Never in my life have I found it more difficult to fake modesty.
When my friendly rival, Jeff Evans Sr., stood up to accept his second-place trophy, he pointed to me in the stands at Perris Raceway and said, “Allan took off so fast I thought he’d been shot.”
True, and all part of my cunning scheme, as they said in the boys’ own adventures books.
Putting this in context, I compete in the super geezer (actually, Premier Senior) class in my local club (Southern California Flat Track Association).
Because we geezers with our 450cc framers and 500 or 750cc vintage big bikes are a close match with the bird-legged kids on 100s, and because both classes aren’t all that populated, the club runs both in the same race.
On this occasion, I was last man entered. As we lined up for the heat, with me on the outside, second row, I staged way outside, outboard of the 100s in the front row, my plot being that although the 100s, Bill Kratkov and CW’s own Mark Cernicky, are much faster than Jeff or me, I was on my 450cc Wood-Honda, and if I couldn’t match their lap times, I, by gosh, could out-drag them through the first turn, giving me a gap on Jeff.
Why such intense effort?
Because eight rounds into the 12-round series, I was leading my class on points.
I was head of the class because: 1) I had a perfect attendance record, while each of the other four super geezers had failed to finish or hadn’t shown up at least once; and 2) my wins had come when a racer in front of me had fallen off.
This reminded me of Randy Goss and Nicky Hayden. Late in their championship seasons—Randy in Grand National, Nicky in MotoGP—neither had won a race. They’d been fast and consistent and were leading on points, which is fair, no question. But there had been in both cases some concern by sponsors, promoters, sanctioning bodies, the press and even fans that to watch a racer not win all year and then award him the title made the sport look clumsy; champs with feet of clay, so to speak.
So, as the boxer sings in the opera, I wanted to “show that crowd what I know.”
And it worked, to a degree. The green light came on and I led into the first turn, then Billy and Mark swept past and pulled away, as I knew they would. Two laps later, I slid wide and Jeff squeezed inside, as I had feared. I could stay with him, though, and closed up to a bike length behind at the finish. Two more laps and I would have had him, I told myself, and while the heat is six laps, the main is eight, not to worry.
Seems Jeff had been taking notes. When we lined up for the main, I was out near the fence but he was out there next to me.
To no avail. I nailed the start, caught the light just right and kept charging— bounced the revs off the box, as we say—and jumped in front of the other guys to the extent that I led the pack through the first lap.
My wife, Jan, in the stands, told me later that the announcer trumpeted “ALLAN GIRDLER IS IN THE LEAD!” as if he’d never seen such a thing before, which, of course, he hadn’t.
Bill passed me, then Mark.
Cernicky was having an off day. The previous race meet, he’d won the Pro class, but this week he won the heat but faded to third in the main.
In our race, when he came past, I told myself, “Mark knows what he’s doing, why not do what he does?”
I did just that, kept on his rear wheel, copying his line, rolling off where he did and six laps later, there I was, first in class, happy as a hog in slop. Oh, before I forget, Hayden and Goss both won a race late in their championship seasons, putting that issue to rest.
In my case, I was pumped and perhaps a bit embarrassed by the number of other racers who gave me delighted whoops, rather than just reminding me that I had fun.
“Mark,” I said back at the trucks. “If we didn’t have our helmets on, I’d kiss you on both cheeks. Thanks for the help,” which he took in good grace.
When I repeated that I’d been following Mark, someone else said, “No, you were racing him.”
“I couldn’t have looked that good,” I said modestly.
But I didn’t mean it.