Monday, August 31, 2009


Saturday night the motorcycling world focused its eyes on AMA GNC Flat Track racing at the Indy Mile. With big names on hand for the Indy MotoGP, the dirt trackers took advantage of their time in the spotlight and put on a show that has the web buzzing. In front of a near capacity crowd, Bryan Smith set the tone for the night when he ran a blistering 38.243 lap to take the fast qualifier spot. He was more than a half second faster than Joe Kopp who was the only other rider under 29 seconds. Bonneville Performance's Brian Phillips put the Triumph in the show with a 40.639 trip around the mile. He was one of 14 riders to make the program aboard something other than a Harley.

In his heat Phillips finished in 8th place behind winner JR Schnabel. Moving to the semi Phillips jumped out early but some bad luck dropped him out of contention and he finished in 6th place, missing the main. According to Bill Gately of Bonneville Performance "Brian was leading the semi for the first 2.5 laps but hit a hole coming out of turn 2 and lost control for a second and the top four blew by him in a pack. He owned it but when he slipped off the groove it was over."

King Kenny Roberts then stole the show, putting on his leathers and climbing aboard his infamous Yamaha TZ750 for a few quick laps around the historic oval before Kenny Coolbeth ran away with the main, finishing 9 seconds ahead of 2nd place Bryan Smith.

Next week the Bonneville Performance team will travel to Springfield, Illinois to tackle the World's Fastest Mile. It's been more than 25 years since a Triumph made the main at a GNC National Mile...will next Sunday mark the end of that drought?

All photos by Jim Grant. Check his JGPhotowerx site for more photos from the race, including some awesome shots of Kenny Roberts on the TZ750.

Friday, August 28, 2009


With the Indy Mile being run this Saturday in conjunction with the Indy MotoGP, I thought I'd post some photos from the famed track. Both photos were taken by Joe Jordan. Check out more of his classic flat track photos on his Thunderplex site

(Gene Romero - 1973)

(Gary Scott - 1973)

While Kenny Roberts' TZ750 exhibition will get most of the attention at Saturday's race, it is worth noting that this year also marks the 40th anniversary of Triumph's only victory at the legendary track. Larry Palmgren is the only rider to put a Triumph in the winner's circle at Indy, doing it aboard a 650cc T120R at the 1969 running of the race.

Be sure to check out the Bonneville Performance race report next week to see how Brian Phillips and the #25 Triumph fared on the mile.

Thursday, August 27, 2009


A few weeks back we posted a photo of Joe Leonard on a Johnson Motors Triumph at the 1962 Sacramento Mile. At that time Leonard was transitioning to full time auto racing and was on a Triumph again after much success with Harley-Davidson. Today's photo comes from the Flattrack Thunder website and shows the opposite side of his career. Here is 16 year old Joe Leonard, "early in the game," looking cool on a Triumph.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009


Last month we posted info on an amazing painting of Gene Romero done by California artist Tom Fritz. Now he has done a follow up entitled "Showin' Em What's What." According to Tom, the oil on panel painting "is a compilation of various images supplied by Gene Romero, and is sort of a 'follow-up' to last year's poster image I painted for the AMA Vintage Motorcycle Days at Mid Ohio, which was entitled 'Knowin' What's What'."

A limited edition print series of the painting is available from the artist. Prices for the giclee prints on canvas, which is limited to 150 of each size, range from $250 to $800. There is also an open-edition on heavy bamboo watercolor paper available for $100 each. More info is available at

Tuesday, August 25, 2009


Received these photos and this info from Jonnie Green:

"I recently purchased 3 Bikes that were raced at Ascot by Bob Rickard from Lomita in Southern California They were purchased from the surviving family. The white tank bike is a 1957 T110, along with a 1959 Cub T20S and 1957 TR6...I initially wanted to just clean them up but unfortunately they may be too far gone and all 3 should undergo restoration. Do you have any information on Mr. Rickard? All I know is that he went to race for Honda in 1960 after the Triumphs in the 1950's. He won Class 3 Scrambles in Daytona in 1962 but the family had no history of the Triumphs."

If anyone has any info that can help Jonnie trace the history of these bikes and their rider, Bob Rickard, drop us a line at

Monday, August 24, 2009


46 Years ago yesterday, Gary Nixon won his first ever GNC Flat Track National at the Santa Fe Short Track in Hinsdale, IL. He had won a GNC National Road race a few weeks earlier. Ironically enough he was #63 at the time of those first wins back in 1963.

