Rides, Rallies and Events Recap

Sturgis 2014 - Racing

Written by  August 27, 2014

It is well known that the Sturgis Rally has its roots in motorcycle racing. Clarence “Pappy” Hoel is recognized as the father of the Black Hills Rally. He was the owner of an Indian Motorcycle franchise is Sturgis and was one of the founders of the Jackpine Gypsies club in 1936. Their first event was known as the Black Hills Classic, a single motorcycle race with nine racers and a small audience. Today’s rally attendance approaches 500,000 annually with record numbers expected for the 75th Annual Sturgis Motorcycle RallyTM . As I mentioned in my accompanying article about my 2014 Sturgis experience, I devoted much of my time to attending motorcycle races.

Jackpine Gypsies Amateur Hill Climb and Short Track:

The Gypsies Clubgrounds located at the southwest edge of Sturgis south of I-90 has facilities for motocross, hill climb, and short track racing. My schedule permitted me to attend only the Monday events that included the amateur hill climb and the first night of short track. In both cases, audiences had a great view of some very exciting competition.

The hill climb event began at 10 a.m. and featured riders of various ages on stock motorcycles or on bikes modified for hill climb competition. The part of the hill set up for the youngest riders was not quite as steep and difficult as the part used for the main competition. Still the youngsters demonstrated courage and surprising skill as they took on the challenge. The course for the main competition featured rough, steep sections with ledges and nearly vertical areas. The top section was loose and covered with vegetation. Showing courage equal to the riders, the catchers stationed along the course did a remarkable job of minimizing the damage to bikes and riders resulting from the many spectacular spills that occurred. They were kept busy, since very few of the riders reached the top of the hill.

I returned Monday evening for the short track event. Once again, riders of all ages competed on bikes of various sizes. The spectators in the stands have a great view of the action on the track, and the racing was very competitive with many of the heats and feature races being decided on the final lap.

The Gypsies schedule had events every day from Saturday, August 2, through Friday, August 8. The admission is reasonable, souvenirs are available, and the competition is always exciting.

“Pappy” Hoel Classic Vintage Races presented by White Plate Flat Trackers

After a one-year absence from the Sturgis Rally, racing returned to the half-mile track at the Meade County Fairgrounds in Sturgis thanks to the efforts of the White Plate Flat Trackers Association. Vintage racing was scheduled on Tuesday, August 5, and pro competition the following day. I had set aside Wednesday for the drag races, but I was eager to attend Tuesday’s vintage races. Having grown up watching half-mile dirt track motorcycle racing during the Rooks County Fair at Stockton, Kansas, I was excited to see the vintage bikes take to the track in Sturgis. The number of competitors was a bit disappointing and was probably affected by the AMA pro racing scheduled for Tuesday evening in nearby Rapid City (later rained out). However, there was still some great racing skill and remarkable vintage machines on display.

When I arrived at the track, I met Cole Meyer with whom I had made arrangements for access to the pit area and infield. As I looked around the pits, I was impressed with the quality of the vintage bikes there. There were Harleys, Indians, Triumps, Hondas, BSAs, and Bultacos just to name a few. The competition classes were as follows: 250 brakeless (1952-1968; 0-250cc 2-stroke or 4-stroke),750brakeless (1952-1968; 251cc-750cc), 250 vintage (1988 & older; 2-stroke singles, 4-stroke singles & 4-stroke twins), 360 vintage (1969-1976; 251cc-360cc 2-stroke singles or 4-stroke singles and twins. 250cc twins in this class. Rear brakes mandatory), 500 vintage (1977-1988; 540cc 4 stroke singles only), 750 vintage (1969-1976; 750 c.c. multi-cylinder 2 or 4 stroke), open singles vintage (Pre 1988; Open Singles 2 or 4 stroke. Rear brakes mandatory), open multis vintage (Pre 1988; Open Multi Cylinders 2 or 4 stroke), +50 vintage(ALL '69-'88 vintage legal and open legal bikes eligible), and +60 vintage (ALL '69-'88 vintage legal and open legal bikes eligible). In addition to the official competition, there was an exhibition category featuring two antique board track racers.

After the riders meeting I had the opportunity to chat with the track announcer Scottie Deubler who also announces many AMA professional racing events. He informed me that his 83-year-old grandfather, Dan Deubler, would be racing his 360 Bultaco #43 in the brakeless and 360 classes, but not in the +60 class. Dan competed in his first Sturgis race in 1945 and, after sitting out for more than ten years, was ready to race at least one more time.

It was Harley vs. Indian in the board track class. Leading the way was the #13 Harley-Davidson ridden by Brittney Olsen who is in her mid-twenties. Brittney’s husband, Matt, gave her the 1923 Harley motor in lieu of an engagement ring when he proposed, and they later had the frame built by their friend and fellow racer Mike Lange. The board track racers have no brakes, no clutch, and no transmission and must be pushed to start. It was a rare treat to watch these marvelous antiques circle the track at Sturgis.

The officials from Steve Nace Racing ran a smooth event, and everyone was happy that the rain held off until the competition concluded. It made me wish that I could be in two places at once to see both the pro half-mile flat track racing and the drag races on Wednesday.    

