REVIVING TRIKE RACING IN THE PACIFIC NORTHWEST
Editors Note: I’m pretty sure I speak for all of us here at Dirt Wheels; we like all forms of off-roading, but when it comes to powersports vehicles, the ones with handlebars produce the biggest grins. The recent resurgence in 3-wheeler racing has become a big topic between all of our editors, modern trike and old-school. It’s great to see it slowly coming back both at the track and off-road. I recenly met Mike Burson while he was racing the 2023 Vegas to Reno race. I was pitting for one of the other 3-wheeler teams and photographing/videoing the event. I immediately took note that Mike wasn’t like many of the other three-wheeler racers/builders I had dealt with – he was actually very levelheaded and easy to chat with, a solid ambassador for the sport of trike racing. I’m saying this with a chuckle, but some of you are pretty intense to say the least. I had no idea what Mike and others were up to in that damp, upper left region of the US until now, but the following read is a sign of better things to come. Let’s spread the word and continue to make 3-wheeler and ATV racing great again! – Jeff Henson, Dirt Wheels Editor
Bringing the Sport of 3-wheeler Racing Back, One Trike at a Time – By Mike Burson
For many, motocross trike racing died in the latter part of the 1980s, but I never lost the passion for racing three wheels on a track. Trike racing at a competitive level in motocross has always been a huge desire for me, and it finally came to be in 2021. After two short seasons of flat track racing in 2019 and 2020 and placing rather well, I decided I wanted a little more excitement, speed, and air under my tires. It was time to try something new. On behalf of PNW ATC Racing, Micah Dunn approached Quadcross Northwest to see if they would allow Trikes to join their series. Micah and PNW ATC Racing group always got our foot in the door at new tracks for a conversation with the promoters.
This is where it all started for me.
Quadcross Northwest was a quad and side-by-side only series; if it didn’t have more than two wheels, it wasn’t allowed to compete. This was the trike riders’ way of getting into a legitimate race series.
My Buddy Lonnie Reynolds quickly obliged my desire to try my hand at motocross racing and attended the first race where trikes were welcomed. This was the furthest track from home for the season, and, unfortunately, I couldn’t make the journey to Horn Rapids MX Park. But I sure wasn’t going to miss the second set of races in the series at Albany MX. Getting trikes to show up for motocross racing was a challenge initially. Still, by the end of the series in 2021, we had a consistent three to five trikes on the start line: Lonnie Reynolds, Micah Dunn, Mikayla Burson, myself, and a couple of part-timers. A bad crash took Lonnie out of the series with a broken collarbone just before the end of the season in 2021.
The 2022 season with Quadcross Northwest came quickly and with great interest from new riders. A couple of PNW ATC Racing members, Scot Baughman and Meredith “Foxy” Ingalls , also decided to join in on the MX action. If I remember correctly, we consistently added four more trikes to the track that season, bringing our total to around six or seven at every race. We even had a showing from DT Motorsports, Damien Tucker on one of his 450 conversions. He piled it up pretty good at Albany MX with me hot on his tail on a 396cc big-bore Honda ATC350X. At times, and on certain tracks such as Washougal MX, we had 14-16 trikes and two classes – Trike Open and Trike B. Sometime around the middle of the season came another permanent addition to our lineup. A young Austin Soderberg joined our ranks, surprising us all with his natural abilities and skill. 2022 was the year that solidified Trikes back in motocross racing in the Pacific Northwest with Quadcross Northwest. With a few changes to the series slated for the off-season, a couple of new tracks, and additional races planned for the 2023 season, the talk about new entries for trikes was on the rise and gathering interest fast.
The 2023 season came on with a vengeance. 14 races were set over seven months, two new tracks, and several new trike racers stepped up to join our fun. Judging by how 2022 ended with increased interest, the second trike class was permanently added to the roster. Trike B was adopted for the 200cc Trike riders and the less experienced racers to get their feet wet, see if it was for them, and test their hand/body at motocross racing trikes before completely committing to the open class machine and expense. PNW ATC Racing added six new trike racers full-time to the Quadcross Northwest 2023 series schedule, with the Open Class having six or more entries and the Trike B class having six consistency. Austin Soderberg came back with his ’85 250R ATC, built by LED and looking for the first-place position, along with Paul Zamora on his 86 250R, hungry and eager to place; Brendon Verseman came hot and heavy with his YZ426 conversion 1985 Yamaha Tri-Z with every intention of trying to keep up with the faster guys, along with a few part-timers. The Trike B class received the most significant influx of new racers, Cameron Calvert, Christopher Vaccaro, Kendal Kuehn, and Cody and Robert Newcomer, to accompany the returning Meredith Ingalls and several part-timers. This increased the action immensely for the smaller 200 class. Our largest turnout in 2023 was at Albany MX in July for Mikayla Burson’s 18th Birthday; we had 21 Trikes on the track on Saturday. Seeing so many trikes at the starting gates was a sight. The level of attention from the on-lookers, the attention from the promoters, and the feeling of complete welcome by all.