Top two images from

The image of the ad above, and the info on Nixon's Triumph Cub and success at Santa Fe that follows, are from Memories of Santa Fe Speedway by Dan Schmitt...

"With the change to 250cc machine, a new era began at Santa Fe. The AMA gave Howard Tiedt his first National in 1961. Carol Resweber, the four-time national champion, won the first two Nationals on his Harley Sprint. Gary Nixon grabbed the win in ’63 on a Triumph Cub. Then it was back-and-forth between Nixon and the ‘Harley Wreckin’ Crew’. Roger Reiman took the win in ’64, Bart Markel in ’66 and Freddie Nix in ’68. Nixon took the other two. Nix and Reiman shared the track championship during those years."

"Nixon moved from Oklahoma to Chicago to further his career. He won his second career National at Santa Fe in 1963. The week before he won his first national at a roadrace in Pennsylvania. Gary stayed in Chicago during the summer, living at Logan Square Triumph. On hot summer evenings, he would sleep on the roof of this dealership and listen to the ‘el’ train at the end of the line just across Milwaukee Avenue. He used to borrow the $2.00 for the entry fee. Gary said he depended on that $125.00 he could win, if he won everything on Wednesday night at Santa Fe, heat race, semi, trophy dash and the final. The Triumph Cub he raced was the one bike he did all of the maintenance himself."

"Many racers in that era stayed in the Midwest to race. Most of the flat-track racing at that time was in the Midwest, with fairgrounds in Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Iowa, Wisconsin. In fact, Gary said he raced 32 races during the month of August in 1967. One of the races he won during his quest for the national title was Santa Fe in ’67. Gary stated, “Santa Fe is where I learned to race. It may have been downplayed because of the 250’s, but all of the hot dudes were there. Winning the first one unlocked the door. I was pretty proud to beat the Harley factory guys three out of five times. I built that Cub 100 percent, Cliff help me out, but I took care of it. It was like a fine watch inside there.”

Friday, August 21, 2009


This Sunday is the 61st annual Peoria TT. This is one of the most prestigious events in AMA GNC racing and I've been lucky enough to have attended many races there during the past 30 years.

The TT has been the site of 9 Triumph GNC victories over the years, with the last coming by Chuck Joyner in 1978. It is also the last place one of the "old school" Triumphs qualified for a final. 26 years ago today, at the 1983 Peoria TT, Gary Scott and Brad Hurst put Meriden Triumphs in a GNC main event for the final time. In honor of that historic moment, here is some info on Gary and the bike he rode that day.

Gary on the Triumph at Peoria:

On display at the Springfield Hall of Fame Race...

Thanks to Mike "Stu" Stuhler for the above photo from the Springfield Hall of Fame Race a few years back. Check out his blog for some more great photos:

From the AMA Hall of Fame Museum...

Gary Scott's 1977 Triumph

One of the last bikes of a dirt-track great

Gary Scott's 1977 Triumph

In the AMA Flat Track Championship record book, Gary Scott is remembered for accomplishments aboard Harley-Davidson racebikes.

Click to enlarge

But Scott, one of the most successful racers of his era, began and ended his career aboard Triumphs, including this machine, one of the last competitive British bikes in series history. Scott raced this Triumph during the 1983 season. Starting life as a 1977 T140 parallel twin, the bike was modified with a Trackmaster frame, Fox shocks and Ceriani forks. Fitted with other race bits, such as Barnes wheels and Airheart brakes, it gave Scott his last top 10 in the AMA Flat Track series. Scott burst onto the professional dirt-track scene 11 years earlier with one of the most amazing rookie seasons in AMA history. Scott qualified his Triumph for 21 of the 24 Nationals, earned two wins, and finished the season as runner-up to Harley factory rider Mark Brelsford. That earned Scott Rookie of the Year honors for the 1972 season, and a second-place finish behind Kenny Roberts in ’73 got him a spot on the Harley factory team. In 1975, that combination paid off with a title over Roberts and a hotshot rookie named Jay Springsteen. Returning to privateer status for the 1976 season—and his trusted Triumphs for TT events—Scott remained competitive, finishing second that year and third a year later. By 1983, when he rode this machine, Scott was nearing the end of his successful career, and a new crop of youngsters, like Randy Goss, Ricky Graham, Bubba Shobert and Scott Parker, were taking over. Still, he rode well enough to finish in the top 10 for the 12th consecutive year. Scott was inducted into the Motorcycle Hall of Fame Museum at AMA headquarters in Pickerington, Ohio, in 1998. And his Triumph machine, shown as it was last raced by Scott at the Peoria (Illinois) TT National on August 21, 1983, is currently on display just a few feet from the plaque commemorating his career.

