What Our Little Girls (And Boys) Can Learn from American Flat Track Rider Shayna Texter
No one thought she’d win that night. She hadn’t claimed a win in 2018 and the Lima Half Mile was arguably the toughest, most physically demanding track in the 18-race American Flat Track rotation.
But Shayna Texter has a habit of proving people wrong.
Standing next to her 225-plus-pound Husqvarna motorcycle, just five feet tall and maybe 100 pounds, 28-year-old Texter, the lone female on the track that night, looked like the underdog next to all those guys. But then the lights went green, the engines roared, dirt started flying, and she was off–and at the head of the pack!
Charging down the straights and sliding around the corners, Texter looked larger than life as she quickly left the boys behind in the dust. There was no fear, just a wide-open throttle and a whole lot of determination. As she blurred by the finish line, fist pumping in the air, the crowd surged to its feet cheering for the girl from Pennsylvania who’d once again made history.
Watching Texter blaze to an electrifying victory that night, she made it look easy. But it was never easy. This girl just refuses to quit.
American Flat Track – A Male-Dominated, Extreme Sport Gets Owned by a Girl
American Flat Track calls flat track racing “America’s original extreme sport”–and that’s not just hype. The history of the sport traces back to the 1920s, when bikes were rudimentary, dangerous and had no brakes. The root of all American motorcycle racing, dirt track racing got its humble start in farmers’ fields, at county fairs and on dirt horse tracks.
From its inception, racing full speed around a dirt oval with other riders merely inches away proved dangerous and unforgiving of even the smallest mistakes. And still today, injury and death are always a possibility. To quote the greatest motorcycle movie of all time, “On Any Sunday,” “They don’t all make it through the season.”
Texter is aware of the dangers of racing flat track, but the risks don’t stop her. “I’ve seen friends pass away. I’ve seen one close competitor paralyzed and one temporarily paralyzed (hopefully). Makes you think about it twice. But we were born to be motorcycle racers. We know what can happen and the risks, but I kinda think that’s why you go out and enjoy every ride.”
Riding a motorcycle at speed on a dirt track sounds easy enough–right up until you realize it’s more like riding a bucking bronco at more than 100 mph. It takes a serious athlete to hang on for the ride. Few women have tried racing in this male-dominated sport, and most have enjoyed limited success. In fact, Texter is the only female ever to win a Grand National race. But she didn’t just do it once–she’s done it 16 times to become the “winningest American Flat Track Singles rider ever.” She doesn’t just ride with the boys, she beats them.
“Let’s Go…We’re Going Racing”
Racing on a dirt oval is in Texter’s blood. Her grandfather raced in his younger days, her father also raced flat track, and there’s a Harley-Davidson dealership in her family, so it’s no surprise that she started riding at the age of three. But it wasn’t until 2003 that she decided she wanted to race. Her brother, Cory Texter, started racing flat track that year, and halfway through the season she decided she wanted to race, too. It didn’t matter that she didn’t have a flat track bike. She improvised by mounting tires from a street bike on her trail bike, and she was ready to race.
Unfortunately, while she and her brother were racing, their father was struggling physically. After battling cancer as a teen, he struggled with heart disease and lung problems. In 2010, her father, racing mentor and inspiration passed away.
“I watched him battle and push and never give up for my brother and me, and that was just a huge inspiration. On the day he died, we said ‘let’s go…we’re going racing.’ It would have been an easy time to walk away from the sport, and I was struggling, but I continued to push.”
Despite hitting rock bottom after her father’s death, Texter never gave up on flat track. She showed up at Knoxville Raceway in 2011 without even a mechanic to help her out. And that was the night she made history by winning her first Grand National race.
But one victory wasn’t enough for Texter. She went on to take three more wins in 2012, three in 2013, and in 2017 she earned an incredible five wins in a single season.
From Devastation to Dominance
After having a breakout season in 2017, expectations were high for Texter in 2018. She formed her own racing team with support from Husqvarna, the manufacturer’s first official venture in flat track racing. It was an exciting new adventure for Texter and Husqvarna, but one that got off to a rocky start.
First, she’d only taken delivery of her new, out-of-the-crate Husqvarna motorcycles a few days before the first race of the season at Daytona International Speedway. And since AFT Singles machines start out as 450cc-class motocross bikes, they weren’t set up for flat track racing at all. Installing the 19-inch wheels, tires, handlebars, lowered suspension components and other bits is a major job, which she and her technician hammered on nearly non-stop for days–days she could have used to ride and get acquainted with the new bikes.
As it happened, Texter only got about an hour’s worth of practice on her bike before the Daytona TT race. And to make things even worse, her custom leather suit–which had just arrived from Italy–didn’t quite fit.
Still, in true Texter style, she gave it a go anyway. Despite not being one of the top 18 racers to make the main event, she calmly took it in stride and set her sights on the next race–and so began a season scattered with both trials and triumphs.
A few weeks later at Round 2 in Atlanta, she took seventh–an improvement. At the Texas Half-Mile in Dallas it was clear that her team was getting the bike sorted out, and she raced to a thrilling second place. After another second-place finish in California, fans thought for sure she’d be bringing home the win at the Arizona Mile, but track problems left her with a disappointing eighth-place finish. The Sacramento round didn’t treat her much better, and she didn’t even qualify for the Springfield TT.
But she didn’t quit.
