The 2017 race season did not go as planned. Racing is like that sometimes. After finishing 2nd overall in 2016, the assumption was that there was nowhere to go but up. Competition is a cruel mistress and her designs often differ greatly from ours.
The first race, back in March, set a tone for the rest of the year, taken out first lap by a rider in another class. Then there was the disqualification for accidentally bumping a rider coming through timing and scoring. That sucked. Followed by three stupid mechanicals, one occurring with a huge race lead just minutes from the checkered flag. Stupid. Accused and accosted by sensitive souls who did not like my riding "style", one certainly could not help feeling besieged and beset on all sides.
Twenty years ago I would have lost my fucking mind in frustration, and while I may have considered it in 2017, I did not. Hare scrambles are long races, anywhere between two and three hours. The easiest thing to do is burn yourself out in the first twenty minutes. A seven month race season is the same way. Both become about energy conservation, going like a bat out of hell, but always saving a little meatloaf for later. Chip it away and build it up. And then it still doesn't go your way.
At final tally, I ended up third overall, good enough to see me ranked as a "B" rider by the AMA. Things will change for 2018, becoming once again a goldfish in the mighty big sea. What am I going to do about it? Chip it away. Build it up. Watch. And learn.
Tuesday, December 19, 2017
"Grieve not that I die young.
Is it not well to pass away ere life has lost its brightness?"
-Lady Flora Hastings
Kurt Kesler shined bright and died young at the age of 51, leaving behind a wife and two small children. For his family now, nothing will ever be the same. My heart goes out to them.
I knew Kurt, as so many of us did, through roadracing with WERA. You learn a lot about a man, when you race against him. Especially as it comes down to the final few races of a season with a national championship on the line. The two of us were neck and neck for the V5 title in 2015, less than a handful of points between. He wanted it badly. So did I. We went at it hammer and tongs, neither giving an inch. I didn't worry about racing closely with him, even though given the slightest opportunity Kurt would shut the door on you, but he always did it gently. I trusted him, quite often, with my life. He never let me down. A rider, a competitor, a sportsman and a gentleman to the core, off and on the track.
Kurt did not win the V5 championship that year. It came down to the final race at the Grand National Finals in Leeds, Alabama, where I beat him by one position and just three points. But in the end, Kurt won in ways I never did. He took more enjoyment and gave more back to racing than most of us ever could. He garnered a respect and admiration, a love, from his fellow competitors and officials identical to that of Moto GP Champion Nicky Hayden (also lost too soon this year). If Nicky was the ambassador on a national stage for our sport of motorcycle racing, then Kurt Kesler was the Southeast regional statesman for it. The mere mention of his name in any paddock in the South and racers will tell you tales of Kurt's humor, the willingness to take new racers under his wing, lend parts, tools, his own motorcycles and aid without a second thought. Beginning racing is a daunting, overwhelming experience, if not for the man's patience and guidance, many a greenhorn might have quit in frustration. He was a mentor, a rival, a role model. And a friend.
The greatness of a man dies not with him, but is scattered like tiny seeds among all those he touched. We have but to till the earth and tend the soil so the greatness should flourish and not die. It becomes the duty of the living, of those who would remember. Let us remember.
(Kurt's Hat Road Atlanta Raceway photo above by Craig "Huey" Stewart)