2023 was going to prove to be quite an exciting, trying, and fulfilling year for Mikayla and me, with Mikayla graduating high school, turning 18, Racing motocross, and holding down a part-time job. I was running a small business, racing MX, maintaining four race machines, planning and building a race-specific machine for BITD Vegas to Reno, and I had a teenage daughter chomping at my heels in point for the season. With the announcement of my intention to run BITD Vegas to Reno, we both came to grips with the fact that I could very well be jeopardizing and potentially relinquishing my marginal points lead for first place to Mikayla. Paul Zamora and Mikayla had been going back and forth all season, which had kept him a close third in points throughout the season. For a newcomer “obviously with a lot of experience” and a well-seasoned rider to battle so close, it all made for good racing and a lot of fun camp talk when the day was done.
The three faster guys, Micah Dunn, Austin Soderberg, and myself, seemed to place consistently throughout the season. The battles between Mike and Austin were incredible to watch, according to the bystanders, promoters, and trike camp onlookers. With Austin and Micah on Honda 250R ATCs and Mikayla and me on Honda 350X ATCs, watching the holeshot run was always a fun show, and the race to follow was guaranteed to be a good one. Austin and I would eventually pull away from the group and have our private battle out front. The kid “Austin” has a natural ability to ride trikes, has the drive to better himself every time he gets on the machine, and has proved himself to be a worthy adversary on the track. He’s also a very good friend off the track. Unfortunately, Austin couldn’t make a few races, removing him from the points race for the season. Otherwise, he would have likely finished second for the season.
I can’t leave out the Trike B class racers; these guys and women are just flat-fun to watch on their smaller machines. Kendal Kuehn is an absolute animal on a 1984 Honda 200X ATC. I can honestly say I have never seen anyone ride like he can, and in my honest opinion, he’d be serious competition on an open-class machine. Cameron Calvert is a skilled rider on his 85 Honda 200X; a little rough around the edges, but with some honing and seat time, the potential and skill are there for him to rule the 200 class next season. Christopher “The Collector,” “Velcro,” or “Fancy Pants” Vaccaro (your choice of nickname) on his 1986 Honda ATC200X is no slouch, and for being a smaller muscular guy, that lightweight 200X is like a toy beneath him. His ability to throw the machine around is impressive as he makes it seemingly effortless. Meredith “Foxy” Ingalls, the only woman in the 200 class, has come a long way in racing. I couldn’t be prouder and more impressed with her progress, from three wheels on the ground at all times to three feet of air under her tires at the Washougal National Track. Way to go, Foxy! Robert Newcomer has shown the drive needed to be competitive in the 200 Class and has even started taking instruction from a pro quad rider to help him achieve his personal goal of being a contender in 2024.
All of us at PNW ATC Racing have tried our best to represent the 3-wheeler community in the Pacific North West as best we can by sponsoring Quadcross for the past three years, promoting and attending trike races in every form all over the Pacific Northwest and So. Cal. Making friends with many promoters and track owners, driving nine plus hours one way to attend races, all in the name of furthering and promoting trike racing. In 2019, my personal goal was to help revive 3-wheeler racing in the Northwest; here it is, the end of 2023, and Quadcross and all the tracks they attend have had zero complaints about the trike community. Better yet, we’ve already received a warm welcome to return next season.
As the 2023 season comes to a close, I can’t help but have a feeling of accomplishment in the goal I set to help bring back a form of racing that has long been missed and all but forgotten about, except by the older generation of riders. Often, fans will go out of their way to talk to the trike racers, find out about our small community, and appear in awe at the camaraderie we share. We’re a close-knit group, like family, and we’re growing!
Mikayla Burson took the Open Class Championship in series points. I finished second, and Scot Baughman took third. The Trike B class series point winners were Cameron Calvert in first and Meredith Ingalls in second.
As the 2023 season closes for me, at 47 years old, so does another chapter in my life. I will be stepping back from racing in 2024 but will still attend a couple of races when time and life permit. It was the experience of a lifetime, as I have met some of the most wonderful people racing 3-wheelers. I also found that 99% of those who race quads and side-by-sides are the most giving people if you ask for help. They all have become an extended part of my family and will be missed immensely, but life and I have decided that it’s time to step back, watch, and nurture the seed we planted in hopes that it will continue to grow and flourish. Since my daughter and race partner just turned 18, it’s time for her to make serious life decisions. Mikayla has decided to join the army and will not be returning to the series, but she will be watching from her barracks with pride and knowing that she will retire a champion from trike racing. She should be proud of what she has helped build from the ground up.
Mikayla and I will miss Quadcross, the people, the racers, and the staff tremendously. Without them, I would have never been able to fulfill my dream and desire to race trikes competitively or be able to teach my daughter the ways and thrills of racing. The owners, Chuck and Decia Woods, are quite possibly the best promoters out there, in my opinion, and the staff they bring to the track are second to none. They all deserve huge thanks! You guys and gals are family, and I look forward to what the future brings you.