Thursday, August 20, 2009


From Bill Gately of Bonneville Performance:
"It was a beach--the track. Not like the typical Ohio cushion. This was coarse sand and there were some very big holes in the track. There were two broken or blow shocks, a bent swing arm, and a broken swing arm in the field. We were doing great but lost our #1 bike to a blown master cylinder in round 2 of the practice sessions. It warped the rotor and literally buried the rear wheel in the track. Brian stepped off and the bike was standing straight up. They red flagged the session and we lost the time for that session and a front row position in our heat race. We finished 7th in the heat and that put us on the front row for the semi. Brian got a great start and held second until he went low and lost traction. We finished 6th in the semi. We are looking forward to Indy."

All photos by Jim Grant. Check his JGPhotowerx site for a ton of photos from the race.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009


Found this awesome Triumph street tracker/bobber/racer on the VFT site. If this is yours, or you know who's it is, get in touch at:

Tuesday, August 18, 2009


Chuck Palmgren leading his brother Larry at Reading, PA in 1969. Big brother would eventually get past #38 and take the win on his T120R 650. It was only Triumph's 3rd victory at a half-mile National and the last aboard anything less than a 750cc machine.

Photo taken by Boyd Reynolds and found in Triumph Racing Motorcycles in America by Lindsay Brooke

Monday, August 17, 2009


Received some correspondence from Walt Metzler of High Springs, Florida. Amongst the many images he sent me was this Sonicweld Triumph raced by his son, Mike Metzler, and built by Walt.

Here is what he had to say...

"My son Mike and I have been doing AHRMA flattrack for about 15 years. He is the current Classic 250 National Champion. We built the 500 Triumph about 10 years ago so we could run two classes. I am a machinist, everything on both bikes is done by me. I made the triple clamps, the primary cases, engine mount plates and I build my own motors. Over the years I have made at least 20 custom primary cases. I like my bikes to run good and look good. We are planning to go to Geneva, NY next weekend and hope to make Peoria."

Be on the lookout in the coming weeks for more bikes built by Walt.

Sunday, August 16, 2009


No Main For Triumph

After posting the 19th fastest time in the second qualifying session, Bonneville Performance's Brian Phillips finished 7th in Heat #2 behind winner Bryan Smith.

In the semi Phillips put the #25 Triumph in 2nd after the first lap but slowly faded, finishing in 6th behind winner Aaron King on the Aprilia.

Michael Kirkness was the only other non H-D mounted rider to make the main. He rode his Suzuki to 2nd in Semi #2 behind Jared Mees.

Check back later this week for photos and a race report from the Bonneville Performance team.

Friday, August 14, 2009


Found on Ebay...

Rumor has it that after Gary Nixon won two GNC titles in a row on his Triumph, Harley-Davidson filed a protest with the AMA that Triumphs were unfairly fast. The AMA ruled in Harley's favor stating "it is obvious after a thorough investigation of past results that we have a problem. Triumph has won two titles and our rules are very clear on this...they aren't supposed to. In fairness to Harley-Davidson we have no other choice but to further restrict any brand with a snowball's chance in hell at winning a GNC title." With the British twins already limited to 500cc powerplants compared to Harley's 750cc machines there were few options left and so the "Bonanza Plan" was born. The AMA, obviously with fairness in mind, was going to make Nixon ride a Bonanza at GNC races in 1969. H-D was still nervous when, after initial tests, Nixon declared that the Bonanza was "the first minibike I've ridden that really feels like a motorcycle." According to multiple sources it was the possibility of losing to Gary Nixon on a Bonanza that fast-tracked the development of the XR750. Fortunately for Harley-Davidson fate intervened and Nixon was injured and out for the season...thus saving H-D from the possibility of losing to a man on a minibike.

At least that's what I heard.

Thursday, August 13, 2009


Came across this gem on the Motorbike Archives site - the 1969 Sacramento Mile recap complete with Walt Mahony photos. The Triumphs dominated the California track in 1969 with Chuck Palmgren and Gene Romero going 1-2 in the Expert Main and Don Castro running away with the Amateur race. In fact, Castro shocked all by qualifying second fastest overall ahead of the top experts of the day and future Hall of Famers like Romero, Lawwill, Reiman, Rayborn, Rice, and Mann.

