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Pacific Northwest Racing Report

Flat Track Comeback

If names like Brad Baker, Sammy Halbert, David Kohlstaedt, Jr., and the Texter siblings aren't on your radar yet, there's no time like the present to bone up on the current flat track scene. These are all local riders having national success on the dirt track.

In 1998, the American Motorcyclist Association put on the inaugural Seattle Mile Flat Track Races at Emerald Downs. 20,000 enthusiasts attended. It was an awesome night of racing and a huge night of celebration for the Pacific Northwest, hungry for some national competition.

And through 2000, the fun continued with top names like Chris Carr, Rich King, Jay Springsteen and Jennifer Snyder, as well as home town heroes like Joe Kopp putting in stunning performances.

By 2002 it wasn't just Harleys running. When the event moved to the Tacoma Dome, the place was packed with Hondas, Suzukis, Kawasakis and Yamahas. The Harleys and Rotax-powered-otherwise-machines were seeing their last days of professional flat track racing as the field changed in favor of lighter and more reliable bikes.

Photo: Spokane native, Joe Kopp was well ahead of his time racing a Ducati powered flat track bike on the AMA pro circuit in 2010. Ducati released a consumer version in 2015. In 2014 he raced a modified Triumph Bonnevile flat tracker.

But something else was changing. Attendance. That year in Tacoma, there were easily more racers competing than fans in the seats. What happened? Was 5 years of national competition enough for the Pacific Northwest? Was the change in venue a step backwards based on interior volume and the smell of two-stroke smoke wafting through a covered sports dome? Was the switch from AMA to Clear Channel the death knell? Maybe a little bit of each?

Regionally, flat track races continued on a local basis, but the love of the big names was gone as some top name racers retired and the manufacturers supporting the sport changed hands. AMA pro racing returned for a short time to Castle Rock. That's a far cry from the glory days of Emerald Downs.

Fast forward to 2016. Harley-Davidson has just announced its first flat track race bike in 44 years. That's right, it's a race bike and will not be available to the public. But this obviously tells us the Bar and Shield is committing itself to FT racing once again. And that's a good thing, because racing, any kind of it, has its virtues that find their way back to consumer production bikes.

Others are in the game, too. Indian is releasing a Scout 60 flat tracker. Ducati has released a flat track model in its Scrambler series, Kawasaki has one and Yamaha is rumored to be bringing one to market. With a little ingenuity, others have converted BMWs and Triumphs into FT racers and you're likely to see a few running at the track sooner rather than later.

So speaking of tracks, where can you go to see races?

In Washington state, things had dried up to the point where there was just a handful of venues that offered FT races for public consumption. Today that market is opening back up and there are more than a dozen venues across the Pacific Northwest that feature the races.

What follows is a list of all the current venues running Flat Track races. Who knows, maybe at some point in the future we'll see a national circuit roll back into the region.

Where to go to see the show:

British Columbia

  • Merritt Speedway, Merritt
  • Okeefe's Ranch, Vernon
  • Pemberton Speedway, Pemberton

More info is available at http://www.flattrackbc.com

Idaho

  • Caldwell Indoor Short Track, Caldwell
  • Owyhee Club Grounds, Boise

More info is available at http://www.omcracing.com

Oregon

  • Albany Motorsports Park, Albany
  • Salem Speedway, Salem

Washington

  • Hannegan Speedway, Bellingham
  • Castle Rock Race Park, Castle Rock
  • Straddleline ORV Park, McLeary
  • Evergreen state Fairgrounds, Monroe
  • Paulhamus Arena, Puyallup
  • Rainier Cycle Bowl, Rainier
  • Spokane Speedway, Spokane

A good place to start for Oregon and Washington is on the Facebook page of NW Flat Track Racing Info. For even more Washington info visit http://www.waflattrack.com/

With so many venues back in the game and manufacturers getting back into the sport, we're sensing a comeback for flat track here in the Pacific Northwest has already begun.

Scan the schedules and plan your route for an outing of fun and excitement.

SR!/June 16

Assistance with this article was provided by Steve Schiller.


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