RAPID CITY — Nichole Mees gives no quarter and expects none while racing on the dirt track. The racer from Clio, Mich., will test her skills at Tuesday’s AMA Pro Flat Track series event at Rapid City’s Black Hills Speedway.
Mees has qualified for 25 Main events and is considered one of the best female flat track motorcycle racers. She races in the Expert class and finished 13th at the Sacramento Mile on July 26.
Next week will mark Mees’ first official race in this area during the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. She was to compete here four or five years ago, but that event was rained out. The upcoming race is part of the Grand National series.
She races on an XR-750 Harley-Davidson that features some custom-made parts. Bikes like this can supply as much as 98 horsepower.
Mees is 27 years old, and she was about 15 when she decided she would like to race on the dirt track for a living. She competed in a Pro Sport class series in Ohio and Canada during that time, routinely finishing in the top three.
When asked about the confidence that provides a young racer, Mees said, “I’ve always been a pretty confident person. Finishing in the top three is a huge accomplishment.”
Success, speed, and the competitive aspect play the biggest roles in Mees’ love of dirt track racing. She uses the word “thrilling” to describe the sport.
What feeling does Mees get from reaching speeds of 100 to 120 miles per hour? “It’s definitely a thrill; my adrenaline goes 100 percent,” she said.
Races also include several riders in close-knit groups. “You could throw a blanket over them,” Mees said of those groups.
Mees’ family placed her on a PW 50 motocross cycle at age 4. She grew up with many types of racing.
She first competed at the AMA Grand National Championship event at age 8, racing in the 50 class. “I was leading the thing, and then I went down,” she said. “I got up and finished third.”
Mees’ father wanted her to stay down if she got into that situation so there would be a red flag, plus a restart. Nichole had other ideas.
The honors continued to roll in from there. Mees earned the 2004 Female Athlete of the Year honor at the AMA awards.
Three years later, Mees received her Grand National number at her first main event in Joliet, Ill. The 2008 season found her winning the Grand National Twins Dash for Cash bonus sprint race at the Springfield (Ill.) Mile.
Scott Parker is Mees’ racing hero. They lived 20 minutes apart in Michigan, and she was able to ride with him many times.
Kentucky native Nicky Hayden taught Mees how to race, especially with drafting. This refers to driving closely behind another vehicle and seeking benefit from reduced wind resistance.
Another Michigan rider, Jay Springsteen, has inspired Mees by continuing his on-track success.
Mees’ challenges depend on the track. She said one-mile tracks require a strategy and a set-up for drafting. Lighter cycles can represent a disadvantage because there is not as much traction.
“I talk myself through a race and visualize what can happen,” Mees said of her race-day preparation.
Goals include top-10 finishes in each race. Mees would like to become the first female racer to earn an AMA Grand National championship.
She describes her racing style as “straight up and down” and says she is smooth with the throttle.
Mees is in a male-dominated endeavor, but that does not place any extra pressure on her. She said she is treated just like the male racers, and she has proven herself.
“I’ve been racing against many of them since I’ve been 5 or 6 years old,” Mees said.
One of those male racers is her husband Jared Mees, who earned the 2012 Grand National championship. They were married at the Springfield Mile track in September 2013.
Nees said the on-track rivalry between she and Jared is just like between any two other racers.
“We’re very competitive on the track, and everything is a competition at home,” Nichole said. The two racers help each other on the track and work as a team.
Rapid City-based Black Hills Harley-Davidson is Nichole’s main sponsor, and she is their official rider.
Tuesday’s action is set to begin at 7 p.m.
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