Check out the article online here: 1969 Sacramento Mile

Or download a PDF of the original here: 1969 Sacramento Mile PDF

Wednesday, August 12, 2009


From the Dan Rouit Flat Track Museum Collection:

Trackmaster frame, tank and exhaust pipes, 650cc twin, Ken Maely seat and pillion pad, Mikuni carbs, ARD magneto, Ceriani forks and Barnes wheels. This bike was raced by Dan Rouit from 1972 to 1978. Dan was an expert in District 35 sportsman racing.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009


Triumph street trackers found on the VFT site. If one of these is yours, or you know who's it is, get in touch at:

We'd love to know more about these great bikes.

Monday, August 10, 2009


Well they saved rock and roll from Pat Boone and maybe the Brits are the best bet to save American Flat Track.

You may recognize the name Gary Inman. He's the guy that did that great piece in Cycle World about Chris Carr traveling to the UK. For the Triumph owners out there...if you were wondering who wrote the flat track article in the Triumph owners magazine a few issue back, it was him. Now Gary and co-conspirator Ben Part are turning out their flat track manifesto on a bi-annual basis. Sideburn magazine is like a shot of epinephrine straight to the heart of the flat lining sport. The magazine hit the stands last year and the guys are currently prepping their 4th issue.

A few weeks back the highly anticipated package arrived from Great Britain. The digest sized Sideburn is closer to Punk Planet than Cycle World with it's DIY approach, artistic layout, and features on the everyday, average Joe's giving it a go on the dirt tracks. That's not to say Sideburn doesn't feature everyone from the greats (like Dick Mann and Kenny Roberts) to the stars of today and beyond (Jared Mees and Brandon Robinson) but a considerable amount of time is given to the people who make flat track fun and are doing it without big name sponsors or a drive for fame and stardom. There are also interviews with the guys behind the bikes. The most recent issue featured a wonderful visit with Ron Wood and covers everything from his Nortons to the current BMW project.

Perhaps the most enjoyable articles are those highlighting the burgeoning European flat track scene. The magazine has featured indoor racing with Chinese mini-bikes, beach racing in near arctic conditions, and flat trackers assembled from bikes U.S. riders would scoff at. It's these things, along with interviews with builders, racers, and features on some gnarly race bikes and street trackers, that make Sideburn so refreshing.

The first article in Issue #1 begins with this bit of information:
"Flat Track is still a fledgling sport in Europe. The scene is being developed in the U.K., Holland, and Germany by grassroots enthusiasts. People who want to race. To entice many maybe drifters in the totally amateur Euro flat track scene the rules are kept to a minimum. Rule 1 = No front brake. Rule 2 = Tire tread must not be deeper than 6mm. Any deeper would not just rip up the surface, but may encourage a clashing riding style and speed. Other than that, just about anything else goes."

Perhaps these guys are on to something. While the U.S. scene is arguing over exhaust dBs, restrictors, stock frames, singles, and the best way to save "our" sport, the guys across the pond are just racing. Not worried about style points or which OEM is giving more to the sport, these guys are making flat track more accessible by running whatever will go fast and turn left. That and turning out some badass magazines.

Check out the Sideburn website for more details and ordering info. The guys also have some cool merch to check out. The wife is now sporting the Dick Mann shirt while yours truly is kicking it in the Gene Romero. You can get these in a variety of colors as well as stickers and patches.

There's also a Sideburn blog that is updated daily and posts everything from street trackers and vintage bikes to race results from all over Europe and the U.S.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Friday, August 7, 2009


From the Dan Rouit Flat Track Museum Collection:

Ridged Sonicweld frame, Trackmaster style tank, Barnes wheels, and Pirelli tires. Don Castro rode this bike at San Jose indoor, The Cow Palace, Long Beach indoor, and The Astrodome. Bike is now owned by Rod Lake.

Thursday, August 6, 2009


Found these photos over on the Flat Track Thunder website. Beyond these photos there is little info out there on Shorty Tompkins. A Google search turned up an article involving him and some other aging Northern California motorcyclists...Shorty was 80 at the time of the 2001 story. Unfortunately, the most recent mentions of his name are found in some articles on big dollar auctions of motorcycles that were "formerly the property of Shorty Tompkins." So it appears Shorty is no longer with least not in the flesh...his memory lives on in the photos below. If anyone has any info on Shorty Tompkins, his racing career, or his life after he took off the leathers and crash helmet, it would be a great thing to document. Drop us a line at:
(Cutting it close)

(Looking right at the camera)

(w/ old school trophy girl)

(Mobil Oil Ad)