Saturday, October 18, 2014

Fight For Dirt's Tyler Porter Hanging Up His AMA Pro Flat Track Pro Singles Shoe

One of the long time supporters of AMA Pro Flat Track, Tyler Porter is hanging up his steel shoe after having competed in the AMA Pro Flat Track Pro Singles Series for the last few seasons.

Porter, out of Paducah, KY. and the owner/operator of Fight For Dirt, was originally going to call it a racing career well before the end of the 2014 AMA Pro Flat Track Grand National Championship season. Talking with him at the Springfield Mile II on August 31, TP sited his busy career obligations with Memphis Shades and his busy travel schedule, as well as the several years he has competed in the Pro Singles Series as his reasons for hanging up his steel shoe.

Porter's InSlide Line column, which appears weekly on his Fight For Dirt site, is one of the 'must read' musings and informational stops for all-things flat track, and provides everyone with not only a great overview of the background and goings on in flat track, but with a generous dose of reality and amusement to keep things light, yet to the point.

In the shot above, Porter can be seen on his #28C Fight For Dirt Cycle & Dyno/Mack Daddy Racing-sponsored Kawasaki KX450F during one of the qualifying sessions for the AMA Pro Flat Track Pro Singles Series at the Peoria TT on August 21, 2011.

Always willing to have a good time and create an air of enthusiastic light heartedness to any and all things, Porter is shown with one of his 'special' autograph cards at the Springfield Short Track round during the 2012 AMA Pro Flat Track Grand National Championship season at the Illinois State Fairgrounds Multipurpose Arena on September 15, 2012, during the fan walk at the final National held at the facility.

TP called getting his chance to ride a Twins mount at the Springfield Mile one of his biggest and greatest dreams, and was finally able to realize that pleasure during round 3 of the 2014 AMA Pro Flat Track Grand National Championship on May 25. Porter showed up at the mecca of flat track with a gorgeous XR750 courtesy of fellow racer and close friend, Ben Knight, and was able to qualify for the Pro Twins Series non-points paying event over the Memorial Day holiday weekend late this spring.

Shown on the #28C Mack Daddy Racing/GFY Racing/Fight For Dirt Harley-Davidson XR750 while running with Dylan Morin on the #26E Kawasaki of Simi Valley/Chris Cabinet Installation/Frank Baker-sponsored Kawasaki EX650 during one of the qualifying sessions of the AMA Pro Flat Track Pro Twins Series on May 25. Porter qualified a respectable 21st out of the 28 riders who took a timed lap, not bad for a guy who hadn't had a chance to compete at the track that is considered the 'Indy 500' of flat track races.

If you ask TP what his favorite track is, it won't take long for his eyes to light up and his smile to get ear-to-ear when he tells you Peoria. Unlike some racers who consider the track intimidating and scary, Porter always enjoyed making the trip to Thunder Valley.

In the shot above, TP can be seen throwing the #28C Mack Daddy Racing/Performance Cycle & Dyno/Fight for Dirt Honda CRF450F through it's paces during one of the qualifying sessions at the Peoria TT during round 9 of the 2012 AMA Pro Flat Track Pro Singles Championship on August 12.

Even though he may be leaving the track in terms of competition, you can be sure that Tyler will still be a presence in the background at a lot of the Midwest races on the future calendar of the AMA Pro Flat Track Grand National Championship, and will be keeping us all informed on what is happening in the world of The Rolling Thunder Show and it's diverse and deep family of racers, sponsors and teams. So the next time you hit one of the fan walks at an AMA Pro Flat Track National, make sure you stop by and say hi to TP, as I guarantee you'll walk away with a smile and a good laugh courtesy of one of the great supporters of the greatest racing series on two wheels in the world.

And TP, thanks as always for being a great inspiration to us all and for keeping us in stitches each week with your support of this great sport!

You can read all about Tyler's final race below from last weekend's Pomona Half-Mile, where he got a chance to go out with a bang while riding one of the Zanotti Racing Honda rockets at the LA Fairplex facility.