She was back fighting for top finishes in Kentucky, taking third place at both the Red Mile and the OKC Mile. But finally, at the Allen County Fairgrounds in Lima, Ohio, known as the toughest track on the circuit, she shocked the racing world by taking her first win of the season–and in stunning fashion, basically running away from the best Singles-class flat track racers in the country. Texter never dreamed it was the one she’d finally win for the season. “It’s incredible to win Lima,” she said from the victory podium. “Never in a million years would I imagine I’d win this race–it’s such a rough track.” Her strategy for the win that night? “Hold it wide open and hope for the best!”
After the triumph at Lima, Texter raced at the New York Short Track and took 14thplace. At the Buffalo Chip TT in Sturgis, South Dakota, her night ended early when she failed to qualify for the main event. But in just 48 hours she went from zero to hero again with an impressive win at the Black Hills Half-Mile.
At the Peoria TT, not only did she fail to qualify for the race, but she also had a nasty crash. But a crash wasn’t enough to stop her. “After days like the Peoria TT where I crash and have a rough day,” she said afterward, “I have to find a way to pick myself up and carry on. It’s my job.”
Four races were left in the season. Could she win again after the tough break at Peoria? She fought hard for a tenth-place finish at the Springfield Short Track in a crowded field where no one thought she’d qualify. At the Williams Grove Half-Mile, a track not far from her hometown and a race attended by loads of family and friends, she claimed the runner-up spot, but then finished seventh at the Minnesota Mile after a bad start.
There was one more Mile left to race: the Meadowlands Mile in New Jersey. It was an unfamiliar track, and she had a fight on her hands with fellow racer and “Mile Master” Kolby Carlile. While Carlile got an early break from the pack, Texter fought her way through a large group of riders and ran Carlile down. But Carlile wouldn’t back down–and neither would she.
The two fought tooth-and-nail for the lead for more than half of the main event’s 15 laps, with Texter coaxing just a bit more speed from her bike on the final straight to win by a mere 0.006-second. Once again, her refusal to quit paid off, allowing Texter to cap off a rollercoaster season with an epic win.
Racing on with Red Bull KTM in 2019
After finishing the 2018 season on a high note, the off season held some exciting surprises for Texter: a ride with the Red Bull KTM Factory Team, the team’s first foray into American Flat Track. With its fingers in MotoGP, Rally, Enduro and SX/MX racing, the Red Bull KTM Factory Team is known for its elite athletes and a culture of winning, and a shot to be on this team is a dream come true for Shayna. “I’m really excited to have the opportunity with the Red Bull KTM Factory Racing Team…it’s a dream to be joining a team with a winning culture that is always ready to race!”
And while Texter got her usual slow start at the 2019 Daytona TT, by the time the Texas Half Mile rolled around, she was indeed “ready to race.” Disappointed with her beginning to the season, she was on a mission that night. After being fast all day, she got a horrible start in the main event, but quickly powered her way up from sixth place to first, making passes that her brother Cory called “impossible.” But, according to Cory, “When Shayna decides she’s going to win the race, she’s going to win the race.”
She won the race! Once again, that persistence and refusal to quit shone through, and she turned a bad start into an impressive win. After the race, Shayna told reporters, “It’s awesome to get that first win behind us. To give Red Bull KTM its first win in American Flat Track is awesome.”
With the full power of the Red Bull KTM Factory Team behind her and her impressive determination to win, you just have to wonder: could 2019 be the season when Shayna goes beyond her typical third place finish to win her first Singles Championship? The truth is you can never count Shayna Texter out!
Inspiring and Influencing a New Generation
Whether she wins or not, Shayna Texter’s autograph lines during the popular Fan Walk are always the longest, and from grizzled old bikers to school-age girls and boys, everyone wants to see and talk to her. She’s more than just the winningest AFT Singles rider ever; to her fans she’s an inspiration, and she’s having a big influence on the next generation of riders.
In a day when young girls are bombarded with Photoshopped, airbrushed models and pressured to look and act a certain way, Texter is a refreshing role model for girls. “[Girls] let me know that they ride or race because of me. When I first got involved…it was tough for girls. Looking back and seeing how many girls are getting involved, it’s exciting and cool to be a part of that. Hearing that I’m inspiring them just continues to inspire me when the days are tough, and I know there are a lot of little girls watching and cheering for me.”
Both on and off the track, Texter displays the characteristics we want our daughters (and sons) to learn from. She’s humble and down-to-earth. Talking to her feels like chatting with a friend, and it’s her humility that fuels her popularity with fans. Despite being a top flat track racing celebrity, she’s never too busy to sign autographs and take pictures with her young fans, even after a grueling day on the track.
Unlike some women in the sports world, Texter is not hung up on being a woman. She doesn’t want to be known as being “good for a girl”–she just wants to be good. “I want to be remembered as a motorcycle racer and a good one,” she says. “I’ve always had goals and dreams. One is to end up in the American Motorcycle Association’s Hall of Fame. I need to accomplish my goals and dreams, and you can’t do that by wearing swimsuits and makeup. You’ve got to go out there and get results…. Always a motorcycle racer first.”
Texter is also a perfect example for the younger generation of the importance of never giving up. Despite the adversity she’s faced in her life, and at times on the track, she’s refused to back down, refused to quit, refused to give up on her dreams. And the message she works hard to spread to her young fans is this: Never give up. Believe in yourself. Have dreams and chase them.
Everything she’s accomplished, from making history as the first female racer to win a Grand National event, to getting Red Bull KTM its first American Flat Track win, is a result of her perseverance. “It’s all because I didn’t quit. Because I didn’t give up when times got tough. I didn’t give up in 2010, and now I have 16 wins!”
And whether it’s on a dirt track or in life, that’s how winning is done!