Author: Sullivan, Katie
Date published: November 19, 2010
Journal code: NDRG
This season has been a roller coaster for me. At the end of 2009, I had a promise of a full sponsor. When that deal fell through, I was pretty upset. Luckily, I'm blessed with the best parents in the world who told me that I could sit back and whine about it or pick myself up, put a smile on my face, and make things happen for myself.
We are nearing the end of the 2010 season, and my dad, Charlie, and I are on our way to building our own successful race team. That is not to say that this season has not been filled with a lot of ups and downs. This season has been filled with hard work, frustration, disappointment, excitement, laughter, smiles, and many other things. More importantly, this season has been filled with passion and determination.
One of the big lessons I have had to learn this year is that Rome was not built in a day. I found how easy it is to fall into the mind-set that we have to go out and conquer the world. At times this season, I have pulled into the lanes and put so much pressure on myself to ride well that instead of my usual cool demeanor, I was actually nervous to ride. This was especially true when we showed up at the NHRA Las Vegas Nationals. About a month before the race in Las Vegas, my dad and I decided to purchase a new Vance & Hines engine. Basically, we were going to have the same kind of horsepower that had enabled Karen Stoffer to set the national record in Gainesville and for LE Tonglet to challenge for the championship.
We pulled into Las Vegas on Wednesday, and spent all of Thursday and some of Friday putting in the new engine in the bike and making everything right for our first qualifying pass. My crew, which consists of my dad, John Widmann, and Sam Perry, worked so hard to make sure my bike was ready to go down the track. Vance & Hines was also amazing in helping us to get my bike right. I can't thank my crew, Vance & Hines, and everyone else who lent a hand enough for all their help. With everyone working so hard, I was so anxious to ride the bike again. I was putting a lot of pressure on myself to do well at the race. We had struggled all season finding the horsepower to qualify, and I knew having this motor gave our team a great shot at making the field.
The first qualifying pass with the new bullet didn't go as well as we had hoped. Due to some wiring issues, we didn't make it down the track. We missed the second qualifying session to make everything right on the bike. On the next two qualifying sessions, we made improvements thanks to a lot of amazing people; however, we missed making the show. During those two qualifying sessions, though, I was faced with the same nerves that I had been battling in other races this season. Both times I went up to the line, I was trying to race with a million thoughts in my head: Keep your elbows in, be smooth putting the bike on the two-step, shoulders square, and so many others. I was not riding the way that I know I'm capable of riding.
I have been very fortunate in my race career to get to work with so many fantastic people, and in Las Vegas, I feel this was especially true. The first set of spectacular people I was fortunate to spend some time with were nitro racers Jack Beckman and Cory McClenathan. The three of us took the big dare and jumped off the top of the Stratosphere Hotel & Casino, a controlled free fall of nearly 900 feet. On our way up to the top of the building, I had a conversation with Cory about his racing experiences. I took an important message from the talk that Cory and I had: Everyone struggles, and what matters is how you deal with struggling. I can't thank him enough for the words of encouragement that he gave to me.
I was also very blessed to have the opportunity to work with the Vance & Hines team, especially Screamin' Eagle rider Eddie Krawiec, who was a huge help. After I struggled in Las Vegas, he took the time to come over and talk to me about what was going on with my riding. He was the one who really brought it to my attention that I was overthinking it way too much. You can't go to the line and think about a million things. I left Las Vegas that night with a lot of new knowledge; however, I think the most important thing I left Las Vegas with was even more drive and determination to keep pushing through the struggles we are working to overcome as a team.
I have learned so much during the short time I have spent in the world of NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle racing. We have struggled a ton, but what is important is that we are making leaps and bounds in the right direction. I learned the biggest lesson of all during this season: At the end of the day, you need to have fun. I can go up to the line and think of a million things to do to be a great rider, but I ride best when I go to relax and have fun. I have huge confidence in our team, and I'm will stop at nothing until we have reached the top.
Love and thanks to my family, friends, and fans. None of this would be possible without all of you.
Katie Sullivan is the rider of the Sullivan Racing Pro Stock Motorcycle Suzuki.