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Old 07-09-2018, 09:19 AM   #1
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Join Date: Mar 2003
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Name: Vik
Confession of an Ex-Racer

This weekend we, as a club, suffered a personal tragedy. Those of us at the track always feel a sense of doom when the track is shut down for an extended period and every time the helicopter comes, I get a feeling in the pit of my stomach. I am not an official of the AFM. I’m just a guy who has been allowed to cling to my past as a racer with a microphone. This also gives me a small glimpse behind the scenes, which is at times a curse. On Sunday, July 8th, I pieced together that the crash in turn 8 was much worse than normal.

All of us who have been around racing for a while know the rhythm of the track. First call comes at crossed flags, second call at the white flag at final call at checkered flag. Most racers can read what is going on by delayed calls and when the track goes cold. We all know that a helicopter is a concern and at the same time, we also know that sometimes it is not necessary. There is also a standard routine to the helicopter. It’s either staged by the skid pad because they aren’t on a call or it flies in from Chico. When it actually lands on the track, we know it is serious. When it doesn’t leave…

Over my years of racing, I have seen a few fatalities. Rich Thorwaldson in 2004, turn 6 at Sears Point. Jimm Groshong, later that same year at the same track in turn 9. Eric Arnold, at the start line in 2009. Kenny Anderson in turn 11 at Buttonwillow in 2013. Now, Jason Blancas, turn 8, Thunderhill.

In 2004, I didn’t know many people in the AFM, but I already felt like it was a family. Rich had been a staple in the industry for many years and was well known and loved. Jimm Groshong, in a bizarre twist of fate, was Rich’s pit mate and neighbor. I had never met either of them, but the whole club felt the impact.

Eric Arnold was a long term AFM racer and Keigwin’s instructor. He and I personally battled many times on the track in the Open classes and we even crashed together once in turn 5. We, as a club, struggled with him as he tried to overcome his injuries. We all suffered when he chose to end the fight.

Kenny Anderson was a young gun. A fresh new talent who quickly made an impression and fought his way to the top very quickly. At just 12 years old, we all felt this one.

Jason Blancas was a new racer. I had not yet met him, but those that had, spoke highly of him. He had already established racing friends and made plans to continue to pit with his new friends. When I figured out it was someone I didn’t know, I first felt a sense of relief. I didn’t know him. Then it hit me.

Jason was a racer just starting out, like the rest of us. His racing career could have lasted a short time or he could have been the next paddock fixture. I was reminded by Dave Stanton that we all hold a spot in our hearts for our Novice Season when Dave used his very first race number to determine the winner of a raffle. Everyone was sure he was going to pick ‘53’. Instead, he chose his three digit novice number.

The moment Jason launched his first race start, he became a racer. He felt the exhilaration, the anticipation, the sheer thrill of that green flag dropping and charging into turn 1. I’d bet every single one of us can recall our first start. Some have butterflies in their stomachs, other get a dry mouth. The feeling of getting the first start is something that you have to do to truly understand.

I didn’t know Jason, but I respect him. I respect the dedication, the determination and the desire he possessed to take that leap and launch on his first green flag.

I choose to celebrate Jason’s life by remembering what it was to be a first year novice; the future of our club. I’d like to ask you all to share in this with me and tell your story of your first race: What it took to get there, what you had to overcome, the feeling, the emotion and even any silly mistakes you made.
AFM 64
So I Bought an Air Force

Originally Posted by Lunch Box View Post
In the end, I figure that it just doesn't make sense to get offended for others.

Last edited by eeeeek; 07-09-2018 at 01:33 PM..
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Old 07-09-2018, 10:02 AM   #2
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Beautifully written, Vik.

My venture into road racing started based off a simple office challenge by my former colleague and great friend, Max Klein. We both agreed we would start our road race "careers" together on the same grid on the same flag drop.

I, like Jason Blancas made my AFM debut on a lightweight bike back in October of 2014. The weapon of choice was previously piloted by Bobby Wetterau, so I was hoping some of his championship-winning mojo might bring me glory during my first weekend. My friends over at Catalyst Reaction made sure the steed was prepped to perfection so that I could simply focus on the task at hand.

