Shayna Texter (ABOVE and BELOW). Photo: Stephanie Pierce.
Forty-odd years ago, I had the good fortune to become buddies with Gene Romero, David Aldana, Chuck Palmgren and Frank Gillespie. They were more than motorcycle racers; they were four of the bravest, craziest, wildest and most alive people I’d ever met.
They didn’t live for the day, they lived for the moment and everything they owned was in the back of their van as they chased races and women across the country all summer. Watching them run the Indiana State Fairgrounds’ mile twice a year and following them to flat track races at DuQuoin, Terre Haute and Louisville was breathtaking and they shared a common thread: they weren’t afraid to die.
Running 135mph going into the corner, inches apart and sideways, created easily the most exciting spectacle on two or four wheels. After watching a Fairgrounds’ finish where the top six were separated by a few feet, the late open-wheel star Jimmy Caruthers opined: “God, if anybody saw this they’d never come to another Indy car race.” Harry Gant was once asked if any of the American Motorcycle Association stars could be stock car drivers and he quickly responded in the negative. “Their balls wouldn’t fit through the window,” he reasoned.
So we’ve established that flat-track racing on the mile is the manliest of endeavors and the skill set required to succeed makes it a select club. That’s why Saturday night’s Pro Singles feature at the Fairgrounds was such a shocker at least to me. When the winner, who charged from deep in the 24-bike pack, stopped on the front straightaway to get the checkered flag for the victory lap, the big screen flashed her face.
Yeah, her face.
Of all the things one can be prepared for, that wasn’t one of them. In a sport that most describe as insanity the first time they ever watch it in person, it’s hard to comprehend a female wanting to do it because they tend to be a lot more level-headed. And it was doubly impressive when little 90-pound Shayna Texter pulled off her helmet and saluted the cheering crowd.
But the 22-year-old from Willow Street, Pa. didn’t do cartwheels or climb the fence or even act all that surprised and for good reason. It was her second victory of 2013 and sixth in the past two years of the AMA’s stepping stone series.
“I got pretty far behind but kept digging and was able to hold off Stephen [Vanderkuur],” said Texter, who took the lead with three laps to go in the 12-lap finale. “I lost my dad two years ago and I’m dedicating this win to him.”
Photo: Larry Lawrence.
Now try and comprehend what I’m going to say. Texter is as pretty as Danica and even more petite and in the last month she’s won the mile at Sacramento and Indianapolis. Not only was there no story in the Indianapolis Star about her feat, it’s almost seemed like it wasn’t that newsworthy in the AMA paddock late Saturday night.
Are you kidding? In the most macho racing environment on this planet, a young lady is winning races and it’s no big deal? I mean, flat-track racing has always been poorly promoted and treated like an afterthought, but this screams for attention.
“There have been a handful of women riders in the 30-plus years I’ve covered motorcycle racing and Shayna is definitely the most talented,” says Larry Lawrence, a former rider who writes for his own website: http://www.RiderFiles.com. “She’s extremely popular, as you heard Saturday night, and she’s well respected by her male counterparts. Her dad and her grandfather raced motorcycles so she’s the third generation.”
She’s also got a style all her own.
“It’s unique because instead of putting her foot down in the corners she keeps both on the pegs,” adds Lawrence. “She’s tough and she rarely crashes.”
Texter is the only female to ever win an AMA flat track feature but no woman has ever won in the Expert Class. Nichole Cheza has qualified for several Expert mains this season but it would appear Shayna is ready to move up in class to a heavier, more powerful motorcycle.
“Every guy in her position with some wins would be ready or think they are but I think she’s a little reluctant,” says Lawrence. “I’ve talked to her about it and she’s cautious and not real sure of her own abilities. But right now she’s a star in flat-track racing.”
She’s also a well-kept secret.
Bryan Smith did the improbable in the 25-lap Grand National for experts: he routed the competition in the 25-lap expert main event by five seconds.
Riding the Kawasaki built by Ricky Howerton with Jeff Gordon’s engine expertise, Smith also won his heat and the $1,000 dash on his No. 42 bike. That’s the same number carried by Jackie Howerton (Ricky’s dad) in beating Mario Andretti and Al Unser to win the 1974 Hoosier Hundred at the Fairgrounds’ mile.
Robin Miller’s Mailbag will now be found here on RACER.com. If you have a question about open-wheel racing, write to MillersMailbag@Racer.com