It might be a bit early to dub Hayden Gillim "Mr. TT," but with three straight TT wins in American Flat Track, the Man in a Van with a Plan has this TT thing dialed in. Straight out of the gate, Gillim was on fire. The MotoAmerica Superstock 1000 racer with dirt track roots felt quite at home on the Buffalo Chip TT course that featured two right turns, one of which was the series' first-ever right-hand Turn One.
"All day today was just awesome," Gillim said, who was riding the only Suzuki RM-Z450 in the field. "I really didn't do much to that bike, just changed the gearing a couple times as the track got faster and faster. This track, it was basically a road race. It was basically a road race track on dirt. So it felt like home."
Winning’s always fun, but the atmosphere at the Chip was electric. It was a packed house that lived up to Sturgis’ reputation of having a good time at the rally.
“Man, it was just so much fun, being out here with all the crowd and everything,” Gillim added. “It was unbelievable, just seeing everybody sitting there on the edge of the track while we’re going around it. You’d think we [racers] wouldn’t notice that. We’d be too focused; but everybody, yes, they noticed that there’s just that many people around them. It was an incredible day.”
Gillim took home the big win at his previous American Flat Track outing at the Springfield TT earlier this May. The Springfield TT is a special place for anyone named Hayden, sort of a home track for the Kentucky natives, and it was a special win for Hayden as he was able to honor his late brother Ethan and cousin Nicky Hayden. But while Springfield was special, the win in Sturgis was special to Hayden as well.
“Springfield—I’ve done that,” he said. “I’ve raced there a lot. I’ve raced there my entire life. This was my first time racing at Buffalo Chip in front of all these people. There was just something special about it. It was one of those special days. It was a lot like Springfield. I hate to say it, but it was a lot more fun than Springfield.”
Who doesn’t love Sturgis? The small town in the Black Hills of South Dakota’s 77th running of the rally is a mecca for motorcycle enthusiasts everywhere and Gillim is taking full opportunity to enjoy it.
“Last year I came to Sturgis, but I only got to be here for two days,” he said. “So, this year I got to come out here. I got to go out on town last night, raced at Buffalo Chip today, and get to go hang out at the concert later tonight.”
There's more racing action to be during the rally with the Harley-Davidson Black Hills Half-Mile on Tuesday, August 8. But with MotoAmerica's race in Sonoma, California kicking off on Friday… it's a bit of a stretch for the road warrior.
"It's going to be tough, because if I do race it, I have to drive 23 hours straight to Sonoma for the MotoAmerica race," Gillim said. "We'll see. It depends. I'll take a look at this thing tomorrow and wash it up and let him tell me if he wants to race—my bike's a him, by the way—I would really like to. I really want to do the race on Wednesday here. Do the hooligan stuff on this Suzuki VanVan 200, but everything is kind of jumbled together right now so it's going to be tough."
Gillim was also disappointed to miss the Peoria TT this weekend because of the MotoAmerica conflict. He’s for sure the man to beat on a TT in American Flat Track’s AFT Singles class and Gillim was hoping to defend last year’s win at Peoria, his first ever flat track National victory.
“It sucks that I’m not going to be able to race Peoria,” he said. “We’d really like to try and defend it. I think this year for some reason everything is just going right on the dirt track side of things. I feel like Peoria could have been the third win of the season and my fourth win ever. It’s a bummer, but I think I’m going to have to go talk to the bigwigs and try and get the schedules figured out for next year so I can do everything.”
The carnival atmosphere you’d expect at Sturgis was in full swing, particularly because the round was held at the Chip, a typical hub of activity. Attendance for the race wasn’t hurt by this fact or that the race is essentially held at a bar. There was even a zip line that ran over the course, so as racers were lapping, spectators were whizzing by overhead on cables. Gillim may have been paying attention to all the spectators and the party vibe at the event, but as soon as the flag dropped, the Kentucky native never lost his focus or feel and hammered his Suzuki RM-Z450 to the win essentially uncontested.