I raced Clubman Lightweight and another 250 class I couldn't remember. I did not set the world on fire that weekend, however I had never had so much fun racing for 10th place. Hook, line, and sinker. Me and Max exchanged knee pucks as trophies for our weekend's accomplishments, something I proudly display in the trophy case.

What was originally thought of as a bucket list item has turned into a now 3 1/2 years of glory, challenges, life-long friendships, and even a fiance!

I did not know Jason personally, but I can resonate with his reasons for making the decision to enter into the world of racing with the AFM. From the moment you enter those gates, you're part of a family. Something much bigger than simply circulating around a track.

Ride in peace, #780.

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Old 07-09-2018, 10:15 AM   #3
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Name: Vik
Here's my story.

In 2002, I had been riding motorcycles for years. I had just sold my Buell X1 and purchased a CBR954RR. Through the Buell community, I attended my first races. I went to Sears Point, Laguna Seca and even to Road America, where I got to know a future AFM President, Kevin Smith.

My plans were grand. I was going to buy a Saab Viggen and take European delivery. I'd pick up the car in Sweden and drive around Europe for a couple of weeks and then ship the car home. Shortly before I made it officiall, I read an article about a racer and a Porsche owner at a track. The Porsche owner told the racer that he had always wanted to race, himself. The racer looked at him and said something to the effect of no, you didn't. If you truly wanted to, you would have found a way. You have enough money for a Porsche, you have enough money to race. You chose not to be a racer.

I had always been thrilled by driving fast, from my teens in a '77 Firebird to my first track day at Sears Point in 2000. My Dad raced a Jaguar XK120 in his younger years and I loved watching motorcycle road racing. I chose to change my path. I didn’t order the car, I instead scoured the web to find out more about racing and talked to the few people I knew who raced. I settled in on an SV650 and bought a wrecked one with the plan of converting it into a racebike. Shortly after a bought the wreck, a well sorted out racebike came up for sale in Grass Valley. I did the math and figured it would be a much better idea to start with something that was already done, rather than build up my own.

I bought the bike. It was Mike Ellsworth’s 2001 class champion bike and was a little unique. It had a TZ125 front end, AP brakes a CBR600 F3 rear wheel, ported and polished heads, an M4 exhaust and pretty bodywork, customized by none other than Kurt Spencer to allow for clearance of the headers.

I bought the bike in December, 2002, and wanted to start right away. The first AFM round was in March, so I signed up for WSMC and made the trek to SoCal to get started in the January 2003 round. I borrowed a truck from my next door neighbor, loaded every single thing I had collected for going racing (air tank, front and rear stands, harbor freight tool set and gear). Fortunately, I had a friend who was almost as excited about my new racing as me who came down to help, Sam Richards. The rest was all a mystery.

I knew nothing and I knew no one there. I drove down to Lancaster to get a hotel and worried about leaving the bike in the bed of the truck all night. The next morning, I showed up to my new racer school, run by Danny Farnsworth. Danny Farnsworth is a story of his own, but he ran us through the school with the right level of wild stories, colorful language and instilled a healthy dose of fear.

To get your Novice License in WSMC, you had to work a full day as a corner worker, too. You could split this into two half days, which is what I did. I personally, think that the lessons you learn with the corner workers are a huge asset. Putting the time in the corners took away from my track time, though, and I had never ridden Willow Springs before.

I passed my new racer school and met a few racers in the paddock. I met a cop form Las Vegas who was just starting out, too. I also met Kurt Spencer and Zoran, who is another story all on his own. I changed nothing on the bike, leaving it exactly as I bought it. I didn’t want to mess anything up.

When it was finally time for my race, storm clouds were looming over the hills. It looked like a bad one. On the grid, Danny came up and said that if it started raining, they were going to pull me off because I was on slicks. This made the butterflies in my stomach even worse. I bought the bike, all the gear, drove down, took the school and worked the corners. I wanted to race!

With the storm clouds getting my ominous, the flag dropped and the novice grid took off…at least most of them. Me, I gingerly launched and headed into turn 1 dead last. This is the way most of the race went for me, riding around in dead last, until the last lap. In the Omega, I decided that I needed to get around the bike I was following and took a different line, setting me up for a pass on the tail end. I got by him in before turn 6 and then went for broke, sure he was going to repass me. I put my head down and set up turn 8 and 9 like they had taught me in the new racer school, grabbing every gear I could on the front straight. My result, 2nd to last.

