Rich Hansen Benefit Race a Huge Success

Current and former dirt track champs raise a bundle in Cuddebackville, NY

So here’s the deal: your buddy gets banged up on his way to work. In fact, he gets his bell rung well and good, and several months later is still out of work. To further complicate things, his companion is expecting, and it looks like the new addition is going to arrive sooner rather than later, whether he’s off his crutches and back to making a living or not.

As a good friend, you’d like to help, but given the gravity of the situation, you know that a get-well -soon card and fruit basket probably won’t cut it. So what do you do?

Well if you’re Bob Weiss and P.J. Jacobson, you rent a race track, invite 150 or so of your closest friends (including guys like Grand National Dirt Track Champ Jake Johnson, former Champs Kenny Coolbeth and Gary Nixon, and rising stars like Cory and Shayna Texter, the fastest brother-and- sister act on the planet), and charge them a couple of bucks to attend the party. Then you plow all of the proceeds on to your dinged-up buddy.

Since you can’t tell the players without a program, let me flesh things out. Rich Hansen, the guy that got kinked, spins wrenches for Moroney’s Harley-Davidson in Newburgh NY, although calling him a mechanic doesn’t do it justice. What he’s really good at is building, fast, reliable race mills, particularly ones like Jacobson (who normally road races under the Team Celtic banner) used to win the 2010 AMA Saddleman Rookie of the year award. Hansen also has a reputation as an all-around good guy who’s always willing to lend a hand to anyone (even the slow guys like me) that needs it. Weiss, the owner of Bob Weiss Racing and a stellar machinist and tuner, is another helpful guy that’s well-known in the dirt track fraternity, especially for the triple clamps he whittles, which adorn the front end of nearly every competitive dirt tracker on the planet.

The party, technically known as the Rich Hansen Benefit Race, was held at Oakland Valley Race Park, a go-cart track located in Cuddebackville NY, on Halloween day. The rules were simple; you had to start with a bike that displaced no more than 150cc (four-stroke) or 65cc (two-stroke) in stock form. The four strokes had to be air-cooled singles, and the strokers were allowed to be liquid cooled. Other than that, modifications were unlimited: big bore kits, slicks, dual discs whatever you thought might help was allowed, in fact in encouraged, and some of those “150s” pulled as hard as my 600 Rotax. Other than that, the teams were limited to four riders each, the race was four hours long and there was one mandatory pit stop. Oh yeah, the buy-in was 200 bucks, preferably in cash.

The first wave of riders, 38 of them, took the green flag at noon. Halfway through the first lap, pole sitter and first lap leader Ken Coolbeth low-sided in the sweeper, causing a red flag restart, but other than that it was clean racing for the next four hours. That's somewhat of a minor miracle when you consider that the field included riders from dirt track, road racing, motocross and super motard, all of whom had vastly different cornering styles. The talent pool ranged from race winner John Lewis, a very hot East Coast Dirt tracker, to a couple of guys that looked like they’d never seen a race track. Me? The last time I got passed by so many hot shoes, I was sitting in the stands at Indy.

At the end of four hours, the bragging rights and plaque went to Lewis, and over five grand went to Rich Hansen, who is currently expected to make a full recovery and return to work just in time to welcome his baby into the world. Oh, and Team Old And In The Way? We finished 27th....