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Article And Photos By: Tyler Porter
Originally Published In The October 2018 Issue Of Cycle Source Magazine
In the 2010 movie “The Other Guys,” Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg play two detectives that crack a huge case despite being seemingly boring desk jockeys. With the rise in popularity of the American Flat Track series, many new fans know the big movers and shakers. For every Jared Mees or Shayna Texter, there’s 30 other well deserving racers who are putting on a show a few spots behind them with no salary, little support, and not even a bunch of followers on social media. Can you imagine? In this month’s installment of the InSLIDE Line, I sat down and had a chat with two of my favorite privateers. I wanted to give you a look I at what life is like for the majority of professional fl at track racers. They aren’t that different from you and me. I wanted to show you that there are a lot more people in the pits to meet, cheer for, and follow on social media than just the riders that the huge marketing fi rms from Indian, Harley Davidson, Husqvarna and soon to be, KTM, tell you are making the sport go literally around. Flat track, much like motocross, is built on the privateers.
First up is national number 98, Kayl Kolkman. Kayl has been on the professional circuit since 2009 and turned expert (twins’ class now) in 2010. His national number, 98 had to be earned by making a main event, each season. This is much harder than it seems, especially on a privateer budget. Kolkman has been running national number 98 since the 2012 season. During the week, he is just a run of the mill motorcycle mechanic. He owns his own small business, Kolkman Racing where he specializes in repairing and rebuilding dirt bikes. He does simple maintenance to fullon race bike builds. Obviously, Kayl can handle it. On weekends, Kayl will leave his Southern California home, sometimes with his wife and two kids, Travis and Joanna, in tow and head to the races. Obviously, Kayl is building his own bikes, as well as owning and maintaining all of his equipment. Kolkman is nearly a main event contender week in and week out with strong fi nishes like a 7th last year at the inaugural Buffalo Chip TT. I fi rst got to know him through mutual racing friends, but what stuck with me was his title sponsor that season, Roy’s Taco House. Now, you might think Kayl being a California native, that Roy’s was an authentic local’s only spot deep in the heart of SoCal. But oh no, Roy’s, which is now closed, was located in the dirt track heartland, Illinois, and had been family operated for 40 years. You see, fl attrack is mainly supported not by the Original Equipment Manufacturers, but by individuals. Hometown restaurants, roofi ng companies, farmers, and various small businesses from jewelry stores to hair salons. It takes all kinds. It’s not uncommon for fans to just slide their favorite privateer a Benjamin during the autograph session. The sport is growing, but its still grassroots. You see? Isn’t this fun?
Our next privateer hero is another California native, but one from the other end of the state. Based out of Modesto California, it’s only fi tting that James Monaco grew up working his family almond farm. That’s right; he’s a nut farmer. James may be relatively new to the AFT Twins series, earning national number 22 in 2017, but he fi rst turned pro in 2012 and joined the twins class in 2017. Though James grew up pruning trees and killing weeds, he now supplements his racing budget by co-owning a pool cleaning service, Pacifi c Coast Pools. That’s right; you can hire one of the fastest fl attrackers in the world to keep your pool cleaner than a Sandal’s resort. These are reallife dudes that just seem to have out of this world talent on a motorcycle. Like most privateer’s, funding is always an issue, but unlike Kayl, James is actually riding for a team, Sammy-O Racing. Team owner Sam Oskin provides a bike and a race day mechanic, but James doesn’t get to keep his race winnings. Winnings go back to the team for travel costs, so even though a bike is provided for him, the struggle is still there. Just remember, a lot of these “Teams” in fl attrack are just enthusiastic and incredibly generous race bike owners, but there are no salaries, bonuses, or free travel necessities like airline tickets and hotels to go along with the ride. Obviously, the biggest struggle for James is the travel expenses. James tells me that people have donated plane tickets, and even bought race gas and tires for him, and those are the biggest help of all. James is one heck of a character too, so spend some time joking with him. One thing’s for sure; the kid has some stories!
With American Flat Track enjoying a nice resurgence now, I trust that if you’re reading this, you’re hopefully attending some races. Unlike some of the factory stars, privateers will show up at local tracks, large regional races, and even host riding schools from time to time. The access to them is unparalleled in any professional sport. Many of them will still take up anyone’s offer for a free couch to sleep on while they are the road, and a night out at the local Applebees is like dining at Ruth’s Chris for these guys and girls. That’s the beauty of fl attrack. It’s raw. It’s simple. And the greatest people you’ll ever meet are in the dark areas of the pits, looking for their next paycheck. It’s worth the time to check out, The Other Guys.