Hooligan racers head to Minneapolis for X Games

ALERT: Two self-avowed hooligans were last seen headed west toward Minneapolis in a truck with a couple of fast motorcycles and a gas card they were allegedly “given” by RevZilla.

No, wait, cancel that. It’s just Rich Heverly and Jeff Hogan, a couple of grassroots flat-track racers from Pennsylvania who were among the 40 amateur racers invited to participate in tonight’s Harley Hooligan Race at the X Games.

Harley Hooligan Racing, featuring amateurs on Harley street bikes, will be streamed live on Harley-Davidson’s Facebook page beginning at 7:30 p.m. Eastern today. The pro Harley-Davidson Flat Track Racing will be shown on ESPN beginning at 9 p.m. Eastern. Both will compete on a 3/8-mile oval built outside the Mall of America.

Hogan is a former AMA Empire State Hot Shoe champion and a Delaware Dirt Track Vintage Twins state champion from Point Pleasant, Pennsylvania, while Heverly, from Souderton, Pennsylvania, has wins this year in a Pro Hooligan event in Pennsylvania and at the Concrete Clash on the Coast indoor race during Bike Week at Daytona Beach, Florida. When the e-mail came from Harley-Davidson offering them a spot in the Harley Hooligan Race, they scraped together support from Hannum’s Harley-Davidson, Spectro Oils and Shinko Tires. RevZilla threw in some gas money and they headed west to Minneapolis.

Jeff Hogan

We raised Heverly on the wireless as he was about 40 miles east of Chicago and making time.

CT: The X Games is a different scene for a couple of grassroots racers, right?

RH: Well, this is the top of it all, to tell you the truth. It really doesn’t get much better than this. We went to Milwaukee in February for the Flat Out Friday race at the Milwaukee Bucks arena. We did that race and we thought, “That’s it man, that’s the top. Where do we go from here?” We went to the Atlanta short track with the American Flat Track series. That was awesome and kind of topped it. We got to run with the best of the best and showcase our Hooligan class. And then we get this e-mail a month ago (inviting them to the X Games). So now this is the top. We’re just super excited.

I’ve been a fan of the X Games since I was a kid. If you’d told us a year ago we’d be racing at the X Games, we’d have told you you were crazy.

Rich Heverly

CT: How did this team come together?

RH: It’s funny, I was just getting into Hooligan racing and I had a Harley Sportster and I had to figure out how to put a 19-inch rear wheel on it, because they come stock with a 16-inch. I put a post out on the flat track site and nobody called me back but one guy, and that was Jeff. He noticed my 267 number and thought, “Oh, that guy must be from Pennsylvania somewhere.” Jeff helped me and we’ve been good friends since. We live about a half hour from each other and we’re always going over to the house, helping each other wrench on the bikes.

CT: How different is the prep for X Games Harley Hooligan Racing?

RH: Our usual rules are 1986 or newer, at least 750 cc and stock frame and swingarm, but the X Games are a little different. They don’t say anything about the stock frame and swingarm, so if you want to get a little creative and put a single shock on the back of a Sportster, that might work better for you. But Jeff and I have had good success with things the way they are and we have just made minimal changes. We picked up a sponsorship deal through Shinko tires so we’ve got new Shinko tires on the bike. We didn’t really make too many changes. We’ve had pretty good success, so we’re sticking to our normal routine.

Harley-Davidson at the X Games

CT: What does it mean for the sport for flat track to be included in the X Games?

RH: I think it’s great for the sport. You know, it’s the most exciting motorsport there is. Like at the Springfield Mile, you have 18 guys bar to bar. People need to see that. And now it’s going to be back on television and live. You can’t do any better than that. So it’s going to reach so many more people because everyone sees ESPN. I think once people check it out, they’ll understand why it’s been growing so rapidly in the last year or two.

CT: Final question. Your son, Maverick, born in May, was named after:

  • MotoGP racer Maverick Viñales
  • The 1960s TV show
  • The character in Top Gun
  • A 2008 presidential election meme

RH: (Laughs) I am the biggest MotoGP fan and Maverick Viñales has probably been my favorite rider since he got into Moto3. I’ve always liked his style. It took a little persuasion with my wife to get her to go with that name. We didn’t know if we were having a boy or a girl. Either way, it was going to Maverick or Hayden, depending on whether it was a boy or a girl. We’re big Nicky Hayden fans, as well. Our next kid will be Hayden, boy or girl. But yeah, Maverick Viñales. I’m not a huge Top Gun fan. Hopefully we can turn little Maverick into a little racer at some point.

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