The smile on my face when I came off track almost hurt, it was so big. The Twin Works crew was even cheering me and I pulled into my pit. I had only managed 2 points, but there were my 2 points, and a 15 year obsession was born.

RIP #780
AFM 64
So I Bought an Air Force

Originally Posted by Lunch Box View Post
In the end, I figure that it just doesn't make sense to get offended for others.
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Old 07-09-2018, 10:58 AM   #4
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My first race was this year at Round 1, Buttonwillow. Below I have my journal from that day. The race felt like it went on forever, but I can't remember anything from it besides getting passed by Cory Call on the last lap down the straight!


wake up and brush teeth (per berto), head to registration. Side note: at the end of 2017 I met former AFM Champion Dave Stanton who gave me one of his old Helimot race suits and since then has been an invaluable source of information. One of his suggestions is to complete as many races as i can, as nothing replaces seat time. Because of that i registered for four races my first weekend; formula 40 heavy novice, clubman heavy, open superbike novice, and open superstock novice.

Back in February I completed pre-registration, sent in signed forms weeks before first round, but my tech sheet isnít in the box with everyone elses, and i didnít realize it was because i was in NRS. waited through the registration line and got tech slip, not realizing i should be in class.

I put all my gear on, balanced belly pan on the bike, and waddled over to tech just as tech was moving locations. Waddle over to new location, now sweating like i had already raced. Fortunately new tech location is in front of NRS classroom, and i see everyone learning important stuff in their sweats drinking coffee. I should be in there, but i would much rather be on the track...i pass tech and waddle back to my pit then hightail back to classroom. One of the ways to fail NRS is to be late to class, luckily i wasnít that late.

Find out in class that the only riding before my first race is the rider evaluation. Now i regretted skipping friday practice. Classroom portion finishes around lunch and rider evaluation happens after lunch. I am paired up with Sam #787 on his sv650 for rider evaluation. He tells me itís all about consistency, not speed, and to have fun. I treat it like a track day in terms of passing, keeping it safe but not just putzing around. After a couple laps Sam passes me and wicks up the pace. I do my best to keep up and we do another couple laps, passing one or two other riders. Then he turns around, gives me a thumbs up, aaaaaand heís gone. Yes, the sv650 pulled away from the Bus Stop through Riverside and was gone by the time I got to Phil Hill. Say whaaat? There has to be a second or so of time i can pick up through thereÖ The session ends with my time at 2:15.8.

Formula 40 Heavy

I go back to my pits before hearing the call for my first race, Formula 40 Heavy Novice. I get to hot pits at final call and am one of the last ones around for the warmup lap. I remembered my grid position (5,2) but was confused a bit when i was the only one on my row with second wave board directly behind me. As i was turned around looking at the second wave grid, a rider pointed at start/finish box and as soon as i turned around and looked at the board it went sideways then green flag! The race seemed to go on for 15 laps, and on the last lap Cory Call passed me. I can now say I finished a race less than a second behind Cory Call...nevermind I was a lap behind! My next race was immediately after, so I kept my race pace through the cool down lap (don't worry I couldn't even keep up with Cory Call pulling wheelies every corner)

I'm so happy to be a part of the AFM family and look forward to many more seasons. I want to thank Vic for this thread and his mic work, Berto for being an awesome President, and Barbara for being the rock we need and all around badass.

RIP #780
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Old 07-09-2018, 11:27 AM   #5
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It is good to talk about this stuff.

I felt several of the losses you pointed out. Rich and Jimm for sure as we had a small piece about them in the ’04 AFM Movie we made.
Others too..from my years racing and shortly after. Mario Manicul (SP?) who’s crash was on the front straight at Sears. An odd place to crash and a very public one. I remember the silence most of all. God Bless those that try to help the injured riders in what is a tough and too often easily ignored asset of the AFM Family. They have saved lives for sure and they are a welcome sight when you are laying there in need. Mario’s passing had his young son in attendance and as a Dad who raced often traveling only with my young sons that feeling of a 2nd generations loss still weighs heavy.

I started my first race in 600 stupid bike, as we used to call it, from grid spot 74 of 80 something… stupid fun, stupid large grids, often stupid because of the carnage, but never stupid in terms of people chasing some dreams with the AFM. I have always treasured those moments. My 39th place after 11 laps of racing left me walking on air. What a great high. What a great feeling. I was a racer now and damn proud to be one.

