By Diamond Jim Viverito.
It’s been kind of quiet on list for a few days, so I figured I’d regale you youngsters with a motorcycle tale from back in the day.
In the ’60′s, ’70′s and into the 1980′s, Wednesday nights in Chicago meant Short track motorcycle races at Santa Fe Speedway. Santa Fe had three track layouts for motorcycle racing ( they added a stadium MX course at one point in the ’80′s, but that don’t count), the 1/4 mile short track, the TT Steeplechase, and the Long track oval, referred to as the 1/2 mile. It really wasn’t big enough to rate an AMA sanction for a 1/2 mile to run 750′s on, so it was officially a short track with L O N G straights and very tight clay corners that were kind of intense because of the straightaway speed you carried into them. It was especially eyeball popping prior to the AMA allowing the dirt track bikes to have brakes. The racers just called it the long track, and nobody liked it, but Howard Teidt, the owner of Santa Fe and the promoter, paid an extra $300 in the official purse, and an extra $100 in the “B” program purse, so your chance of making a few bucks was greatly improved.
The long track was run once a month for the four months of racing every year, and the events were called “Classics”. In May , June, and August the “Classics” were named after 3 riders who had distinguished themselves at Santa Fe, George Mack, Pat McHenry, and Carroll Resweber, the latter being a 4 time Grand National Champion.
The July “Classic” was titled the “Patriot Classic” and was always run on the Wednesday closest to the 4th. The show included a big fireworks display that brought in a big crowd, many of whom were not motorcycle racing regulars, but were usually quite impressed with the leather clad, steel shoed, racers and the show they put on.
It was during pre-race practice for the 1976 Patriot Classic that I had one of the worst crashes of my racing days. A racer from Michigan on a Bultaco and myself were having a private “mess with each other/race”, all in good fun of course, during a practice session. He dove low and squeezed me off the groove and passed me, no foul…that’s the way it’s done…anyway, I went high and tried to “diamond” the turn, that is to go to the top of the track right at the apex of the turn, turn sharp and point your bike down the straight, and pass everyone on the straight with the extra speed you built from the maneuver. It would have worked, ‘cept for the guy on the OSSA from Wisconsin (darn cheeseheads) who didn’t see me until it was too late coming from the high side onto the groove. He T-boned me with his front wheel right under my left leg, which thankfully was off the peg and in flat track 3 point stance. It cleaned me off the bike, and I did a slide on my butt to the hay bales. The worst part of it was my leathers split and for a good portion of that slide, there was nothing between my butt and the track.
The ambulance took me to the infield, where the EMT cleaned my wound(s) and bandaged me (and I mooned the crowd from the back of the ambulance!)
I walked side ways back to the pits, got in my van and repaired my leathers with good ‘ol duct tape, ran a dismal 7th in my “B” program heat race, and enjoyed the fireworks before I packed up and went home.
I found out a few days later I had a bone chip off my tailbone and I carried a pillow with me wherever I knew I was going to be sitting for any length of time for more than a month.
I sure do miss Santa Fe.