Last weekend Georgia, one of the first states to reopen businesses, hosted the first flat track race with fans since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Sponsored by the Deep South Motorcycle Club (M/C), the event attracted 180 riders from as far away as New York and Ohio to the Georgia Karting Komplex in tiny Carnesville, Georgia, for some much-needed bar banging action.

“Everybody’s itching to race,” said Deep South Motorcycle Club’s Jason Griffin.

According to competitor Monique Ter Haar Minor, the event attracted about 300 fans. Minor added that getting back to the track was “a very cool feeling and I have been enjoying it so very much!” The pandemic has brought about “A different appreciation for all of this!”

Franklin County gave Georgia Karting Komplex owners Chester Hester and Todd Kahler the green light to hold the races, but it wasn’t an easy venture. Hester and Kahler spent hours negotiating the track's reopening with the Franklin County Department of Health, Georgia’s governor’s office, the Center for Disease Control of Georgia, and Carnesville City Managers. Spectators parked their cars apart and maintaining six feet of distance between people was encouraged as fans watched from the fence line, the grandstands, and their cars.

As far as racing goes, it was business as usual. The Deep South M/C Carnesville flat track races had a full range of classes, from Open Pro to Super Hooligans and Vintage Singles down to 65cc racers. The eagerness to spin laps on the 1/8-mile oval of Georgia clay was palpable in the pits. In the Open Pro class, AFT Singles and Production Twins racer Kevin Stollings beat out American Flat Track veteran Kevin Varnes (former National Number #89) and AFT Singles competitor Brandon Kitchen for the victory. Kitchen flipped the script in the Pro Am Main to take the wire-to-wire victory.

Count Jason Griffin among those "itching to race." 

“Made the trip down to Georgia for a little racing action feels good to get out of the house and blow the dust off the Orange steeds,” posted Kitchen to Facebook.

One of the most crowded fields, though, was the hooligan class. Griffin said there were about 20-25 riders who showed up to compete, many of whom he’d never seen at the track before. When the dust had settled, Joseph Houston emerged victorious in the Super Hooligan main event on his Harley-Davidson Sportster.

In addition to being safety coordinator of the Deep South M/C, Griffin both promoted and competed in the races. Griffin, who lost his right arm at the age of two, started riding at age three so he’s been on two-wheels almost as long as he’s been walking. Griffin is an adaptive athlete who doesn’t let having only one arm keep him from competing at an extremely high level. His actions have inspired many, disabled and able-bodied alike. He said he likes to “give people hope, that’s what I was put on this earth to do.” Holding the flat track races last weekend was also based partly on hope and restoring a bit of normalcy in a world that lately has been anything but normal.

There’s more flat track racing planned this weekend at Travelers Rest Speedway in South Carolina as Flat Track Futures presents Thunder on the Mountain III. The race will undoubtedly attract many top-level riders thanks to its $14,000 Expert/Pro Purse as there’s no shortage of racers out there itching to compete again with the American Flat Track season still on hold.