Back then AFM had a north and south and we raced at Willow Spring too. My first adventure down south was a wild one. I had never gone that fast before and there were a lot of fast locals. Very fast. To run for the overall class championships you had to do both.. I think there was 5 throw aways from a 21 race season or something like that. A lot of racing. Watching the fast guys at Willow was amazing.. fucking amazing. Some of the top names in racing in the 80’s and 90’s were WS dudes. That fast track made you a different man than Sears did and made going faster at Sears seem easier.

One of my first races down there had a pile up in turn one had several bikes going straight off at the end of the long and fast straightaway and crashing. A huge cloud of dust eventually had all riders come back to the pits. Not long after one collapsed. A torn aorta took him. He was one of the faster guys, but 32 years has removed his name from the memory banks, but the horror heard in the pits and the silence after it will not leave me.

It is always the silence that resonates with me. Each person internalizing what happened or perhaps just being respectful. For me it is internalizing it. The thoughts of the families, friends, kids… and the what if it was me? How would I feel about the ones left behind??

It surely can stop a person from racing, but most choose to carry on. It is the internal fight of I LOVE THIS! vs. what so many average humans consider foolish. I always maintain that motorcycle racers live at a different level than most. Those moments of battling on the edge and sharing it with others who feel the same are precious to some of us. Knowing all that and still driving forward to improve and earn a good result while knowing the downside is what separates mere mortals from racers.. or others that do “foolish” sporting activities too.

In the end Jason’s family will likely not fully understand the desire and personal accomplishments that Jason got from it, but he did I am sure. Because of that we are kindred in spirit in ways and even though I did not know the young man I can feel that. Sitting in the hot pit before a race you can feel it all around you. In the eyes of the other fighter pilots who are your brothers and sisters in battle seem to share it. Not a word needs to be said.

It was not fear that drug me away from racing, rather it was money with kids to put through school and support.

However I feel that I am a racer for life. I did it to live beyond the day to day stuff to reach a different level of appreciating the gift of life.

I am saddened that Jason’s pursuit of that is over. At least he got some of it in his soul before he left this world. Many others don't ever get it even if they live a long life.

Godspeed racer.
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Old 07-09-2018, 11:30 AM   #6
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Old 07-09-2018, 12:51 PM   #7
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Thanks for starting this thread Vik. Jason’s loss and the losses we’ve had in the past were heavily on my mind on the drive home yesterday.

I don’t remember much in the way of specifics of my very first race (other than knowing I was terrified at the start and beyond elated at the finish), but I remember my first season vividly. I bought a clapped-out old Ninja 250 from long-timer Greg Creech and started racing in 2004, the same season that we lost Rich and Jimm. I had the pleasure to meet Rich on his fateful day when he was walking through the pits and came over to say hello. Turns out I had his old number and he was glad to see that someone new was making good use of it. Very shortly after that conversation we lost Rich, and not long after that we lost Jimm. It was quite a sobering first season, but I was hooked and vowed to accept the risks and carry on. I also vowed to honor Rich’s memory by keeping my original number as long as I kept racing. The number 931 has become part of me and I will cherish it and the memories of my novice days for as long as I live. I even have one of my original novice plates (the one visible in the attached image) on the trophy shelf to remind me of my beginnings.

In some ways, I feel like a novice all over again this season. As I struggle to regain my previous pace, it has given me a renewed appreciation for our newer club members and what they go through when they first start out racing. That renewed appreciation, and the fact that it happened while my wife and I were also on the track make this one sting particularly badly. My thoughts are with Jason’s family and friends. My thoughts are also with all of our fellow racers who are experiencing this loss for the first time. Reach out to us…we’re here for you.

Race on, #780. You’ll be in our thoughts.
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Old 07-09-2018, 12:54 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by i_am_the_koi View Post
Fucking onions man
Heard that. Started crying again at work but Jason deserves our praise, our tears, and our memories.

I was there with Jason. He embodied everything that Vic, Budman and everyone here are talking about. He was a true racer. Got the thrill of his first green flag, and even a pass or two and went faster than he'd ever gone before. He'd had his taste, and he wanted more.

