Motorcycle Classics

Racer Profile: Nick Hargis

Rider: Nick Hargis
Age/years riding:
Testing lab technician
Race bike/years racing:
1974 Yamaha XS650/2
Daily riders:
1998 Triumph Speed Triple, 1973 Honda CB350F

Thanks to a motorcycle-loving father, Nick Hargis was something of a ringer to get hooked on vintage racing. The riding bug bit Nick’s dad, Jeff Hargis, long before Nick was born, with dirt bikes his favored mounts. Following in his father’s footsteps, Nick took his first ride at the tender age of 4 — on a dirt bike, naturally enough.

Riding stuck, and when Nick was 14 his dad signed him up for the Team Chicago road race school at Grattan Raceway in Michigan — without telling Nick. “I didn’t know he was going to sign me up,” Nick says. “He threw me on his bike, a 1998 Triumph Speed Triple, and said ‘Don’t crash.’ Part of the agreement was, if I crashed, I had to tell my mom.” That’s a big bike for a 14-year-old, but he didn’t crash, and it was only afterward that Nick filled in Mom about the experience. “We asked for forgiveness, not permission. A friend of Dad’s filmed all of it and we showed it to my mom; that’s how we broke the news.”

Nick did another Team Chicago school when he was 16, and a few years later dad Jeff decided it was time to hit the track himself, so he started racing a Yamaha XS650 in AHRMA’s Sportsman 750 class. Jeff’s been a solid performer since, winning the class three out of the last four years. Inspired by his dad, Nick competed in his first AHRMA race in 2014 at Grattan, in Sportsman 750 and on a Yamaha XS650. For a rookie, he did well, placing sixth in the first race on Saturday. Sunday’s race brought different results: “I was battling for third, but I collided with another rider in Turn Two and it pitched me over the handlebar. It wasn’t too bad, but it taught me a lot about where to give and take room, how to plan out corners and how to land softly. It also taught me the value of good leathers!”

Nick has raced two weekends so far this year, at Road America and Grattan, nabbing third- and fourth-place wins at both venues, with his last race at Grattan the most memorable. “It was just an insane race,” Nick remembers. “I actually passed my dad on the opening lap. He got the holeshot and I followed him into Turn One, and going into Turn Five, the Grattan Hump, I passed him on the outside super late on the brakes, and with a little slide I went around him. The next time around, he did the exact same thing to me!” The father-son competition continued for the rest of the race. “We battled back and forth for all eight laps. There was a little water on the track and we were sliding on Turn One and the S-curves; it was like dirt bike racing, it was a blast.” Dad Jeff came in ahead, placing second to Nick’s third.

Nick’s final race for 2015 will be at Barber Motorsports Park in Alabama, and he’s hoping to expand his racing schedule in 2016 to include the AHRMA races at New Jersey Motorsports Park, Mid-Ohio, and the VRRA races in Toronto, Canada. He’d hit even more races if he could, Nick says, it’s just the age-old issue of “money and time.” Yet those limitations don’t dim his interest in vintage racing. “There’s nothing else as fun as this. I’m usually not a competitive person — until I get on a motorcycle. It’s the perfect combination of competition and adrenaline rush; everything comes together on the track.” MC

  • Published on Oct 8, 2015
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