US Speedway Motorcycle Racing
From Jason Bonsignore
I had planned to wait until after the season ended to announce anything about the situation at IMS as I did not want to interfere with the focus of the Western States event and I would have appreciated that opportunity but someone beat me to it. It is true that I have agreed to a deal with Jerry Armstrong from Canada to take over my interest in IMS. I just want to clarify that IMS was not going and did not go out of business as the story made it sound like. I do not understand the name change of the track but that was someone's choice, I did not make anybody do that. I have to admit, I was actually a little sad about that as we worked very hard to try and restore the history of IMS to the Inland Empire. I never chose that name to try and steal John LaDouceur's idea or success but most importantly to pay tribute and respect to him and the track and to create excitement and identity again.
About 10 years before we re-opened IMS in 2009, it was even before Charlie's track, I was dreaming of doing it and had talked to a lot of people in speedway about the idea. I knew I was going to try and do it eventually and wanted to make it as close to the original IMS as possible when the time came. With being primarily based in NY, I knew I was going to need help and my good buddy Shawn McConnell had always talked about wanting to have a track so I had the idea to bring Shawn in. Along with Shawn came his wife, Robynn, who would also be involved. We went about doing it in 2009 and worked very hard and spent a lot of money to try and re-create IMS! After a very successful first season, we struggled through a tough winter where we had to completely tear down the track and spend a LOT more money to rebuild an even better facility, which is so close in appearance to the original IMS it is scary!
Fast Forward a few more seasons and IMS has now been back for 4 years! I am very proud of the fact that, along with the blood, sweat and tears of The McConnell's and A LOT OF HELP FROM OTHER PEOPLE, I was able to bring it back from the dead! Honestly a lot of people told me I was crazy and that it could not be done! Lots of great races and memories have been made again and lots of people have gained new friendships and renewed old ones at IMS! How cool and eerie has it been to hear Bruce Flanders through the PA again at IMS? It was great to see that logo again on people's shirts and cars!!! Got a great story to tell about that quickly ... at the US Open in New York this year a lady came up to me in the pits and said excuse me, what is with that IMS sticker on your van? I said it is back, we rebuilt it! She said I used to go there in the 80's and saw it and followed you here, didn't even know speedway was going on in New York!
The past couple seasons some differences have arisen in opinions and ways on how certain things should be done at the track, and I stress those differences were always with a mutual respect between the McConnell's and I, and I started to think it may be better for me to move on. I certainly did not decide to move on because I had lost my love of the place! At the end of the day it was important to me that the track continue and that I was able to maintain my long friendship with Shawn who I think is a great guy and great racer.
I just want to thank some people, and I know I will forget many names so I apologize, who helped make my time with IMS possible...
BENNY MEARS, Ross and the crew! Heart and Soul of IMS
Allan Alvord and family
Racer X-Bleeds IMS!
Jessi - we could not have gotten through the past couple years without you!
Scott THE TORCH Read, done so much for IMS and myself! Another Dude who BLEEDS IMS!!
The Hicks Family
The Fink Family
Jon and Bernie Racing
The Gomez Family
The guys at Hellbound Speedway
The Oxley's and Lenny
FST Sand and Gravel
Valley Cities Fence
The Herkner family
Chris and Ray Thomas
Bruce Penhall and Bruce Svatos
All of our other track workers and sponsors!
**A special thanks to Billy Hamill and Family, Joker Machine, Hagon Shocks and Doug Nicol for helping to keep us going during the off-season with the awesome schools and Gumball Rally!
Most of all thanks to THE GREAT RIDERS AND IMS FANS for all of your support and to John LaDouceur for inspiring me!!!!!!!! It has been a fun ride for me to be a part of! I wish the new track owners the best! To those of you on the West Coast, I am sure you have not seen the last of me, we are all ready exploring a new project in So Cal, I'll be back! LOL
Thanks for everything!
Jason Bonsignore (October 11, 2012)
Sorry, I wanted to proof read this longer and thank a few more people but got a couple phone calls towards the end that disrupted my concentration, but want to give a shout out and thanks to Bobby Schwartz who has always been there to help me and takes a lot of time out of his busy life to support IMS and to Eddie Castro as well who drives a long distance each week to race at IMS. Those two guys have been two of our most consistent sign ups and it is not easy for them to do it each week! All the riders have been great. Thanks guys!
Shawn McConnell School - Road Trip!
From Steve Buxton
The weekend of May 12/13 was a real fantasy weekend.
I managed to get the Bay Area Speedway Club together for a road trip to LA - that's me (Steve Buxton, #280), Steve Howard (#221), and my new buddy Jacek Slezak (#64). We signed up for the Shawn McConnell Speedway School Saturday and Sunday, and as luck would have it IMS were running Friday and Costa Mesa were running Sunday. Two speedway meetings and a great school!