My first race weekend was very much the same. Sept 2017 rd 5 Sonoma

The nerves in me were so strong i'd forget to breath. I was so afraid of missing warmup lap i left my pit at 2nd call. I got down there waited in the 104 degree heat. Got thru the warmup lap which helped with the jitters. Found my grid spot. revv'd the holy snot out of my zx10r and when the green flag came, i made that clutch regret its very existence.

I fought as hard as i could that race, but in the end my rectifier failed and i lost all power coming out of the chicane and managed to coast to pit exit... where i had to push my bike all the way to the gas station. I nearly died of heat exhaustion and was so disappointed, but it made me even more resolute to finish my races the next day.

In the end it all came together and I made it happen, I finished 2 of 3 races in one of the hottest Sonoma days in recent memory.

I can also relate very much to the danger of our passion, having been through a few of my own injuries and near death situations, with and without my wife and son. It is hard. I would even say my first race back was the second most emotional i've had. This weekend being the first.

I only hope he's getting some wicked lines from Past AFMers and other past greats.
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Old 07-09-2018, 01:47 PM   #9
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Wow, Sean. I never knew that about your number. Thank you for sharing.
AFM 64
So I Bought an Air Force

Originally Posted by Lunch Box View Post
In the end, I figure that it just doesn't make sense to get offended for others.
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Old 07-09-2018, 03:47 PM   #10
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"You live more for 5 minutes going fast on a bike than other people do in all of their life." - Marco Simoncelli

I have always loved this quote, and it's far too applicable here. Jason may have been a new racer, but by doing it, by getting out, by gridding up and chasing that checkered, he did more than most people have their entire lives. My heart goes out to those who loved him and knew him well - we're all feeling the sting, but nothing like they are.

Racing for me pretty much started the moment I did a trackday. I may have been nothing more than the C group hero, but I knew I wanted to race from the moment I got on a track. Shoot, I may have made that decision even before I made it to a track day. By the end of my 2nd trackday, I had decided this was what I wanted to pursue, giving up lifelong hobbies and passions to single mindedly chase this racing dream.

My first "race" didn't go so great. I showed up planning on racing one class. I had an okay start, was chasing down another gal, and ended up with a mechanical part way through and had to pull off the track. Not very memorable.That was the only race I attempted that year (2013).

Late in 2014 I finally had my first "real" race that I actually managed to finish. I can't say that I recall the start that well, I just remember Joy and Jennifer both lapping me before I got the white flag, and I completely missed the checkered until I saw Jen was waving to all the corner workers, and it dawned on me that my race was done.

To be honest, my first few race weekends were nothing to write home about, but my fate was sealed none the less.
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Old 07-09-2018, 04:37 PM   #11
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Much like Jason, I'm new to racing. I did a track weekend with Z2 in October 2016 and fell in love. Last year I attended as many Z2 days as I could and worked with instructors a lot to improve. Two of my good friends were going to race this year so I picked up an R3 in December and took the NRS at round 2. After passing the evaluation I raced Afemme Light and got left in the dust before getting to see the first wave fly by me. I still had a lot of fun with my first foray into the racing world. I had never been to Buttonwillow before so it was a little interesting quickly learning lines. I considered this more of just a practice event just to get NRS out of the way.

I spent that Sunday cheering on friends who raced the next day. I managed to get photos of a crash coming onto the front straight of a lady who I now consider a friend and we've been pushing each other to get better over round 4 and 5.

The AFM family really surprised me with how awesome it is. My heart goes out to all, it was a very tough day. I made the decision to complete the race after the restart and participate in my other race later in the day. I personally felt that the best way to honor him was to keep doing what he and obviously the rest of us love. This season is for you Jason.
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Old 07-09-2018, 05:16 PM   #12
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It is always tough to lose a friend and a fellow rider and even more so, a rider that made the leap to racer.

RIP Jason.

I did not know Jason but I have known many that are very similar.

In April 1987, that was me. Lining up on the grid for the La Carrera race across Baja from Ensenada to San Filipe.

I had no clue what I was doing but my friend and "tuner" (he did the valve adjustments on my FZ750 streetbike) suggested starting with an EX500 so I bought one in the crate for $2700 and we broke it in on the street for 500 miles and took it to Mexico.

I had a blast racing 127 miles across Baja with an average speed of just over 102. I basically had the EX pinned in 5th or 6th gear the whole time.

