4 minute read

TF RACING: 50 YEARS IN A BLINK OF AN EYE

by Tom and Ellen Fleming

As we begin the FTR season Tom & I wanted to take a moment and thank everyone who participated in the TF Racing 50 Year T-Shirt Fundraiser at the Benefit Race. Ya’ll raised $1560.00 for the FTR Scholarship Fund. I also want to thank everyone who weathered the storm to come celebrate Tom’s birthday. It was a wet one but so worth all the fun with our FTR family. Also, a big thank you to everyone who wrote in. Tom was totally blown away reading them. They are now posted on the TF Suspension website. Thank you, Dorothy, for making this happen. It’s hard to believe 50 years of motorcycling has gone by in a blink of an eye!

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This year we basically are watching the entire Offroad motorcycle industry celebrate 50 years! The outdoor pro motocross series is celebrating 50 years and having legends from the past commentate has been incredible to say the least. Meaning to me that this group of individuals that were around in 1972 whether riding, racing, mechanicing are the grass roots to what we all love and enjoy today. I bet anyone reading this has come across people you’ve met far and near either just riding or racing and the stories they tell are amazing. I know as we get older the stories are more interesting.

There are outstanding individuals who walk past you at any FTR event that participated in the early days of the American motocross off road scene. These legends are now 3 generations strong; competing in the AMA Supercross & outdoor AMA Nationals while others are carrying on the offroad tradition competing in the GNCC and NEPG series. Life will quickly pass you bye. I, Tom, can remember standing trackside, totally focused on just making the program cut, focused on getting our equipment better, looking for every possible advantage to support our rider. Always searching, failing at times, but learning more in the process. The only way we had to get better was to try it and fail. Failing meant we were going forward and it was rare to be fooled twice.

The bikes in the early days were a handful, the repairing and outside the box thinking kept the engines going during the racing day. We rebuilt transmissions, top ends, and learned to keep sand and water out of the engines. Found all kinds of extra HP. We learned how to be good losers. We sure as heck didn’t let it show how bad it hurt to lose, but we all knew just how miserable it is to lose. The friendships are incredible and long lasting, there are so many good guys and ladies in this sport.

I was privileged to be at history making motocross events, that at the time were just another

day at the office. Ricky Johnson overrode his production YZ250, throwing away his first chance to win the 250 AMA Outdoor Motocross Championship at Castle Rock, CO. His Dad, myself and Paul Murphy watched as the Yamaha Japanese VIPs loaded up and left the track in silence. I was there when Kenny Kenyon won his first AMA Outdoor MX moto. DeWayne Lyons gritting it out in a pair of 45 minute plus 2 lap motos with fellow Floridian’s Cary Smith, Jon Joiner, the Johnson brothers, and Dale Ellis. I was there when suspension only had 3” of travel and forks were 28mm’s. We moved shocks forward, turned our air-cooled heads into water cooled heads and eventually water-cooled cylinders. We saw the first removable subsection on Chuck Sun’s factory Honda and the ever-developing rear single shock. The evolution of the chassis which changed how fast we could ride.

Suddenly here I am, still trying to help riders make the main, get to the podium, win National Championships and the highly sought after FTR “Championship Jacket”. It’s a great experience to be working alongside dads and granddads that selfishly provided positive assurance for their sons and daughters honing their ability to compete. I would love to share some names, but there are so many, the list is very long. It’s also incredible the involvement and dedication the moms have provided for their babies.

Here we are 50 years and counting. I am often asked many championships do you think you directly contributed to. Well, TF has some 30 AMA National Championships, four of which are AMA Pro Racing and over 500 FTR Championships from Mini to AA. Having traveled over 35,000 miles just this year attending four different series, we asked TF if you still like offroad motorcycle racing. The reply without hesitation; “absolutely, this is a family grass root sport, my wife Ellen, has been with me every step of the way.” and there is a long list of my extended family that make this the best sport in the world.” Cheers to 50 years! It goes by in a blink of an eye.