Flat Track Racing

considered the oldest, longest-running and most traditional motorcycle racing, is commonly referred to as “dirt track” racing. Flat track was born of the delirious, dangerous board track races of the early 20th century. Organizers would build ovals out of oiled wood planks and put on weekend races. Originally, motorcycles pulled bicycles onto 45° banked wooden tracks to race, but very quickly motorcycles replaced bicycles altogether advancing into fast and powerful machines. Soon board track races became too dangerous for both riders and spectators and as a result, promoters constructed oval tracks with dirt banks, and flat track racing became a sensation across the U.S, drawing huge crowds everywhere.

Flat track racing is the only type of motorcycle racing that originated in the United States, and to this day, two American brands dominate the sport: Indian and Harley-Davidson. “Smokin” Joe Petrali, who won every National Dirt Track Championship race in 1935, became the first dirt track racer to win all the series races on one motorcycle brand (Harley Davidson).  Flat track racing was just gaining popularity when America plunged into The Great Depression, and soon after, World War II erupted causing Harley-Davidson to shift their production to military efforts.

After World War II, flat track racing revived and the AMA established the organization’s first championship, becoming the most popular form of racing for the next thirty years. Bruce Brown’s 1971 motorcycle racing documentary, On Any Sunday”, brought flat track racing to the big screen.  Flat track racing exploded in the early 80’s when R.J. Reynolds and Honda increased flat track media exposure, reaching its ultimate popularity when Wide World of Sports brought races to American living rooms. In the mid 1980’s, motorcycle road racing and motocross took off, and interest in flat track racing declined.

Today, flat track racing is making a comeback. The sport has an atmosphere all its own, as most events don’t occur in million-dollar arenas but are held more at grass-roots locations such as fairgrounds and speedways.  Flat Track riders have more longevity, with many riders peaking in their thirties.  Flat track fans enjoy accessibility to riders, often hanging out with each other in the center pits after events.  Flat track racing is the rawest and most entertaining and the cost for the spectator is affordable than most forms of bike racing.

Some past Grand National Champions were Carroll Resweber (Harley 1960,61), Bart Markel (Harley 1962, 65, 66), Dick Mann (BSA 1963, 71), Gary Nixon (Triumph 1967,68), Mert Lawwill (Harley 1969), Gene Romero (Triumph 1970), Kenny Roberts (Yamaha 1973,74), Gary Scott (Harley 1975), Jay Springsteen (pictured left, Harley 1976,77,78), Steve Eklund (Harley 1979), Randy Goss (Harley 1980, 83),  Mike Kidd (Harley 1981), Ricky Graham (Harley 1982, Honda 1984), Bubba Shobert (Honda 1985,86,87).