My shifter fell off about 50 miles from the end so I was stuck in 5th gear.

I think I was 6th in a class of 8 or something like that. As of that time I was 28th fastest motorcycle to ever make the run. I still have the "Ton up" t-shirt.

A couple months later I started racing with ARRA at Willow Springs and Danny Farnsworth as my NRS instructor.
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Old 07-09-2018, 06:17 PM   #13
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My first race was, as he pointed out already, Gordon's first race. I opted to run a FLAP 250 after what had to have been months of office shit talking.

I knew I was not going to be as fast as Gordon, but being on the same grid as someone that has become a brother to me is one of my most favorite memories.

That race got me my first "Put your head down and catch that guy" moment, where I did everything I could to overcome the power to weight ratio disadvantage that existed.

That "guy" was Laura Llovet, and she put about 50 bike lengths on me from the start. I distinctly remember hitting all my shifts perfectly while listening to her bounce off the rev limiter and STILL pull away from me.

I eventually made the pass going up into five at T-Hill, and then had my first "don't fuck this up, asshole" moment as I did everything in my power to keep her behind me.

I remember pulling over to celebrate finishing and that my smile lasted for days.

I firmly believe that if I was to get amnesia and you were to show me the kneepuck that Gordon gave me I would snap out of it and demand that the doctor drive me to the closest racetrack.

Everyone that I have spoken to that knew Jason well has painted a picture of a guy I wish I had the chance to hang out with. He will be missed.
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Old 07-09-2018, 09:04 PM   #14
Im cool with my skates
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Join Date: May 2002
Location: Sunnyvale
Motorcycles: 2006 GSXR 1000,07 GSXR 600 Racebike, 1986 GSXR 750
Name: Rick
I don't remember my first race but i do remember the drive home.
I had raced 600 prod, 600 Superbike, and Formula one. All on a new bike never ridden and new track to me.
Driving out of Sonoma after the day is what i remember the best. I was in my truck windows down looking at my race bike in the rear view mirror . As i drove out and turned left at the light a huge self accomplishment filled me. Beautiful sunset, windows down and Hotel California playing on the radio. What a feeling i will never forget and i relive it every time i hear Hotel California.
I worked 4 jobs to make it all happen from 5am till 11 pm for 6 months straight 7 days a week. It all felt worth it on the drive home.

I met Jason when he brought me his R3 and wanted me to help him build it. I liked his demeanor, quietness, confidence and willing to learn . I didn't know i would end up being his ask Rick everything , but i was and always enjoyed reading his questions and concerns. Somethings were so basic to me but big surprise to him. But it brought me back to when i had to learn everything on my own. I was glad to be there for him.
Every time he'd come to pick his bike up he was always excited and ready for track.
I don't normally go and watch the racers i help, I just wait for the details on Monday. This weekend I had decided to go watch 3 guys and he was the main one I wanted to see. We had emailed all week and Sunday morning was our last conversation at 8:52. That time will always stay with me 8:52 , 8:52 .
When I arrived I texted and asked where he was pitted, he never responded, i just figured i'll find him later. When they called everyone to the grid , thats when every thing was confirmed. It was the hardest and longest drive back to the shop with his possessions.
I 'm glad he achieved what he aimed for, being on the grid. It could have been his second or 20th race in my eyes he's a racer. I'm glad he was my friend and he showed me the racer drive once again.
Thanks for this post and keep good memories of racing alive. No condolences just first race memories

Tire Changing/Balance
Loose wheels $20
On Bike $35ea

Retired-AFM #213
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Old 07-09-2018, 10:24 PM   #15
Slow Goat
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Join Date: May 2017
Location: Pleasant Hill
Motorcycles: Make me feel better about life...
Name: Bob
Iíve never raced and didnít know this young man but I did lose a brother decades ago who suffered a fatal racing crash one week before his second AMA races at Daytona Speedway.

He was my hero, I was just nine.

One thing that REALLY helped my parents (and the reason for my post) were the letters they received from other racers and mechanics and family or friends who knew him.

I strongly encourage everyone who can, to write to Jasonís family. Even just a few words can mean SO much to a grieving parent.

I donít think it would be out of line for someone to post their name/address and the location of his Services, if they hold one.

Godspeed, young man.
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