I didn’t waste any time after the race at Smoky Mountain Speedway. As soon as I got back in town from Tennessee I was already lining up a night to go get the 883R promised to me. The AMA 883 Performance Series was a pro-ranked class that ran from 1993–2005, and the 883 Sportsters that raced in this class are no joke. They’re fully-built Hooligan Sportsters done the right way, all with top-of-the-line parts. Old 883R Performance Series bikes are the Holy Grail to us Hooligan racers. Most of the 883Rs got turned back into street motorcycles or, like the one I was going to pick up, are just lying in the back of a shop, waiting to have another lap on the dirt track.
I was honored to be racing for Baer Racing Products; owner Darryl Baer is the president of my local AMA District 6 and he also runs an AFT Twins team. So to me this was a big deal to be racing his bike even if it was just for Hooligan racing.
After picking up the bike I knew it needed to be serviced and gone through because the last time It was on the track was in 2004. Tires, oil, fresh top end—I went through the entire bike. I wanted to show up to the AFT race in Weedsport, New York, on top-notch equipment. I was going there to race, not to be working on the bike.
Time flew and before I knew it was the week of the race. I had one race to do on the 4th of July in Frederick, Maryland, which is a race I have been doing. It’s the longest-running flat track race in the country and we race on a old half-mile horse track. So plans were to race Wednesday in Frederick then load up and go to New York for the AFT race over the weekend. But things didn’t go as planned.
The morning started out great; the sun was out and the track was looking great. I was excited to go tear up some cushion half-miles. The speeds are crazy fast and the Sportsters turn so much better on the bigger tracks. As I was waiting to sign up a guy name Gary was going through the pits looking for a rider to race his Framer 600 Rotax. Gary was older and felt he couldn’t race the big track but still wanted to see his bike on the track so I decided to step up to the plate. This would be my first time to ride a real flat-track bike, not some Sportster that was converted to a race bike. This was a purpose-built flat-track bike. So I decided to let the Sportsters set for the day and just race the Rotax.
It didn’t take long before I was in love. Wherever I wanted the bike to go it went and pulled the entire way. By the end of second practice I was at home on the Rotax and getting really comfortable. I went out for final practice and that’s when it happened. I was WFO going down the back stretch and pitched it in to turn three, but I low-sided the bike and ended up sliding for a good 70 feet into the hay bales. I finally come to a stop and get up and notice a dark puddle under the bike as I’m trying to start it. I thought, “Great; the bike is leaking oil,” but what I soon realized was this oil was blood and it was coming out the end of my pinky.
I quickly dropped the bike and ran to the edge of the track with the fear that my little finger was ground off from the skid. My glove was torn and soaked with blood. Once EMT got my glove off we could see I still had my little finger but it was barely hanging on. I blew it wide open and needed to get stitches so I drove myself from the race 30 minutes north to my hometown and went to the ER. I soon found out it was a big deal. The ER was worried about infection and I was worried about the races. The AFT race was long gone. My hopes sank as I knew I was not going to be racing for the next month or two.