3rd Annual Amsoil Sturgis Nationals Drag Races sanctioned by Western Motorcycle Drag Racing Association

Sturgis Dragway is located near the east end of Glencoe Campground. When I arrived at the facility the morning of August 6, I noticed at the entrance that there were huge puddles of water, one of which I had to ride through, that had been left behind by cloudbursts that had occurred on Tuesday afternoon and overnight. I wondered what the condition of the drag strip would be. After parking my bike, I checked in with W.M.D.R.A. President & Operations Director Sandra Alberti and her assistant for this event, Mary Lou. I learned that the qualifying rounds scheduled for Tuesday had all been washed out so it would be a full day of drag racing action with qualifying passes to set up the brackets in each class followed by several rounds of eliminations and the finals. The inclement weather had knocked out the time slip printer, but the officials and competitors were able to work around its absence.

There were some very special activities in addition to the racing. Motorcycle drag racing fans were thrilled to have the opportunity to meet three of the legends of the sport. Event Grand Marshalls Bonnie Truett, Marion Owens, and Pete Hill were introduced. Sturgis icon Jay Allen was on hand to present each of them with a leather jacket through the courtesy of Harley-Davidson Motor Company.  

During one of the breaks in the action, Mark Dotson, instructor for the W.M.D.R.A. drag racing school, conducted a special presentation of Drag Racing 101, a clinic for members of the media covering the event. Bell Helmets, official helmet of the event, provided full face head gear for the students, but unfortunately the time crunch did not allow time for the media people to make a run down the strip. Still, the clinic was very informative, providing journalists with a walking tour of the pits, the starting line, and the tower where we were introduced to the event public address announcer, Mike Schmidt.

There were exhibition passes by two double-engine dragsters, a Harley and a Triumph. The “Dubble Trubble” Triumph engines were started by placing the dragster side-by-side with another bike on a set of rollers. The rear tire of the other bike spun the rollers that, in turn, spun the Triumph’s rear tire in order to start the engines. That was a fascinating process I had never seen before. The twin-engine machines represent a significant chapter in the history of motorcycle drag racing.

Prior to the start of elimination rounds, racer Rich Vreeland offered the invocation, and the national anthem was beautifully sung by the U.S.A.F. Academy Band Wild Blue Country. Three pro classes and six sportsman classes featured a total of 73 entries with all makes of motorcycle eligible to compete. The monster nitro-powered drag bikes routinely completed the 1/8-mile run at more than 150 m.p.h. with elapsed times of just over four seconds. Winners and runners up in all classes are listed below. Mickey Thompson, official tire of the Sturgis Nationals, awarded a rear drive tire of choice to Freddie Robbins in Top Fuel, Billy Hendron in Pro Drag, and Quick Draw Challenge winner Twang of Motorcycle Specialties in Davenport, Iowa.

Associate sponsor Motor Whiskey awarded custom trophies for Best Finish by a Lady Competitor (Kersten Heling), Closest Hole Shot Loss (Jeff Champagne), and Closest to Dial-In (Twang of Motorcycle Specialties). The unique trophies were designed by sculptor Ronnie Hansen of MonsterhedZ in Roosevelt, Utah.

In a press release, W.M.D.R.A. stated, “Our sincerest gratitude goes out to our sponsors AMSOIL, S&S Cycle, Mickey Thompson, Bell Helmets, Brocks Performance, Gear Head Publishing, Motor Whiskey, Cardo, the South Dakota Pork Producers Council, and Pro Riders Marketing; as well as Masters Entertainment Group and the Inside Drag Racing crew; to the USAF Academy Band Wild Blue Country for opening ceremony services and Rich Vreeland for our invocation; and to all the racers and fans who continue to support the sport.

Congratulations once again to our 2014 Sturgis Champions and to the racers, crew members and fans who support the WMDRA's effort to keep the drag racing tradition alive during the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. God bless you all!”

Results follow:


Winner: Freddie Robbins

Runner Up: Mike Bahnmaier


W: Billy Hendron

RU: Dave Larson


W: Schaun Schnathorst

RU: Jeff Champagne


W: Wade Johnson

RU: Kyle Olson


W Jim Krell

RU Rick Grimm


W: Bill Tschannon

RU: Troy Fritter


W: Joe Kerns

RU: Larry Ford


W: Brian Klinghagen

RU: Eddie Golson


W: Troy Cade

RU: Dustin Rieke

The assistance provided to motorcycle journalists by W.M.D.R.A. is very much appreciated. The Jackpine Gypsies and White Plate Flat Trackers were also very accommodating. We appreciate the efforts of these organizations to keep motorcycle racing going strong, an excellent entertainment option for those who attend the Sturgis Rally.  




Photojournalist/Account Representative - Kansas City, MO

Dave Baxter, a.k.a. Stripe joined our staff in December, 2003, as a photojournalist. If that road name sounds familiar, you may have seen his photos on the pages of such publications as American Iron, V Twin, VQ, In the Wind, and Easyriders. Stripe attends as many rallies, bike shows, and charity runs as he can and is a major contributor of photos and articles to our magazine. His first assignment was our January, 2004, cover photo, where he snapped the awesome photo of a 1958 Harley-Davidson Duo Glide. A rider since the age of 14, he loves to help and encourage new riders. Stripe enjoys meeting new people and looks forward to catching many of our readers in the viewfinder of his digital camera. Contact Stripe at stripe@cycleconnections.com 


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