Motorcycle racer Leasha Overturf credits her success to having a vision and plan of attack.
Rider: Leasha Overturf
Age/years racing: 49/4
Occupation: Photographer and producer
Race bike: 1976 Honda CB400 Super Sport
Daily rider: 1970 Ducati 350 Scrambler, 1999 Ducati Monster Chromo
After four seasons in AHRMA’s Production Lightweight class, Leasha Overturf has developed a keen appreciation for the interplay between her professional work and her life on the track. Overturf is a producer and photographer for Chicago-based Paul Elledge Photography, and while commercial work is the studio’s bread and butter, she and Elledge also teach their craft. “We teach our students it’s not about being technical, it’s about your passion and finding yourself within things; it’s about having a vision, and when you’re motorcycling, you have to have vision.”
Overturf’s introduction to two wheels came at the age of 8, when her stepdad bought her a mini-bike. She rode a 125cc Yamaha enduro through high school, but sold it to buy a car for college. Motorcycling got left behind for years, but in 1996, just as she was starting to circle back to it, Elledge gave her a push, giving her a 1970 Ducati 350 Scrambler as a work bonus.
The Scrambler was followed a few years later by a Ducati Monster Chromo, but the move from the street to the track would take another dozen years. “I was striving for a better work/life balance,” Overturf remembers. “A bunch of friends had started vintage racing and the group — ChiVin Moto Vintage Racing — was hoping some women would get involved. I’ve taken care of two sick parents and I work like crazy, and I decided, you know, I’d like to spend more time with my friends, maybe this would be a way for me to carve out a little bit of time for myself.”
In 2012, Overturf got her AHRMA license at Road America riding “Wheezy,” the 1976 Honda CB400 Super Sport she’s ridden since. “Wheezy is the pass-around bike for ChiVin Moto,” Overturf explains. “My two friends who own her, Kevin Hansing and Daren Pothoven, said they’d keep her going if I’d ride her. Almost everybody in ChiVin Moto has gotten their race license on that bike.”
2012 and 2013 passed without much drama, but 2014 would prove to be different. “I had a major get-off at Road America,” Overturf says. “That weekend was my first podium, I got second place on Saturday, and all of my friends were like, ‘What has happened to you?’ I was just completely ready to kill it and riding faster than ever. On Sunday I had a bad start, but I got around the course and I passed everybody but the guy in first. Then on Turn One, a rider from a different class had his engine seize as I was trying to get around him. We both crashed, and I broke my shoulder badly.”
Instead of pulling back, Overturf focused harder. “That race was probably where everything fell into place for me. My goal was to get back out, and I worked hard and got back on for Barber.” The Barber race was just four months after her wreck, and she finished midpack.
2015 brought more races and more podium finishes, with a second on Saturday followed by a first on Sunday at New Jersey. “That day was my biggest thrill,” Overturf says. “First, I didn’t win because everybody else in front of me crashed or broke. I think the guy who beat me Saturday kind of rested on his laurels, and though I’m horrible on starts I took my time to catch back up, caught him, and then went as hard as I possibly could for the next three laps. And it wasn’t just a matter of winning, it was a matter of passing someone on a turn that was making me nervous, and then going full tilt. Looking at it, I think the problem-solving I do at work, overcoming hurdles, applies to the track. You can’t just go out and lollygag when you’re racing. You gotta have a vision, a plan of attack and go for it.” MC