round 4 of the series down in Perris, CA at a small horse-arena track didn't go well for me. I had a crash and got 8th. But I was still the point's leader. I had a good size lead with only 4 races done. But series contenders Joe Kopp, Brad Spencer, Jordan Baber and Jordan Graham all meant serious business. This race was my low point, but it made for great motivation going into Dirtquake USA in July. With a few months off, I did some serious bike adjustments to come back swinging! I got new K-Tech Suspension, and installed an 800cc big bore kit for some added horsepower.
Going into Dirtquake, I finally had some support. My Dad was there to help making adjustments to the bike, and with the new suspension, I had Eric Dorn of EDR Performance to offer suspension advice. In the past, I rode the bike exactly how it was when I showed up to a race. No gearing changes, no suspension changes, no nothing. Mainly because I didn't have the expertise or skills to do it myself in such a short amount of time. I just rode and did the best I could with what I had. Having my Dad and Eric's helped was instrumental in me winning at Dirtquake. Winning in the fashion that I did by passing Brad Spencer JR and Joe Kopp at the same time to take the lead with 2 laps to go was incredible. And to do it at a race put on by sponsor, Thor Drake of See See Motorcycles (in conjunction with SideBurn Mag), in front of a hometown crowd was pretty incredible. The race was held in Castle Rock, Washington, only an hour an 10 minutes from my home in Oregon. That was the coolest race of the year to win in my book. The party afterwards there was a blast, and I had a lot to celebrate!
The next few races presented some struggles. For one, driving to Sturgis by myself wasn't a lot of fun, and I was once again by myself with no support. Luckily Jake Zemke helped me swap gearing on the bike for that race there. I finished 4th there, and felt like I could've done much better. I was really struggling for grip on the Harley.
Going into round 7, I faced a serious decision to make with the Super Hooligan National Championship conflicting with the OMRRA road racing championship back at home. I was leading the Hooligan series, and in title contention for the OMRRA series too. I committed to racing the OMRRA series above all else, so I had a commitment to fulfill, and I missed round 7 of the Hooligan Championship. It was a big blow. I lost the points lead, and was relegated to 3rd in the Hooligan points standings. At that point, I felt that even though I was still in title contention, that winning the Hooligan series was not possible. Brad Spencer and Joe Kopp were 2 of the best, and they did not make mistakes. And they both were very hard to beat. I pretty much accepted the fact that I wasn't going to win anymore. But that didn't mean I was giving up, or not going out there and giving it my all. My plan was still to finish the series, and give it 100 percent!
Moving into round 8, I rode well at Costa Mesa Speedway, but once again faced grip issues in the main event and got 4th. I was so close to that podium finish! My dad had been saying for a while that we needed to make some adjustments to the swing arm to get a shorter wheel base. So he went to work on the bike when we got home to do just that.
Luck turned around for me at the second to last round at Perris Auto Speedway, where the Hooligan race ran in conjunction with the American Flat Track finale! This was the 3rd AFT race I had been to, and I really like how their program is ran. The stands are always full with at least a few thousand fans, and the racing is action packed! The track was a ½ mile, so it was the biggest flat track I had been on. The Harley Street 750 I was on has a horsepower disadvantage against the Indian Scout 60's and H-D Sportster 1200's. The 800 kit finally showed its legs, and I wasn't nearly as down on power as I was at Atlanta earlier in the year. I was able to race to 3rd place in the main event! To me, it was a win. Getting on the AFT podium in front of about 5 thousand fans while being live streamed on the internet was pretty sweet! It was a special podium for me. I beat my rival Brad Spencer, and other rival Joe Kopp suffered a mechanical and got a DNF. I was only 7 points down from first in the championship now, and it had been announced a week earlier that the finale was a double-points round! Anything was possible and I was in the thick of the hunt for the championship!
The Super Hooligan National Championship finale was shaping up to be quite the event right off Pacific Coast Highway near Huntington Beach in southern California. A tiny dirt track was built in the parking lot of Bolsa Chica State Beach, right on the Pacific Ocean! I felt dialed as soon as I turned a wheel on the track. For the first time this year, I actually got to go out a practice at some flat tracks the week leading up to the finale. I was 4th quickest in practice out of about 30 racers. It seeded me on pole position for my heat race, which I won with ease and set the fasted lap of the day in the process! Needless to say, I was feeling good out on the track. But I still didn't have my hopes too high, because the track was drying out and becoming one-lined, making it very hard to pass on. Getting a great start was going to be the key to success!
