STURGIS, S.D., AUG 5-7–For the second year in a row, Sturgis attendees were treated to a chance to get their drag on at the Sturgis Dragway off Highway 79 on the outskirts of town. Bikers came from across the globe to party down during the 73rd annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally and the speed-freak fans among them came out to watch racers hurl themselves down the eighth-mile track near the famous Bear Butte.
Racing is commonly recognized as a legitimate disease and the symptoms are undeniable since, once bitten by the race bug, few riders are ever the same. The need for speed gets in a victim’s blood and an infected rider travels a fast-paced road of the addiction afflicted. With few exceptions, screaming down that tarmac on a souped-up motorcycle is what moves their soul and the countdown to the next Christmas tree is how a phobic racer bides his or her time off the track. Following the circuit to the next burnout is what victims live for, so when the AHDRA began cutting back their races and eventually announced that they were shutting down and there would be no 2013 races, the speed-demon crowd watched their world go black.
For Sandra Alberti and the Idaho Racing Crew, the addiction was already a problem well before AHDRA succumbed to financial woes. The nearest race option for the Boise, Idaho, clan was clear up in Woodburn, Oregon, and after doing the math, Midwest and East Coast travel proved cost prohibitive so the group started looking at alternatives when Sandra suggested they start their own races. Her off-the-cuff, “How hard can it be?” was instantly viewed as a challenge, rather than the joke she meant it to be.
THUNDER PRESS sat down with Alberti, the newly formed Western Motorcycle Drag Racing Association’s 48-year-old president and operations director, to learn just how the sanctioning of this body came to be. When her answer to our “How did you get involved?” questions began with “I met a guy in a bar,” we knew we were in for an interesting tale.
“Back in 2008 I met a guy who said he needed ‘hero cards’ and, being a bit of a photographer, I volunteered for the job. He scoffed and suggested that I didn’t even know what a hero card was. I’d grown up around racing and had even taken my ’69 Chevelle out for grudge matches and had been around the circle and flat tracks. I knew that hero cards were the cards they autographed in the pits and handed out to kids. Then he tells me he races a nitro Harley. I’d never been to the motorcycle drags, but we struck a deal and I attended his race. And his next race. I was hooked. I kept showing up for races and eventually he told me he didn’t really need any more photos, but I kept coming out. He finally says to me, ‘We’re not gonna get rid of you, are we?’
“So, they taught me how to do oil changes so I could at least be somewhat helpful, then I learned how to do clutch packs and I have to tell you, I am the most unlikely person to ever get involved like this, but I just love it. You know, it’s obviously the bikes; I mean, who doesn’t love nitro bikes? But it’s also the people. It’s a family and everyone’s your brother or sister. Just watch how people treat each other when they’re lining up; they’ll pat the rider’s wrist to be sure they’re OK, or pat them on the back. See how they are in their pits. Just take the time to watch the interaction. People genuinely care about each other and I just wanted to be a part of all that. So when AHDRA stopped coming out West I suggested that my friend should start his own races. I actually said, ‘How hard can it be?’ He opened up his wallet, pulled out a hundred-dollar bill and said, ‘Go start a corporation.’ So, I did. And here we are.
“The first two years we did four races each, and this year I had three scheduled but we’ve only had this one. I’m working on one in Vegas. I’m pretty sure we’ll do that one, but races are pretty hard to put together since a lot of tracks have their schedules booked up a year or more in advance. I had two scheduled in Phoenix this year, but that track closed as have a lot of others including one in Wyoming, but I keep looking around and working on it. One of the challenges we face, particularly in the West, is the distance between venues. Tracks are sometimes as much as 1,200 miles apart. Even in the best of economic times that’s still an issue and people have to pick and choose which races to attend. We have a lot of really wonderful people who volunteer and help out during the races, too. I really do have some great friends. We have folks from eight or nine different states that come out from the Christian Motorcyclists Association to help with all kinds of things. CMA is just a wonderful, wonderful group of people to work with.”
In addition to her job as president, operations director, marketing manager and sole member of the WMDRA Corporation, Alberti also holds down a fulltime job with the Idaho Department of Transportation. Her IDOT boss points out that she could really go places with the department if she were as passionate and committed to her job of pavement and asphalt testing as she is to the races. “As much as I love my job, it really is just a job,” she chuckles.
The world of racing really is a small world with racers, the tracks and even the sanctioning bodies all competing for the same sponsorship dollars, but the WMDRA has already made an impressive presence in the race community and sponsors like S&S Cycle, who stepped up as the Pro Gas sponsor for the 2013 AMSOIL Sturgis Nationals, have taken notice. In recognition of the 10th anniversary of the S&S T124 engine, and as part of their 55th anniversary celebration, S&S Cycle awarded the Pro Gas winner, Clint Rabb, with a special edition of the S&S T124 long-block motor. Other sponsors include AMSOIL, Harley-Davidson, JIMS, Mickey Thompson and Bell Helmets.
When talking to Andie Gaskins, the diminutive little winner of the Pro E/T class, about the race she told us, “You know this is my home track, right? So I love racing out here and I really hope Sandra can hang on to this. She’s doing a really good job. The drags are so much fun. I just want to be able to keep racing, I really do wish the WMDRA well.”
As for Sandra, she has no intentions of giving up. “I love this, I mean, who wouldn’t? It’s nitro! It’s drag racing motorcycles; what’s not to love, right? They say it takes five years for any new business to get off the ground. We’re at three and I’m in it for the long haul. I’m not going anywhere.”
Sturgis 2013 Race Results
WIN: Len Darnell
R/U: Doc Hopkins
WIN: Dale Nilles
R/U: Howard Wiggins
WIN: Clint Rabb
R/U: Jeff Champagne
WIN: Jim Rick
R/U: Schaun Schnathorst
WIN: Alex Smith
R/U: Reggie Mackay
WIN: Mike Smith
R/U: Pete Johnson
WIN: Andie Gaskins
R/U: Mark Waltman
WIN: Jack Pahl
R/U: Brian Wilkening