Tuesday, October 5, 2010

AMA Flat Track Rundown to The Arizona Mile: From Being The Show to Running the Show-Saluting Mike Kidd, Steve Morehead & Team AMA Flat Track


Gary Scott #1 works the cushion outside while Mike Kidd #72 runs it low coming out of turn four at Louisville in the fall of 1976 during heat race action for the ABC Race of Champions year end finale. Bringing up the rear is the late Steve Eklund on the #74Z. All are Harley-Davidson XR750 mounted, back when the XR had taken hold and got a grip on being the winningest machine in AMA Flat Track Grand National Championship racing.
These three men all share a couple of major traits among themselves--besides being some of the best former greats of our sport. They all won the AMA Grand National Championship in the days when flat track and road racing were combined, and for the most part they all did it based solely on their results on the dirt. Of course in those days, there were only a handful of road races on the calendar, but nonetheless when your competition is comprised of people like Kenny Roberts, Skip Askland and the late Randy Cleek you needed to score in all disciplines in order to be in contention for the big #1 plate and trophy. If my memory is correct, only Scott scored any useful points in some select events on road race equipment. They are also enshrined in the AMA Hall of Fame, and were also members of the inaugural AMA Flat Track Hall of Fame that was set up by Dave Despain at the Springfield Mile in late summer of 1998.
Gary won his AMA Grand National Championship in 1975 riding for the Harley factory and with Master Tuner Bill Werner turning the wrenches for the #1 plate. After falling out with H-D and dirt track manager Dick O'Brien, he went on to form his own team using XRs, Yamaha two and four stroke singles for his short track and TT program, and then Triumph 650-based TT machines that absolutely ruled the TT tracks for several years straight. And an occasional ride on a Yamaha TZ750 road racer thrown into the mix. Oh, and he won the '72 Rookie of Year title beating out Kenny Roberts and Mike Kidd in the process, a pretty deep rookie class.
Eklund, who would win the '76 AMA Rookie of Year in AMA Flat Track, would go on to win the '79 AMA Grand National Championship with the Zanotti Racing team (Mario, the father put it all together with Eklund in '79 and Dave, the son is the man with the plan this year for #5 Jake Johnson, and the current points leader going into the final round in Arizona this Saturday.) He was also the first privateer to win the GNC since Dick Mann had won his first of two GNCs in 1963. Unfortunately, Steve was seriously injured at the Albuquerque Mile in June of '90 and succumbed to his injuries some 15 months later.
And then there is the current AMA Flat Track Manager, the '81 AMA Grand National Champion, and one of the men in this sport that has raced for several former factory teams back in the day when factory involvement in AMA Flat Track was a must for the major manufacturers. That man is Mike Kidd, who is the man that was the first notable racer to bring major outside the industry sponsorship to the table in AMA Flat Track Grand National Championship competition. Of course, Gene Romero and Gary Scott at one time or another in the mid-late '70s had been sponsored by Evel Knievel, but Mike Kidd brought the U.S. Army to the program in the late '70s, opening a door for sports-related sponsorship for a branch of the U.S. Military that still exists today with big money in NasCrash and NHRA. Kidd also rode for Triumph, H-D and Honda throughout his career and was part of the original program with Team Honda in the early '80s before hanging up his steel shoe at the end of the '83 season. He now mantles the helm of the AMA Pro Flat Track team and has helped turn the sport around in terms of popularity, action and timeliness and helping to promote AMA Flat Track and the entertainment value of the sport to the paying customers.



AMA Flat Track Manager Mike Kidd takes a break during a break in the practice sessions at the AMA Pro Flat Track K&N Filters presented by Motorcycle Superstore.com Grand National Championship round at the Springfield Short Track on Saturday, September 4, 2010. Here MK is seen talking with The Rider Files.com's one and only Larry Lawrence, and another man who has helped to bring AMA Flat Track to the masses when he was covering the scene for the now-defunct print version of Cycle News. Larry was kind enough to let me tag along to some races this year and not only was it a blast hanging with the Sultan of Shots but getting back to more of the AMA Flat Track scene was the best thing that has happened to me in years. I had a blast and can't wait for the 2011 season of The Rolling Thunder Show.
Mike has helped put together a team consisting of Master Track Prep and former AMA Flat Track Grand National Championship competitor, Steve Morehead, Dave and Kathy Hoenig, Scotty Duebler, Rick Dorfmeyer and numerous others who work in the front and back lines at every AMA Flat Track event and make things happen at these super events. The AMA Pro Flat Track Team has worked together to not only speed up the program, milk the entertainment value of the sport, and put on a show that is like NO other in any type of two OR four wheel racing. Bar none!


