American Iron Hits the Ground Running at Sturgis for the Buffalo Chip TT Experience

Catchin' air at the Sturgis Buffalo Chip TT

Racers were flyin’ high at the inaugural Sturgis Buffalo Chip TT.

If having seven-time AMA Grand National Champion Chris Carr walk you around a track before the big race doesn’t get your blood boiling check your pulse. Now the Chief Competition Officer for American Flat Track, Carr talked about the Sturgis Buffalo Chip TT with excitement in his voice as he addressed our group. Sacred ground. Not even the racers had a chance to test its tackiness yet.

The Sturgis Buffalo Chip TT offered many new challenges to American Flat Track racers. It was the first time in history that a TT race would start with a right turn. Spectators would circle the track and be virtually on top of racers. With more turns than any other track on the schedule, getting good drives off corners would be paramount. A tricky triple apex corner wrapped around the Buffalo Chip’s Top Shelf building in the middle of the amphitheater. Carr stated it’d be important to “beat the race track first” before attacking for the lead. Yes, this was going to be good.

We hadn’t been in Sturgis half-a-day before a former flat track champion is talking layout, strategy and gearing with us like he’s ready to gear up and race himself. The Buffalo Chip’s TT media experience came out the gate running. AFT CEO Michael Lock walked the track with us as well adding “This is something you couldn’t do anywhere else in the world.” We agree. Holding it inside the Buffalo Chip’s amphitheater during the world famous Sturgis Rally definitely bumps ups the volume on the entertainment dial a few notches.

Chris Carr and Michael Lock Sturgis Buffalo Chip TT 2017

Chris Carr (foreground) and Michael Lock (background) were excited about the challenges and opportunities the Sturgis Buffalo Chip TT presents.

We went straight from the track to the press briefing for both Harley-Davidson’s factory flat track team and Indian Motorcycle Racing’s Wrecking Crew. Racers reactions to their first look at the Buffalo Chip track ranged from head shakes to smiles. The renewed racing rivalry between the two storied companies has been one of the major storylines in flat track racing this year. The next eight days is the most grueling stretch on the AFT schedule as the Buffalo Chip TT, Black Hills Half-Mile and Peoria TT all take place.

Harley Factory Flat Track Team Sturgis Buffalo Chip TT 2017

The Harley Factory Team (L-R) Jake Johnson, Brandon Robinson and Kenny Coolbeth, Jr. get their first look at the Buffalo Chip’s TT track.

AFT racers aren’t the only ones with a hectic schedule. No sooner was the press conference over than we were whisked away to the Buffalo Chip CrossRoads to check out the FXR show. The beloved Dyna has a devoted fan base among hard-charging rough riders who throw big engines and stouter suspension on the vaunted frame then ride them with a vengeance. There were T-bars on 10-inch risers and club fairings as far as the eye could see, a Trask Turbo mixed in every now and again for good measure. The turnout at the Buffalo Chip show proves the FXR game continues to be strong.

After an hour checking out some of the meanest, fastest FXR’s around we shuttled out to the Buffalo Chip’s gun range to meet up with the SilencerCo crew. The company is at the forefront of the suppressed firearms market with about a 70% share and were letting people shoot firearms outfitted with their suppressors for free during the 2017 Sturgis Rally. SilencerCo is the only company that makes a suppressor for a shotgun in addition to being the only one that builds a 9mm with a suppressor integrated into the gun. Of course, that’s the one I wanted to shoot first. Called the Maxim 9 in tribute to inventor of the suppressor Hiram Maxim, SilencerCo achieved its goals as recoil was nominal and percussion greatly reduced. Accuracy was spot-on as I put all four rounds on-target. The true test came when we popped off a few rounds on a .45-70 lever-action rifle without ear protection and my shoulder still intact.

FXR Show Sturgis Buffalo Chip 2017

There’s plenty good going on with this tasty FXR!

With the smell of black powder literally lingering on our fingertips it was off again for a meet-up with freestyle motocross legend, Indian Motorcycle brand ambassador, philanthropist and all-round nice guy Carey Hart. Hart was just returning from the Sturgis version of his Good Ride, a benefit aimed at helping veterans through the Infinite Hero foundation. Hart was pumped that the Sturgis ride exceeded expectations as tickets sold out and the group included 25 local veterans. Hart also built a Hooligan Scout Sixty for the Sturgis Buffalo Chip that will soon be finding a new home in a giveaway Wednesday night.

“It’s a true race Hooligan bike. It’s identical to my personal bike. I have a couple little things set up differently on it but it’s just like my personal race bike,” Hart said. He also just finished building a custom Chieftain for his wife Pink based off the Memphis Belle B-17 bomber.

“It’s all green patinaed and distressed. The panels are all riveted. It came out really good,” said Hart. It even has Rosie the Riveter on the back fender.

Carey Hart Sturgis 2017

We got a few minutes to chat with Carey Hart after his Good Ride, a fundraiser that helps U.S. veterans through the Infinite Hero Foundation.

We’d barely said goodbye to Hart and it was off to Michael Lichter’s Industry Part for his annual Motorcycles as Art exhibition at the Sturgis Buffalo Chip. Out of all of Lichter’s displays, the theme of this year’s collection “Old Iron – Young Blood” may be the most important to date as all builders in the show had to be under the age of 36. The industry is rife with rumblings about declining interest in motorcycles among millennials and concern over where the torchbearers of the culture will come from. After seeing the caliber of work at Lichter’s 2017 exhibit the sounding of alarms are premature as the stewardship of motorcycle culture is in good hands. Matt Harris of .40CalCustoms continues to produce exemplary work, the 1923 Harley Speedster he brought to the show a marvelous modern interpretation of vintage machinery. A heartfelt moment was shared by all when Mike and Carolyn of Kiwi Indian Motorcycles learned that Lichter had secretly included Ross’ racer in the show, a tribute to their son who they lost in a motorcycle accident three years ago. And while Lichter’s “Old Iron – Young Blood” show honored the next generation of custom bike builders, the old guard almost stole the show as Willie G. and Arlen Ness garnered plenty of attention as they mixed and mingled with the young bloods.

Matt Harris's 1923 Harley Speedster is dialed!

Matt Harris’s 1923 Harley Speedster is dialed!

With Lichter’s industry party still in full swing the sound of angry Twin-engined flat trackers filled the air as the first heats of the inaugural Buffalo Chip TT fired up. People soaring over the amphitheater weren’t the only things flying around the Chip as bikes launched off the TT berm five-at-a-time. To little surprise, TT specialist Henry Wiles powered to the front of the Twins class. But the demanding Buffalo Chip track took its toll on riders as the evening progressed and the red flags kept coming out. Landings off the berm were hard, one rider’s battery jarring loose and landing on the track. Wiles himself fell victim a few laps later as he busted an engine case and oil gushed on to the track. This left the door open for Briar Bauman to secure his second victory of the year. Harley-Davidson also finally broke onto the podium with its XG750R as Jake Johnson finished with a season’s best third-place.

As one spectacle ended, another followed as Shinedown closed out the night on the main stage. The moon hung full and heavy over The Chip as the crowd pressed in and volume levels on The Chip’s new speaker system pumped up. With the whirlwind of activities still dancing in our head, we finally crashed out to the lullaby of a motorcycle engine revving somewhere off in the distance.