Pomona Race Report: The Final Chapter

It's a beautiful Sunday afternoon in Corona California where I've been staying all week while I visited some dealers. However, if you are in the area where there is a national, you have to hit that up right? That was my thinking a few months ago when I looked at my travel plans and made the first phone call to Dave Zanotti to secure a bike for the Pomona Half Mile. 

It's been over 3 years since I showed up in Daytona with George Mack just trying to see where I fit into the pro ranks. It's be a long journey, full of ups and downs, and mostly downs. I've been fortunate to ride some of the coolest bikes, on the best tracks and have met a lot of awesome people along the way, but every cool trip has to come to an end and that is what Pomona was for me. 

Thanks to Dave Zanotti and his crew of Wayne Karcich, Steve Polk and Michelle Disalvo, I had one of the fastest bikes that I had ever hopped on. This Honda was a rocket ship! Now, I don't have a lot of experience on Half-Miles, but the good thing is that Pomona isn't a half-mile. It's listed at 5/8ths but a lot of people say it's closer to a 3/4 mile. I also don't have good history with this sand stuff that these Californians call dirt. However, something seemed to click for me.

In the first qualifier, I was just out to feel things out. I haven't been on a dirt tracker since the Springfield Illinois weekend on Labor Day. Something I always do when I roll out on the track for first practice is roll some sort of wheelie. Into 2nd gear I went  with the front wheel in the air, in a way giving things my own sort of so long, but like in the case of how I feel about Peoria, also giving a salute to the die-hards that show up early to watch practice and to the race crew that bust their tails to give us a great show to participate in at each national. It's also what Steve Murray tells me to do. The track was dry, baking all day in the California sun. Even with that, the track was fun. I enjoyed sliding it into the corner, pulling the throttle back and then holding it sideways coming off the corner and grabbing a gear down the back chute. It was funny how I went from not even looking forward to riding this track to having more fun on it than nearly any track I have been on this year, or dare I say, ever.

I was quite off the pace for most of the day, but I was feeling more comfortable. After talking things over with Wayne and my race wrench for the day, Alex Wood, we decided to drop a tooth to keep me off the rev limiter and raise the forks in the clamps about 5/16ths of an inch to help with front end traction mainly into turn one. Alex also told me I needed to actually tuck in on the straights because of the length of them. Because of my size, he figured it might add up to a tenth or so. I was 34th after the first qualifier and only the top 32 make it into the night program. I never thought I'd do much better but in the last round of qualifier I just focused on NOT blowing turn one which I kept doing in the first session over and over.

We only get 4 laps in each session, so it's important to hit your marks every lap. Plus, our times our so close, any tiny mistake can send you packing. On the first two laps I focused on turn one, finding a new shut off and braking zone that I could make work. On lap 3 I felt like I put in a really great lap. On the last lap I just tried to do the same lap I just did, but try to get on the gas sooner. I came into the pits and Alex was standing there with his hands in the air. At my last national, on a track style that wasn't my favorite on a bike I'd never ridden, I had made the qualifying cut. I was going to race into the night program. After looking at times, I knocked a second off of my lap time from the first qualifier to the second which for me, is pretty impressive. 

In the heat race, I didn't get the best jump off of the line and coming back around into turn one I blew the corner and the pack just completely got away from me. There I was in last...WAYYY last which made me angry at myself. I wanted to give up. By the half way point I changed my tune. I was riding an awesome motorcycle on an amazing track and this was one of the last times I was going to have the opportunity. I dug down, and I focused on learning something that I could use in the LCQ. 

In the LCQ I had the last pick on the line but when that light went green, that Zanotti Honda just jumped off the line and I was grabbing gears and making passes. I went off into turn one about mid pack and I couldn't believe it, I was doing it! I was making things happen! Down the back chute we went and a few people went high and I got under them. I wasn't close to making the top 4 that go to the main, but I was somewhere in the pack, close and fighting for it. I was all excited about things until I followed a rider into turn one and again blew the corner. Turn 1 plagued me all night long! From there a lot of riders got under me, I lost concentration and found myself at the tail end of the field just as the red lights came out.

