SpeedwayBikes.com Celebrates its 20th Anniversary
1995 - 2015
In 1995 I was living in Los Angeles, trying to fit as many Speedway events in as I could. Those were fortunate days with Speedway available at Costa Mesa Friday, Victorville Saturday, Glen Helen Wednesday and Lake Perris Thursday. But even that was way down from where it had been 10 years before, when there was Speedway 6 evenings, sometime 7 evenings a week.
In 1980, I began working for the Xerox Corporation, where I was privileged to have had email, so was very familiar with its use. It was limited to a small number of users from hi-tech companies who were developing it, plus the only paying customer who could afford it at that time, the Federal Government! By the 90s the costs were becoming more reasonable and email and the internet access were becoming commonplace. A student at the University of Gdansk in Poland started up an international Speedway distribution where initially Polish then English speedway fans discussed Speedway related topics. I spent my life staring into a computer for a living so it was the last thing I wanted to do when I got home, but my neighbor who had just got his internet connection told me about the Gdansk based distribution and suggested I looked at it. It was fantastic, it had most of the results from the British League matches. In those dim distant days, it was years before any of the English Speedway tracks had their own websites, so other than waiting for my Speedway Star to arrive in the mail, for a Brit living in America, it was really the only way to follow what was going on in British League Speedway.
Since first going to Speedway at Southampton, England back in the mid 1950s I have always found that the only way to follow what’s going on at a Speedway event is to fill in a program. It’s a habit that has remained all my life. Even as a flag marshal, one of the many jobs I have done in Speedway, I was the guy with the yellow flag in one hand and a pen and program in the other, So one Saturday morning I was looking through my Costa Mesa program from the night before and I thought, just for kicks, I would send a report to the distribution, giving the results for the previous evening. Remember, back then names like Bobby Schwartz, Rob Pfetzing, Brad Oxley, Shawn McConnell, Gary Hicks, Steve Lucero etc. were well known in Europe. But once they had left their British League club and moved back to the states, most European fans had no idea what they were doing, whether they were still competing here, or whether they had hung up their leathers for good. My report invoked so many email's back, thanking me for the report and sending questions about what happened to who and where were they now, I could have made a full time job of answering them.
The following Wednesday I went to Glen Helen and Jim Fishback was preparing the track. Those of you who remember Jim will recall that he was a perfectionist at track preparation and racing didn’t necessarily start at 8.00pm, it started when Jim was happy with the track. I believe this particular night that was closer to 9 than 8, which I mentioned in my report, adding that it was around 11.30 by the time I got to the Screaming Chicken Saloon up in Devore. More feedback from the Brits:
“I lived in LA for 10 years but I don’t recall ever going to the Screaming Chicken, where is it?”
“I was on holiday in LA and went out to the Screaming Chicken. I found a chick in there who was the loudest screamer I ever met. Maybe they named the bar after her?”
Other questions can’t be repeated. Then there were the stories of the drunken escapades after the races (some before) that American Speedway riders seemed to get dragged into. Brits can be a bad influence sometimes.
Some time after that I got an email from a Canadian Speedway rider called Kim Gregory. He told me that he was going to start a Canadian Speedway web site, did I mind if he used my reports to expand the web site to become a North American Speedway web site. Of course I was delighted at the idea. That was in 1995. From that date all my reports went onto what we then called the North American Speedway web site, with an internet address that was a combination of letters and numbers that were impossible to remember. In 1998 I moved up to Northern California where I started reporting from Fast Fridays at Auburn and at that time Sideways Saturdays at Dixon Speedway events. Ryan Evans took over reporting from the Los Angeles tracks.
Things have come a long way since those early days. Initially the site had an address comprising a collection of letters and numbers that looked more like a DMV VIN number than a website. I used to try and attract people to look at it by getting interviewed by Mike Rooney at Auburn and reading out this cryptic combination of letters and numbers. Since the address was so complicated and since I was probably the only person in attendance who carried a pen, (remember, I have to fill in the program) I am sure nobody ever succeeded in accessing it. Some time later as naming conventions were introduced, we got the address “SpeedwayBikes.Com”. Then search engines were developed to find it, which completely opened it up to public viewing.
So here in 2015, on 20 year anniversary, I am so pleased to say that the site is still alive and kicking. I believe that makes it the longest continually running Speedway web site in the world. I am eternally grateful to RC Jones and Ryan Evans without whose continued support this achievement would not have been accomplished.
Let’s hope that the new generation of youngsters who are currently doing so well (THANK YOU, BILLY HAMILL) will bring about a long term revival of American Speedway and that our web site will continue to prosper for another 20 years.
Gary Roberts, Colfax, CA – firstname.lastname@example.org
Author, “Hamill and Hancock, World Speedway Champions” and “California Speedway 97”.