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Fast Fridays live up to their name

Weekly event draws crowd of 2,300 spectators on average
By: Jenifer Gee Journal News Editor
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Every Friday night a crowd gathers to watch a group of daring riders roar around an eighth-of-a-mile dirt track where they can reach speeds up to 60 mph. Kids cover their ears as riders sometimes six-wide roar around the mud course on Speedway motorcycles that have no brakes. Fast Fridays is a longtime community event that draws an average crowd of about 2,300 spectators every week, according to David Joiner, who co-owns the racing series with his brother. Last Friday, the sidecar races drew a crowd of almost 4,000, Joiner said. For some in the audience and on the track, it’s a new event. But for many spectators, riders and staff, Fast Fridays is more than that. It’s a tradition they’ve grown up watching their dad race in and one they entered into at a young age. Longtime season ticket holders Robin and Janice Simkins said they’ve been watching Fast Friday races for the past 25 years or so. Both said while the event is exciting to watch, charting riders’ progress over the years is a highlight. “It’s rewarding and exciting to see how they’ve progressed over the years,” Robin Simkins said. “You see them at 8 or 9 years old and they can’t even keep (their motorcycles) running. Now they’re taking off.” About 14 years ago, David Joiner and his brother, Mark Joiner, took ownership of Fast Fridays. David Joiner said he grew up working the track first as a corner worker and later he became the track manager at 19. Today, on a typical Friday night, you can find David Joiner walking around the track during a break, wetting down the dirt with a hose. Later on in the night, he’ll suit up and don a helmet to race a few laps in the “Rung What U Brung” competition. At the end of the evening, David Joiner stands at the exit and thanks each spectator for coming. David Joiner said the motorcycle racing series had a different reputation when he first took ownership. “When I first took over it was kind of a biker and beer kind of thing,” David Joiner said. “One of the promoters was run out of town by APD (Auburn Police Department).” David Joiner decided he wanted Fast Fridays to offer affordable family fun that encouraged aspiring riders to take part in a sport that has widespread popularity internationally. The Simkins said they like the family-friendly feel to the races and don’t’ worry when their young grandchildren walk to the snack stand alone. “It’s not rowdy at all,” Janice Simkins said. “It’s not out of control.” For some, the event truly is all about family. Some would consider the Bast family an institution in the Auburn Speedway motorcycle competition world. Harlan Bast, the patriarch of the family, still races at the age of 74. Bast sticks to tradition when he rides. He mounts a vintage 1980 West Lake motorcycle because he prefers the “old style” upright bike to the modern lay-down style that most new riders race on. “It’s like me – obsolete,” Bast joked. But the bike has proved to be tough competitor in the past. In 1989, Bast’s youngest son Bart placed fourth in a national competition in Costa Mesa riding the vintage West Lake. Harlan Bast said he’s been riding motorcycles since he was young and got into Speedway racing when it started around 1968. “I was in on the ground floor when it started,” Harlan Bast said. “I’m the only one left still riding from when it started.” Bast’s son, Bart, is currently a top contender in the weekly event, typically taking first or second in his races. Harlan Bast Jr., Harlan Bast’s oldest son, also used to compete in Speedway races until he broke his arm five or six years ago. Now, the eldest son pits for his dad and his younger brother. The excitement of Fast Fridays races draws more than just locals to the Auburn stands. Mervyn Salt said he drives up from San Jose several times a year to watch the Speedway motorcycles take to the Auburn track. “We’ve come 150 miles to watch,” Salt said. Salt, who emigrated from England in 1979, said the sport is immensely popular overseas. He recalled watching races in packed stadiums that seat 100,000 people. Salt said overall he likes the family element to the races among other things. “I love the smell and noise and the spectacle,” Salt said. Joiner said his favorite part about being at the races every Friday during the summer is being with other families and watching kids spark an interest in Speedway racing. “I’ve never had a kid come out here and say they’ve had a bad time,” Joiner said. “And to me, I kind of feel like I’m a little bit fulfilled if I can achieve that for the kids and their families. “I really like providing the Auburn area with good, economical family entertainment.” Reach Jenifer Gee at jeniferg@goldcountrymedia.com. -------------------------- Catch the action at fast fridays Sept. 3 – Speedway final points night and challenge elimination series championship Sept. 10 – Track championships and extreme sidecars championships Oct. 1 – AMA/USA Budweiser National Speedway Championship Series final Oct. 10 – USA vs. The World (Season finale) Tickets: $10 adults, $8 for ages 10-15 and 62 and over. Kids 9 and under free. Prices can vary based on event Gates: Open at 6:30 p.m. Races start at 8 p.m. Call: (530) 878-RACE (7223) Visit: FastFridays.com