To Read The Full Article, Go To www.cyclesource.com
Article By: Tyler Porter
Photo By: of Tim Handrich
Originally Published In The August 2018 Issue Of Cycle Source Magazine
There are 34 states in this fine country that contain at least one Springfield. However, to a flat tracker, only one is important. Springfield Illinois. Springfield is much like a flat tracker’s mecca where most of us make two treks a year to compete, spectate and as I’m about to document in this column; party. Each Memorial and Labor Day weekend racers from around the world and fans from around the country descend upon the Land of Lincoln for some of the best racing on the planet. You see, Springfield for a flat tracker is known for two things; The World’s Fastest Mile, and unofficially, the world’s best dirt. The fertile farm land surrounding central Illinois lends itself to an amount of traction on the race track unlike most places in this country. As a racer myself, it’s hard to describe it to someone outside of the racing world, but it’s a lot like going to a Cold Stone for the first time. IT’S SO GOOOOD.
Memorial Day weekend was jam-packed with events this year, though a few were hampered by rain. On Friday Night in nearby Peoria Illinois, the All- Star Flat Track Series held an event at Peoria Speedway. This is a tradition of the last several years, and though this event’s races were rained out, you can always count on this race being on the schedule. On Saturday the races take place inside the Multipurpose Arena at the State Fairgrounds. This is a natural amphitheater that allows fans to sit on a beautiful grass hillside or in the stadium seats which are much closer to the food and beverages. In the early morning hours, racers pack into the pits to compete in the local AMA District 17 races where mostly youth and veteran classes are held. As the sun sits behind the pits in the afternoon, it’s time for the All-Star Flat Track Series and AFT Pro Singles stars to emerge for battle.
The All-Star series has been around for nearly ten years and features 5-10 top-level amateur and professional classes depending on the venue. Think of it like flat track’s Xfinity Series. The young stars coming up through the ranks are showcased, as well as one veteran’s class and a vintage class. If you needed a little more sugar to go along with this medicine, there are also Pro classes, where the best in the world compete for a seriously deep purse. In Springfield however, things are slightly different in the All-Star program, as a full-blown AFT Pro Singles event happens at the same time. For the price of your ticket, you get one hell of a program! On Sunday (and Monday after rains moved through the area this year) the AFT Twins Series makes its way across the fairgrounds to the Springfield Mile. To say that the Springfield Mile is legendary is like saying Arlen Ness built a couple of custom bikes. While the dirt in Springfield certainly gives way to incredible traction and speed, the real difference with the Springfield Mile vs. other mile race tracks in the country is the fact that it’s an “equidistance” mile. This means that the corners are ¼ mile long and the straights are a ¼ mile long. This allows racers to carry much more momentum through the corners and makes insane drafting techniques and race strategy paramount to a race win. Much like other famous races, the Indy 500 or the Kentucky Derby, the real party is in the infield.
Now that I’ve detailed the racing action on the weekend let’s get to the reason you should attend. Since you’re already holding a copy of this fine magazine that is literally owned and published by motorcycle people, I’m going to venture out on the limb and say that you’re a motorcycle nutjob as well. This entire weekend is all about bikes. It’s like a rally, but without the expensive beer, stupid foot draggers making traffic a nightmare or sideshow acts lamely attempting to entertain you. Springfield is world-class athletes putting on a show. Springfield is camping with thousands of your new best friends. Springfield is an entire town embracing the crowd. Springfield is a tradition that you need to start immediately. I have attended every Springfield weekend since 2002. Many people haven’t missed one for 30 years or more. If you’re a Springfield rookie, all you need to do is look for a person wearing a Springfield T-Shirt from more than ten years ago and ask them where to sit, where to eat, and if they’d like a beverage for their time and knowledge. Except for the Friday night races in Peoria, the entire weekend is centered inside the Illinois State Fair grounds. Camping is cheap, they have two shower houses on site, and if you don’t feel like partying in the camp g r o u n d with your new friends, there are several bars within walking distance. I highly recommend Franny’s or The Stadium if you want a good chance to see a racer or two walk through the doors if there’s a rainout.
After the races conclude on Saturday, head immediately to the campground whether you are camping or not. The party will be kicking full force. Trust me. On Sunday, yes, on a Sunday night, there will be loads of bars around town with live music and a serious party atmosphere for you to enjoy. Springfield is also known for a famous food staple, the Horse Shoe. It’s an open-faced hamburger smothered in french fries and cheese sauce. If you want the best one in town, head to the Flat Track supporting bar, Boone’s Saloon downtown. They don’t mess around. So, there you have it, the best party you haven’t been invited to. There’s famous food, the best racing in the entire world, camping, motorcycles, watering holes, and traditions. You can do everything from lounging on a hill side with your friends to making your way through the pits to meet your favorite racers and be up close and personal with their machines, or if you’re ready to be worn out on Tuesday morning with 100 new stories to tell, sign up to race, then party, then spectate a race, then possibly party some more. It will be a weekend you will never EVER forget, and you’ll keep coming back for more.