Jacek and I set off around 9 on Friday for the 8-hour drive to San Bernardino. It's a looooong drive, but Jacek had bought a new truck just to haul bikes, and it needed to be broken in. We checked into the Orange Show Inn - not the cheapest place in town ($70 a night), but it's 5 minutes from the IMS track, and we managed to sneak our bikes into the rooms so they weren't left outside overnight. A quick beer across the street, then down to IMS to watch a great night of racing - the Ken Maely cup, featuring our soon-to-be-instructor Shawn McConnell plus a bunch of other riders we all-too-rarely see in NorCal. Oh, and the Road Trip's Steve Howard took second in the div 3 main!
Saturday morning we got back in the truck for the 45-minute drive to Shawn McConnell's house. There were 5 of us signed up for the class. Shawn got each bike in turn up on his bench and spent up to an hour going over the set-up and safety features. I'd been told that, for a beginner, the best setup was to have a big rear sprocket, rear wheel all the way back, and lots of rear tyre pressure, so I did all these to the extreme. Shawn took the rear sprocket down (from 74 to 70), moved the wheel forward (from all-the-way-back to 3/4-back) and recommended a tyre pressure of around 12 (from 15). He also brought the throttle cable inside the frame, wired-in the fuel lines, recommended a second earth wire off the ignition box, and told me to fit a muffler cable for safety. He went over seat position (I moved mine all the way forward) and handlebar position (moving the bars up makes you move your body forward). And he answered a ton of questions on bike setup, maintenance and riding. We also got to see inside Shawn's garage, which is a treat in itself!
Late Saturday afternoon we packed the bikes back onto the truck and took off for Costa Mesa. We were a bit surprised that when we got there the races had already started! Turns out Costa Mesa has some "pre-races" for the support folks that start at 6:30, while the meeting proper starts at 7:30. We got to see Billy Hamill, Jimmy Fishback, Tyson Burmeister, Steve Russell, and again Shawn McConnell at the historic Costa Mesa raceway. Oh, and they had $2 beers!
Sunday was the Big Day - a full day of Speedway School under Shawn "Mad Dog" McConnell. The setup session definitely paid off - it felt like riding a bike for the first time! And now I finally have a baseline setup that I can play with (and lots of ideas about the effects of different setups). Shawn had us doing just one corner (turn 2), staying close to the inside line, and concentrating on coming out of the corner tight. Shawn would stand at the turn and signal "roll on", and the goal was to come out of the turn without going outside the cones or knocking them down. If that worked well, Shawn would stand further back, and the rider would start the turn a little earlier. So how do you make that turn? Slow down as you come into the turn and lean the bike. That has a braking effect and the back wheel will start to break loose. Now step in to the corner - right leg supporting your body weight on the peg, almost straight; left leg forward and out (not just forward!) making a tripod with the right leg and the bike; crotch all the way forward off the seat; body over the handlebars; elbows out; hands forward. Lean the bike over and roll the throttle on to break out the back wheel and slide around the corner.
I did all those things - the hard part is doing them all at the same time ! I certainly got the back wheel out and sliding. Sometimes I went in too slow - if you don't have enough speed going into the turn, when you roll on the throttle you'll turn but you'll end up in the infield. You have to have the forward momentum as well as the turning to get you through the bend. Sometimes I sat on the seat. Sometimes I'd be off the seat going into the bend, but as I rolled on, the bike pulled away and forced me back onto the seat - you have to pull back on the handlebars and keep your body forward. What else? Oh yes, "don't be afraid". I managed to low-side twice during the day, and each time I picked the bike up and carried on, so I'm getting much more comfortable with the prospect of sliding off. I didn't come out of the school ready to race div 1, but I did feel like I knew what I was trying to do. Now with some practice, I might eventually win some races.
Shawn was a great teacher. He focused on control and safety, and "doing it right" - if you can control the bike, the speed will come. Also, he really wanted everyone at the school to get whatever they wanted to get out of the day. But he was also a serious instructor - "you should go into every practice with a goal, something you want to work on - there are no joy-rides in racing, so there should be no joy-rides in practice either". Jacek did a great job - it was his 6th outing on a speedway bike ever, and he moved back at each try until he was starting the turn halfway round bend 1. He really needs to start racing. Steve Howard did well too - he'd placed second in the div 3 main at IMS on the Friday, and he looked very good.
I'd recommend Shawn's school to anyone who's starting out (or thinking of starting out) in speedway, and anyone who's looking to get to the next level. And I'd definitely recommend the two days - the setup day gives you a real overhaul, and a baseline to work from. If you're interested, give Shawn a call on his office number at 714 255 0088, or send e-mail to email@example.com .
So that was the road trip. Friday night in the bleachers at IMS; Saturday in Shawn McConnell's garage working on setup; Saturday in the bleachers at Costa Mesa; and Sunday at the Shawn McConnell school at IMS. Sunday afternoon we ended up just hanging out with Shawn and Benny - great character, and a great collection of stories - before the long drive and home at 3am.
stephenjbuxton firstname.lastname@example.org (May 30, 2012)