I was optimistic as I lined up for the main event. Because I had the fasted heat race time, I got first pick on the front row for the main event. I picked the low line off the groove. This is usually the preferred spot with the inside line going into turn 1, but the grove that had rubber laid down on it was mid-track. I didn't want to leave the inside open though. It worked well for me in the heat race and dash for cash where I finished 2nd. When the race was off, me and 12 other racers stacked up in the first turn, somehow making it through without a wreck. Lots of contact was made as we all fought for the little bite of real estate the track had to offer. When the dust settled, I crossed the line in 3rd place on the completion of lap 1. A freight train of twin-cylinder engines thumped around the track. I was sticking a wheel in on the guys ahead of me, as racers behind me did the same. The art of trying to make a pass, without being passed is really difficult on slick short tracks like the one we raced on. The harder you tried to ride, the easier it was to make a mistake and go backwards. It seems counterintuitive to "slow down" to go fast, but that's exactly what I did. Unfortunately, I couldn't get past the guys ahead of me. I was faster, but they held the main line and protected it well. I was forced to try alternate lines, but I quickly realized they weren't working, and I was going backwards. So I re-group, closed the gap back up, and was there ready to pounce if 1st and 2nd made a mistake. I thought about pushing the envelope to go for a "win it or bin it" pass, because that's all the track really offered. But I thought better, and just felt it was smarter to take the 3rd. I didn't know who I had behind me, or where Joe Kopp and Brad Spencer were. My situation as I knew was that I had to win, if they were to get 2nd and 3rd right behind me. But the circumstances were different with me in 3rd, and them somewhere behind me. I knew there was a small chance a 3rd could give me the series win. So when I took the checkers in 3rd, I had no idea what that meant. I looked back, and couldn't see Joe or Brad right on my tail. I had no idea where they finished.
As soon as I got to the pits, my Dad and others came up to me eyes wide open. They weren't sure of the circumstances either, but we all knew it was close! Joe finished 6th, and Brad was further back. When Joe and Brad both walked up to congratulate me, that's when I got my hopes up that I won! About 15 minutes after the race was when I got the official word that I won the championship over Joe by a single point! I was totally overwhelmed with happiness and other emotions, and dozens of people congratulating me. The event had online coverage, so it didn't take long before the camera was on me and I was being interviewed. It was a very surreal feeling. I was then presented the grand prize of the $50,000 Indian FTR-750 race bike, and the Bell Helmets $2500 bonus. To win in front of my family like that was unreal. To win the series even missing a round was insane. I would like to believe my fallen friend Kelly Johnson had something to do with it. This year was a difficult one losing her in a racing accident, and it was difficult when I had to pick what race to do when they conflicted. To be able to win both championships while overcoming so much adversity was a Cinderella story for me, and I am so grateful! I feel like I grew a lot and learned a lot from the experience. I couldn't have done it without the support of my parents, Tara, and all my sponsors.
It was kind of funny how it all worked out. I had my Sprinter van with me, with 3 bikes inside. I just happened to have a 4th spot available for the Indian, and my Dad presented me some new tie-downs he bought me. He was happy he didn't jinx me! It was like it was meant to be. I was very protective of that bike all the way until I got it home. I was in California for over a week after the race, and I had to go and check on the bike 10 times a day to make sure it was still safe and locked up in my van. It started to give me anxiety actually! It definitely felt good when I got home and put away. Everyone has been asking me what my plan is for it. For now, it's just a trophy. The most expensive, ludacris, badass trophy I have ever earned. I still can't believe I actually won!
I set out to win this series back in February. I took the gamble with very little flat track experience. I drove over 25,000 miles collectively going to the Super Hooligan races. 19,000 of which, I did alone. I took this series on because I wanted to try something new, and the reward I got from doing it was even greater than I could imagine. I made a lot of great memories, made many new friends, and developed a lot of great relationships with people and companies in the motorcycle industry. Nothing I have ever done has ever paid-off like this did, so I am very grateful to Roland Sands and the entire Super Hooligan National Championship crew for putting on an amazing series. Thank you Natalie Nunes and Cameron Brewer for being great people. Thank you Roland Sands for the series that gave me so many opportunities!