It’s every professional racers’ worst nightmare.
You finally sit down in your skinny-ass seat for a six-hour flight to tomorrow’s race.
It’s the usual pandemonium as the passengers elbow their way on board.
Flying brings out the worst in people.
You look up the aisle to see a reporter who’s been hounding you for an interview.
East Rutherford, NJ – October 6, 2018 – American Flat Track At Meadowlands Racing and Entertainment [Brandon Robinson]
He spots you before you can fake sleep or look away.
‘Hey, it’s Brandon Robinson!
This is perfect, we can talk on the flight.’
You consider hiding in the rest room, wondering ‘is there no justice?’
Is it not bad enough we’re treated like cattle going through the airport,
taking off my belt and boots for what?
After struggling through the work day, rushing through traffic,
dealing with pushy people and endless lines and now this?’
Realizing you’re trapped, you give in.
‘Where you coming from?’
Um…work.
‘Oh, I though you were a full-time professional racer.
So what’s your day job?’
You slowly exhale.
Springfield, Illinois – September 1-2, 2018 – American Flat Track at Illinois State Fairgrounds [Brandon Robinson]
Like most of us in and around flat track racing, Brandon has a dual life.
He works weekdays to live the dream on weekends.
Not many earn enough to race only.
His day job is assistant physical therapist.
You deal with motorcycle accident injuries too – do you tell them you’re a racer?
‘Not really, like if someone asked what I did over the weekend l would say I was riding with friends, but that about it.’
‘Speaking of motorcycle injures, tell me about the wreck you had in 2009.’
The look on his face told me he was surprised I knew.
Pointed here, sliding there – the essence of flat-track style. [Brandon Robinson]
When we head to a race track there’s the promise of becoming a day we won’t forget.
More so when it’s somewhere mythical like the ‘Indy Mile’.
Stepping onto the track surface is walking on hallowed ground.
Robinson tells me everything was going well until the rider in front of him crashed at the end of the front straight.
Brandon collided with the bike on the ground, got out of shape, hit and bounced off the air fence,
his body slammed into a telephone pole then ricocheted over the top of the track fence.
His twisted body crashed to earth on a lonely access road outside the track.
A witness said she thought she watched him die that day.
Fort Worth, TX – April 28, 2018 – American Flat Track at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, TX. [Scott Hunter/American Flat Track]
The road to recovery was long.
Doing even the simplest things took help from others.
Brandon was riding within months but admits ‘it took two years to get back to where I was’.
Since then, I’ve watched Robinson almost win the ‘Sacramento Mile’ on an overweight Triumph
and even beat the mighty Bryan Smith at the ‘Springfield Mile’.
His hard work was rewarded with an offer to ride for Harley Davidson.
It’s every flat track kid’s dream.
But the factory was struggling those years, developing a new machine.
The frustration.
The non-racing ‘experts’ started questioning – had he passed his sell-by date?
SEPTEMBER 03, 2017 – American Flat Track at the Illinois State Fairgrounds in Springfield, IL. [AFT]
Redemption came when he switched to a privateer team, and won two races in 2019.
The life of a racer is ever-changing and never-perfect.
After the glow of victory, crashes and injuries followed.
Then darkness came as the privateer team folded.
Brandon favors loyalty and is not one to burn bridges.
Harley-Davidson asked him back for the final two rounds.
As the dust settles on this season, he looks forward to rising over the beatings he took this year.
The promise of next season is on the horizon.
For Brandon, the ROI of racing is happiness.
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