On the staggered restart I didn't get the jump I had on the first start and the pack was just going everywhere. I went to the fence and was being forced up there so I went low hoping that a lot of people would blow the corner and I could get under them. I never was a true threat but at least picked off the two riders who went down in the crash that caused the red flag. The checkers fell and I packed a decent wheelie down the back straight to close the book and like that, the book was closed on my pro "career". I made a few night shows, never got too close to a main event, but like I said earlier, had a really good time for the most part.

I have to thank everyone who has been behind me from the beginning. Gary from Lightshoe has been keeping me in boots and steel shoes for years. The folks at Silkolene. I have never once been without oil or cleaners from them. Works Connection have been on board from the start and speaking of starts, their Hole-Shot device on my personal bike has powered me to some excellent starts at a lot of race tracks. Not to mention their billet accessories always have my bikes looking great.  DP Brakes and clutches, if you are looking for a dust free, noise free pad with excellent stopping power, those are the guys you need to talk to. I can't say enough about Charlie from CJ Signs. He's made nearly every graphic kit and number plate back ground for any bike I have ever ridden. He is also responsible for the autograph sheets that I ran out of in just one race because they were so awesome. K&N Filters have been behind me from the get go as well as Mike at Boughner Racing Suspension, Tim at Pro Plates and Shannon at JMP Kawasaki in Wood River Illinois. I also have a lot of "new" supporters in the last couple of years like RK Chain, EVS Sports, and Motion Pro who have come on board and taken excellent care of me. The folks at Bell Helmets have kept me safe no matter how many times I took a digger. Their helmets not only look incredible, but their fit, and most importantly their function is second to none. John and Luke from Bell have been incredible and John was even at the race Saturday to check things out. 

Beyond that, there are countless individuals who kept me going. Steve Nace, one of the best promoters in the sport was always right behind me every step of the way. From the time I was racing a YZ125 until I hopped on a Harley XR750 in May in Springfield Illinois. George Mack who made sure I always had a bike to race, and an awesome one at that. The only thing he ever did wrong was taking a donut break during a 3 hour ice race! Clayton Shambaugh gets a lot of credit here, putting me on some of the greatest bikes I've ever ridden, and wrenching for me at a LOT of races. We've had a lot of fun traveling together and no one on earth could teach you more about finding gray areas in a rule book than this guy. Jim Terchila from Mid America Speedway, Ben Knight who has always had my back, Steve Murray who got me into this crazy circus, the Peoria crew of "Turbo", the Kent Brothers, Mitts and Watkins for taking care of me when I'm in town. The Gillim Family for being there from my 250 days until now and for JD Beach who is probably not most famous for his Graves Motorsports Yamaha ride or his Red Bull 125 World Championship, but for teaching me how to ride a rip stick. Aaron Ladd went from my biggest adversary at the local tracks to my best friend. Built some of my race engines and got me out of countless jams. He's also the creator of the "Idiot of the Year" award, which, he made just for me after I destroyed a knock off hub with a hammer. Billy Gruwell who taught me the ways of traveling on the cheap and no matter how disappointed you are in your finish, always get your award. All of my readers on Fight For Dirt and most of all, my biggest fan from day one, the person who has kept me going and got me started, my cousin Dennis. It's been one heck of an amazing ride. 

If there's anyone I forgot, I sincerely apologize. They say it takes a village to raise a child, and it has certainly taken nearly the entire sport of dirt track to get me to this point and I am thankful every minute for me. I'm leaving the pro ranks healthy, experienced, and with a lot of stories and memories that will last a life time. I've crashed over the jump at Peoria and I've gotten an XR750 sideways on the Springfield Mile. I've moved the limestone in Lima, left rubber in Daytona, thrown sand in Salinas, and rode the high banks in Michigan. While I never had any real success, it's been an awesome ride and I thank each of you who made it happen. 


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