Motorcycle-Superstore.com SuperSport class rider Ryan Haddock and fiancée and 2012 WERA Women's Superstock champ Jessica Butel.
As a privateer rider in the GEICO Motorcycle AMA Pro Road Racing Series' Motorcycle-Superstore.com SuperSport class, Ryan Haddock knows that creativity can be just as important at the racetrack as horsepower.
"We're a small team," Haddock said. "We're a little family out here every weekend. It's about pushing myself to my limits and representing the sponsors who support us. I love to race and will do just about anything to get out there."
Haddock, who is a Motorcycle-Superstore.com Bell Helmet
rider, started chasing the dream of being a pro road racer a couple of years ago with friends, family, and his fiancée Jessica Butel serving as his crew at the track. Those extra hands and quick minds have helped out in the strangest times.
During the race at Mid-Ohio in his rookie year, the window on the driver's side of Haddock's truck got stuck rolled all the way down. Like any other crack crewmember, Butel jumped into action armed with her wits and a roll of duct tape so they could go from Ohio to their home base in South Carolina in relative comfort.
"We were only 30 minutes away from the track with 10 hours of driving to go," Butel said. "I constructed an amazing window out of duct tape. It was flawless construction, but someone had to pick at it while he was driving and it didn't hold up. Ryan spent nine hours of the drive trying to hold the duct-tape window shut."
Though the fix did help keep them cool, Haddock paid a price for it.
"I started getting arm pump," Haddock said. "The tape also started to tear up my fingers a little at the end."
But Haddock will gladly put up with tape-induced arm pump in order to chase the dream of being a racer. Unlike many SuperSport riders, Haddock, 32, is the only one in his family who races motorcycles and he only recently got the bug.
"I didn't start riding motorcycles until about five years ago," Haddock said. "The dream of being in the AMA seemed so far off in the distance. I always wanted to race, so a few years ago I bought a Yamaha R6 and everything else I thought I needed.
"I went to a couple of track days, happened to be fast enough, and I went ahead and got my race license. It has all kind of progressed to where we are now."
Haddock said he's lucky to have Butel, the 2012 WERA Women's Superstock champ, at his side because she can relate to the ups and downs of following the path of the privateer.
"Jessica also races, so sometimes it's hard to juggle both of our schedules," Haddock said. "We make it work. Jessica likes going fast, too. It makes our relationship stronger because she understands the passion behind why I'm racing. Every little bit we do here also translates to her racing, which helps out both of us."
Operating as a two- or three-person team adds a degree of difficulty to what can be an already complicated sport.
"Sometimes it's hard to switch back and forth," Butel said. "As a rider it's all about feel and how you can get through the corner faster. In the pits I see numbers, I see data, and it can be easy to forget what it takes to get through that corner. A tenth of a second means a lot more on the track than it does on a sheet of paper."
Something as seemingly simple as the fan walk can be a huge undertaking for just a couple of people when Haddock's Motorcycle-Superstore.com Yamahas have to be rolled on and off the track, easy-up tents don't live up to their names, and you have a nagging suspicion you left something important at the hotel.
"I love being out here and I love supporting Ryan, but it's a full-time job during race weekend," Butel said. "I never stop running. It's a constant go-go-go because there's always that clock in your head ticking down and telling you there's something you need to be doing.
"But the fans see our passion and relate to it. We're starting to see fans who are seeking Ryan out because they have been following him after meeting him last year or they started shopping at Motorcycle Superstore
after meeting us. Those are the moments that are most rewarding."
Haddock said all the extra work pays off for him when he's on the starting grid.
"I still get a little awestruck," Haddock said. "You see all the fans lined up and they're cheering us on. It's an incredible feeling to be out there now when just a couple of years ago I was on the couch watching guys like Josh Hayes
and Josh Herrin race on TV. Now to be here in the paddock with them is just incredible."