AMA racing behind the scenes with Johnny Grudzien
My friend Johnny works for Dainese doing rider support at AMA race weekends. He’s helping all the Dainese sponsored racers, which means he’s working with some big names and up-and-comers in American motorcycle racing. This past weekend, AMA was at Mid-Ohio. Man’s Gotta Do is exclusively bringing you his behind the scenes impressions and photos from the experience. From Johnny:
"Perhaps I’m hypersensitive as a born and bred Illinoisan displaced to the West Coast, but there is something distinctly American about the Mid-West. US-built autos of questionable quality dominate the roads, slowly being returned to the earth by rust or their own lack of durability. The summer howl of cicadas serves up a reminder that yes, the sticky blanket of heat is heavy, and going nowhere soon. The smaller towns, such as Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course’s Lexington, have lived through better decades. I imagine post WW2 was a heyday for such a place, with proud 4th of July parades and jobs for all who desired to work hard. But those are memories now, just as the shells of the homes that once bred families here. Like me, I imagine they got out. But for over 50 years, the race track has remained - a testament to our love for speed.
It was a weekend of fresh experiences for me. I rode my first electric motorbike, a Zero supermoto. It’s exhaust note was a soothing whir from the motor accompanied by linear torque all the way up to 25 mph! Hey, I was in the paddock. The front brakes were terribly mushy, but I was assured there was a front brake master cylinder recall aimed at rectifying the issue. One must think scooter when they saddle up, or flail around with left hand and foot searching for clutch and shift lever. The owner said he’d taken it out for a bit of sumo fun, and the battery overheated - a common problem. Unfazed by this, I’m still quite enthusiastic for the future development of e-bikes, though I’ll miss the inspiring song of internal combustion terribly.
Overlooking the 3-hour time difference between Lexington, OH and LA, CA, I arrived at the track early Sunday morning to find the entire Yoshimura Suzuki team crammed into their rig watching the GP from Mugello on satellite cable (I’m accustomed to 5AM European races). I huddled in with them and loved listening their commentary. These guys have all worked with their share of American GP studs. I talked the talk too, albeit it begs the obvious question…
In my constant and ongoing battle to git ‘er done, with Richard Stanboli and Steve Rapp, we firmed up the design for the custom Dainese race suit he’ll don for the Laguna Seca and Indy rounds of MotoGP with less than two weeks to spare. As Stanboli told me, “You don’t get to race MotoGP everyday!” Point taken. Steve extended the offer to drag me in tow to their first and only CRT test pre-Laguna Seca. I’m not obliged to say where, but we’re flying there in Steve’s single-prop Cirrus (look it up), and landing on the track. I don’t remember if I said “yes”, but I’m fairly certain my goofy grin got the job done.
To close out the weekend, I joined the Jordan Suzuki SuperBike team for middle Ohio’s version of a cultural affair, dinner at the Olive Garden. Buona! Running a bit late and suffering the effects of exhaustion and a terminal case of being weird, I received a hero’s welcome. Did I win a race? Maybe for fastest guy to clean bugs off of leather (blame Polish heritage). Like any really great shindig, it was the conclusion of a lot of rewarding hard work accompanied by hilarious stories involving motorcycles and instigated by spirits. Two podiums didn’t hurt either.”
Thanks to Johnny Grudzien for the words and photos. P.S. Rumors were circulating that the CRT engine that Steve Rapp will ride as a Wild Card rider in MotoGP at Laguna Seca was housed in the ZX-10 you see above for break-in. We’re looking forward to Laguna, where we’ll be joining Johnny and the AMA circus as MotoGP comes to California next week.