M3 Racing Factory’s Daytona Trip
Oglethorpe Speedway Park
Volusia Speedway Park
Ocala Micro Speedway
Story and Photos by Dan Jacobson Sr.
SAVANNAH, GA, MAR. 3-4, 2012
DE LEON SPRINGS, FL, MAR. 6, 2012
OCALA, FL, MAR. 7, 2012
After working though the long, cold winter in Hawley (a.k.a. “Hawleywood”), Minnesota, M3 Racing Factory (M3RF) loaded up the transporter for the 1,800-mile road trip to sunny Daytona Beach, Florida, for the All-Star races leading up to rounds one and two of the 2012 AMA Pro Grand National Championship Series. Working out the details for a total of nine races (two GNCs) in eight days in four cities and two states was not easy, logistically: There would be the ground transportation, airplane tickets, and hotels and food for a crew, aside from the race events themselves.
Planning is everything. By the time you’re 500 miles away, the fear of “what did we forget?” runs wild in your mind. Scheduling the drive-time swaps and sleep is the key to nonstop travel. The range between fuel stops in the Sprinter van is over 400 miles; bathroom breaks are few and far apart. Food is on board, and 5-Hour Energy drinks help time out the driver/ sleep shifts. Our next goal was to show up at the airport in Atlanta, Georgia, at the right time to pick up the M3RF rider of the 10L – Mac McGrew.
Thank God for GPS: We found our way to all the right locations without having to ask a gas-station staff even once. The closer we got to the race date, the more the phones were ringing, and e-mails and Facebook posts had updated information. Nick and Jake Mataya, also from Minnesota, had already landed at the Savannah, Georgia, venue and were readying to do some pre-race practice laps. M3RF was resting in anticipation of Mac’s Delta flight at ATL, with a four-hour trip to Savannah to follow. Day two’s ending destination would be the Holiday Inn, for some much-needed sleep before race one.
In many ways, M3 Racing Factory is like a traveling circus, setting up the show at each track. There are fans, friends, and sponsor commitments all along the trail and at each venue. If you think it’s a vacation racing pro motorcycles, guess again. It is somehow magical, though, how more than 100 other teams from around the country are doing the same thing as M3 Racing Factory, showing up at the right time and place to put on “The Best Motorsports Racing on the Planet.”
Waking up at the Savannah Airport Pooler-Holiday Inn and Suites, we found race-team transporters filling the parking lots and streets. We headed out to the Oglethorpe Speedway Park for the first of two days of racing. Sign-in at 3 o’clock was fine, since it was only a mile from the Inn.
Once everyone was settled in and ready for 5 o’clock practice, it started to rain. Showers continued to silence the bikes until 9 p.m., when Steve Nace Racing called the event for the night.
Planning to run two events in one day presented certain challenges, since the field of AMA Vintage riders and classes are many. It’s just my feeling, but having 30-some-odd classes is a crowd-killer. I guess it is fine if the event is a back-gate-driven show for the riders. Even with an early AMA Vintage start time of 11 a.m., we didn’t start the All-Star program that had been scheduled for the previous night until 8 p.m., and facing a curfew of 11:45 p.m., the program was under the gun from the start.
Old friend and 1999 AMA Hall of Fame inductee Dave Aldana, with “bones” leathers and all, was racing at Oglethorpe Speedway Park. Number 13 had his race-day challenges, not from hitting the ground but with the set of 350 Hondas. Bike one had a miss that turned into a rod failure. With help from Jerry Cheney of Cheney Engineering, the number-two race bike was readied to go.
Other highlights of the day was when the M3 Racing Factory’s CB-750 Honda Trackmaster, a one-of-a-kind bike from the few days of the multiple-cylinder flat-trackers, hit the track in practice – only to be disqualified once again by the AMA officials because the rider had an AMA Pro License. The only rider in the class for a one-of-a-kind flat-tracker was denied by AMA officials, to the fans’ objections.
Thanks to the overworked crew of Steve Nace Racing, they pushed the 9 a.m. start time to 11 a.m. on Saturday for the Sunday race at Volusia Speedway Park, but then canceled it just as we drove out the driveway, due to the rains from two days before. We welcomed the “free” day to recover from the drive and a double-race day.
Heading into the Monday race, they swapped the scheduled AMA Vintage Short Track and Half Mile, due to the very wet conditions on the half mile.
On Tuesday, the sun was shining on Volusia Speedway Park as the track crew and the Steve Nace crew handled the final prep on the half mile. This D-shaped, high-banked, black-clay stock-car track has a history of dangerous racing conditions. During the riders’ meeting, Nick Cummings reminded the racers to show respect for the front-straight wall and the turn-four exit. Cummings was in a coma for 14 days after finding out first-hand just how fast that wall comes up. Seeing how well Nick has done with his recovery was an inspiration.
AMA Vintage Racing has more than 30 classes, from three types of minibikes to what seemed to be a class for every age and hair color, so it’s an all-day, 10-hour-plus show. The Pro classes once again were highlights of the day’s racing, besides the NASCAR moment when two Vintage riders connected on the last lap, with one rider throwing blows on the back straight.
After Tuesday’s AMA Vintage VSP event, the Southeast Dirt Track Association (SDTA) opened the Ocala track for a nighttime practice session. As it was only a short 30-mile drive from VSP, we jumped at the chance to burn some laps at a great cushion short track. Working on setups were Sammy and Jethro Halbert, Matt Weidman and Robert Pearson. For M3 Racing Factory rider Mac McGrew, the 10L Honda made a hundred laps at least.
Heading to the Wednesday SDTA race at Ocala Micro Speedway, we pulled out the CB 750 M3RF Honda Trackmaster, the only one known in the world. Mac McGrew ran some amazing hot laps that delighted the fans and teams onsite. Besides being good at “keepin’ it sideways,” Ward Jones, Shawn McNary and Ray DeLacqueseaux are fantastic event hosts. (For more on the SDTA of Florida, check out southerndirttrackassoiction.com for upcoming excitement.)
With the two big races coming up, all the bikes and pit gear needed to be clean and ready for the AMA Grand National Championships. We headed to the carwash we’d spotted on the way to the track, but after we had everything ready and were preparing to put the quarters in, we found out they’d closed at 10:30 p.m. We reloaded the transporter and headed into Daytona Beach. Stopping for our first directions at the Fast Track gas station, we were delighted to hear there was a carwash about four miles down Nova. Once again we pulled in, and this time we tested the water wand; 10 bucks later we are all cleaned up for the National.
Without a doubt, attending an AMA Pro Grand National Championship event – because it is the “Best Racing on the Planet” for the fans, sponsors and racers – is simple. The AMA Pro Racing race crew keeps the show on schedule, and Barry Boone and Scott Deubler report the rapid action nonstop. If you have been to a GNC lately, you know all this; if you haven’t, you need to go. With competition like this, everything else is just a game.
The next AMA Pro GNC event is the Memorial Day Weekend doubleheader at the Illinois State Fairground in Springfield, where your hosts, the Illinois Motorcycle Dealer Association, will carry on the tradition of excellence with the GNC TT and the fastest Mile flat track known for lead changes and close finishes. Willy McCoy is the defending Mile champion and Jake Johnson the defending TT champion.