Steve Morehead runs the cushion on his #42 XR750 during action at the Louisville Downs Half Mile ABC Race of Champions in the fall of 1975. Having competed mostly on Triumphs during the '74-'75 AMA Grand National Championship seasons, The Findlay Flyer was forced to hop on a H-D XR for the tv show-themed championship and support race (and I don't remember the particulars from then, but the entire ROC field was comprised of XRs.)
Steve competed in the AMA Flat Track Series for 26 seasons, winning 23 Nationals along the way, including his home track in Lima, OH. He also finished his career with 17 top ten finishes in the AMA Flat Track Grand National Championship Series and was sponsored throughout his career by F&S Racing and KK Motorcycle Supply, two of the biggest names in AMA Flat Track Racing.
The consumate professional, Morehead is a master at grooming tracks for a great racing surface and now heads up the AMA Flat Track prep crew and associates who get the venues ready for the racers. It's been said that even Mike Kidd will hop on the grader every once in awhile to help get the tracks ready to roll on.
Steve Morehead, AMA Flat Track Operations Manager, talks with Bryan Smith #42 and Brandan Bergen #26 just after the final qualifying session at Lima back in June of 2010. Bergen was questioning the track surface and Steve was trying to explain to him that the rest of the competitors had to and were dealing with the varying surface around the half mile pea gravel track.
With less then 96 hours before the final green flag of the season in the AMA Pro Flat Track Series, Stu's Shots is starting it's rundown to the final checkers on the 2010 season finale at the Yavapai Downs track in Prescott Valley, AZ. The Budweiser Racing Arizona Mile kicks off on Saturday, October 9, and first practice action starts at 1:00 P.M. EDT.
The AMA Pro Flat Track K&N Filters presented by Motorcycle Superstore.com Grand National Championship season is about to wind down with the 16th round in Prescott Valley, and the racing will obviously be on the track itself (and maybe some in the pits to race against the clock to get ready to roll.) And as the week progresses, we will preview the four men who are still
mathematicallyin the hunt to take it all on Saturday: points leader Jake Johnson, second place man Joe Kopp, third in the standings Jared Mees, and the fourth man in the circle, Henry Wiles.
But to make the wheels roll, literally and figuratively, you have to have a team of people put together that works well together and is efficient. AMA Flat Track has that team now, headed up by former '81 AMA Grand National Champion Mike Kidd, and former AMA Flat Track competitor Steve Morehead. These two men oversee the operations and daily work needed to make The Rolling Thunder Show work, and have both led their team and AMA Flat Track in the Great Turn Around in the sport.
Slowly but surely the AMA Flat Track Team has helped speed up the program, bring the entertainment value into the sport, and make for a more lean and mean program that is starting to put butts back in the seats again. Working with more promoters to help keep those butts in the seat-ala IMDA in the way they run all of the series' races in Illinois. Not to mention putting on the best show on wheels anywhere.
Yes, they still have some issues to work out in terms of dealing with track and promoter cancelations for the series-the schedule did lose four rounds to cancelation this year, and suffered the rain-out cancellation at Knoxville as well. It's hard to deal with Mother Nature....
And many say that with the new rules package, making some 12 different brands and/or models available in the Grand National Championship and putting restrictors on the XR's, even though they are the only purpose-built mounts in the series, is not the way to go. And I am sure there are some afficionados of the sport that see other things that need to be worked out to make it better and more efficient.
But what I saw this year in the only five events I was fortunate to be a part of in person, and also hearing straight from some of the racers and crew about some of the other events, was a much better show overall than what the AMA had been bringing to the table for years, and possibly decades. This has been a gradual swing to bring the greatest sport on wheels back to the top, and in terms of how the show used to drag and delay, what I witnessed was a night and day difference in efficiency and great, close racing. Not to mention the multi-brand racing is like no other year I have seen in the 37 seasons I have been following the series.
That being said, I hope we see Mike Kidd and Steve Morehead running this great show in this great sport of ours for many years to come, and honing the finely tuned machine that is the AMA Pro Flat Track Team. The members of their team have helped to make it work, and work well for what they have attained up to this point.
Like the Oldsmobile television commercial from back in the late '70s/early '80s used to say.....'This isn't your father's AMA Flat Track anymore.' And thank the man upstairs for that. Amen!
Enjoy the links below on the two men in charge of the AMA Pro Flat Track team, and check back throughout the week and look in on the countdown to the Prescott Valley Mile on Saturday. It's almost time to go racing and we're ready to go WFO with AMA Flat Track and The Rolling Thunder Show.

Mike Kidd's page at the AMA Hall of Fame:

Steve Morehead's page at the AMA Hall of Fame:


  1. Great stuff Stu.Hey could you ad me to your links list?

    1. Thanks Jon, be glad to. And thanks for coming by to check us out!


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