In the summer of 2015, I was trying to put together an indoor flat track race. The race that would later become the Flat Out Friday Series. I had asked my old pal Scott Johnson if we could run the race during the Mama Tried Weekend in Milwaukee. He was all in, but he told me, “I better have a Hooligan class!” My instant reply, “Hooligan?” Scott insisted we go see the Hooligans race in Las Vegas later that Fall. They would be the opening act for the AMA Pro Flat Track season final. Right away I understood the lure of Hooligan racing. The speeds were less than the pros. The riders were struggling with the weight of their motorcycles on the sandy track. Yet, we appreciated their efforts to take these street legal twins and push them to their limits, all within the confines of a hockey rink. Thor Drake, of See See Motorcycles & Coffee fame (Portland, Oregon), won the Hooligan Main. Thor went home with a huge, undeniable smile and a new Indian Scout.
- Thor Drake in Las Vegas (in white). Photo by: Scott Toepfer, courtesy of See See Motorcycles
- Thor Drake winning at the first Hooligan Race Jermey witnessed in Las Vegas. Photo by: Scott Toepfer, courtesy of See See Motorcycles
Before that night in Las Vegas, the Hooligans began gaining national recognition through social media. The Sturgis half mile being one of the highlights. After the race in Las Vegas, I was able to meet the Hooligan proper: Mark Atkins and the Rusty Butcher Crew, Aaron and Shaun Guardado with Suicide Machines, Brandon Holstein and the Speed Merchant Crew, Roland Sands Design team, Scott Jones and Noise Cycles. When the history of the sport is written, chapter one will be how these crews built upon the famed Harley Night at the Costa Mesa Speedway in Del Mar, California. I conversed with most everyone. I explained that I needed to know the rules, as I was a promoter, trying to bring this show to Milwaukee. Rules? People did not seem to know any rules. A modern street legal twin; that was it for rules. Pros, beginners; all are welcome. The feeling amongst them was, “Why do we need rules? We all subscribe to the same ethos.” They were out on the track racing as hard as they could, and helping each other in the pits. The philosophy of racing for the pure fun of it-- a spirit repeated at every racing event since the dawn of man. Every racing community initiates sport for fun. Once the competition begins, drama and conflict surface. Conflict is often exacerbated by circumstances of money, sponsors and rule bending. Yet, I believed the Hooligan crews would be void from conflict. It all seemed so pure. I believed them when they repeated, “it’s all about the fun.”
- Mark Atkins at Del Mar - Team Rusty Butcher. Photo by: Jonathan Griffith
- The take off at Tracker Cross. There are quite a few Lowbrow Tsunami Fenders and Sportster Chain Conversion Kits in this lineup! - Photo by: Jonathan Griffith
By the time the Hooligans hit Milwaukee for Flat Out Friday, talk of more rules had already begun. There was chat of riders altering their frames, AMA Pros racing in the Hooligan class, and purse money. Amidst this pull from purity, Hooligan racing continued to rise in popularity as Hooligan events began popping up around the nation. On an international scale, Sideburn magazine from the U.K. was showing it to the world. On a local scale, tracks began opening up Hooligan classes. Roland Sands’ Super Hooligan Series began to promote a points series. With a substantial amount of cash going to the race winners and a new Indian to the series winner. Acrimony began to grow within the hooligan ranks. The pros were dominating, the beginners were clogging the turns and all the while, the Hooligan OG were getting faster. Without a governing body, the Hooligan idea headed for disaster. But last summer, before their X-Games Harley Hooligan in Minneapolis, Harley-Davidson stepped into the fray. They added two rules. One, the frames for the Hooligan class must be stock, and two, riders could not have competed as a Pro within one year. These rules have since become standard in most Hooligan events. Though this does not address all the rancor amidst a group of racers that calls themselves Hooligans with pride, Harley’s attempt to keep the sport pure is much appreciated.
- Keeping it sketchy at Flat Out Friday - Milwaukee
- Hooligan Racing at the X-Games. Photo by: Jonathan Griffith
- Roland Sands saying a few words before the 2017 "Super Hooligan" races begun at The Buffalo Chip in Sturgis
- Ethan White taking practice laps around on his Sportster equipped with Lowbrow Customs by Kerker 2 into 1 Hooligan Exhaust.
The greatest evidence the Hooligan class is on the rise is the 65 riders that registered in that class for February’s Flat Out Friday. Forty of them are from the Mid-West; most from Wisconsin and dozens more were turned away due to lack of room. Beginners are inspired by the idea that they can convert their street legal twin, compete on the weekends, and be welcomed into a genuine racing community. Old flat trackers are inspired that they can once again race a twin, but the stock frame keeps it inexpensive. Pros are chomping at the bit to get in on the fun. Clearly, something is connecting with motorcycle riders.
- The starting line - Flat Out Friday - Milwaukee
The Hooligan idea will continue to be tested as sponsors and promoters try to entice Hooligans with money and the prospect of going faster. But we all hope it continues to stay welcoming to new racers, enticing to the veterans, and unconventional at it's roots. We all hope that it remains what it was always supposed to be - fun.
Words by: Jeremy Prach
Photos by: Scott Toepfer, Jonathan Griffith, & Mikey Revolt
- Hooligan Racing at Flat Out Friday - Milwaukee