MOTO-ST: Series spotlight - Texas teams

Texas Team Terrorizes SunTrust MOTO-ST Series DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (July 16, 2008) --"Don't mess with Texas," the old saying goes. And that certainly holds true in the SunTrust MOTO-ST Series. The Lone Star State has had a big influence in the...

Texas Team Terrorizes SunTrust MOTO-ST Series

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (July 16, 2008) --"Don't mess with Texas," the old saying goes. And that certainly holds true in the SunTrust MOTO-ST Series.

The Lone Star State has had a big influence in the professional endurance series almost from day one. Dallas rider Troy Green was last year's Rider's Champion in the Buell Motorcycle Company SuperSport Twins (SST) class, and he and teammate Ty Howard of Weatherford, Tex. helped the Aprilia USA squad claim the Team's title as well.

Now the Texas connection has spread to the Sport Twins (ST) division, where the M4 Avteq Racing squad is in the thick of the title battle heading into this weekend's Barber 500k at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Ala., the fourth round of the seven-race series.

The team's No. 66 Suzuki SV650 currently lies second in the standings with 90 points, just seven fewer than defending class champions and current leaders, the No. 9 Pair-A-Nines Kawasaki team. M4 Avteq Racing's No. 67 Suzuki is fifth in points with 76.

It's pretty impressive stuff from a squad that only made its SunTrust MOTO-ST Series debut at last October's 8-Hour season finale at Daytona International Speedway, and which consists of a selection of young riders without much of a name outside of their home state.

The leader of the M4 Avteq Racing effort -- and its self-confessed elder statesman -- is 29-year-old Kyle Martin of Dallas. Martin and his father Richard own M4 Performance Exhaust Systems, and Kyle's uncle Michael Martin was a top endurance racer in his own right, claiming five WERA National Endurance titles and 48 wins from 1991-95 riding for the crack Team Hammer outfit.

Kyle stuck to four wheels when he was growing up and became a top karter on the national level. But without the money to proceed to car racing, he settled into the family exhaust business and looked for other opportunities to satisfy his racing passion.

"I did some club racing, but I was looking for a way to go racing on more of a national level," he explains. "I was used to a more professional level of racing from my karting days. I always had a passion for motorcycles, and I thought the MOTO-ST Series was a great series. It looked very competitive but also a good way to have fun."

Martin raced occasionally in the Texas-based CMRA series and became familiar with Ryan O'Donnell, a 19-year-old racer with the club. Ryan's father John owns Avteq, a Dallas-based teleconference equipment manufacturing company that M4 also does business with.

Martin had a bit of experience racing an SV650, so he and his dad built up a pair of bikes to run in last year's SunTrust MOTO-ST Series season finale. Martin, O'Donnell and Russ Wikle of Huntsville, Ala. finished second in the ST class in their debut and the seed was well and truly planted.

"We had a blast at Daytona," Martin recalls. "Racing at night was fun and it was just a great atmosphere. Ryan is a real up and comer, and I thought it was good for him to run a national series and get some recognition."

Since the team already had two Suzukis prepared, they decided to run both bikes in this year's championship, using young racers from the CMRA ranks to fill out the riding line-up. In addition to Wikle, Dane Westby of Tulsa, Okla. and Dustin Dominguez from Newalla, Okla. have taken turns on one of the SV650s.

The team had a rough start at Daytona's season opener in March when the No. 67 bike was penalized for exceeding the class horsepower limit in post-race tech and lost a third place finish. The No. 66 Suzuki ended up third, and then followed that up with a fourth in round two at Virginia International Raceway in April and second at Road America in June. The No. 67 entry bounced back from its Daytona setback to claim a second at VIR and fourth at Road America.

Clearly the team is knocking on the door of a class victory, and Martin knows race wins are going to be necessary if the squad is going to have a shot of unseating the Pair-A-Nines crew as class champions.

"Hopefully at Barber we can get that first win," Martin says. "I think at the beginning of the year our performance was not quite where it needed to be. But with each round we've just gotten so much better. The bikes have gotten better, and our riders have become faster and faster.

"We need to finish ahead of the No. 9 team. I think now we have the pace. It's just a matter of putting a three-hour race together. We just have to set ourselves up to be there at the end. A lot of times, with the yellow flags, these races can turn into sprint races to the finish, and we need to be right there when that happens, that's what it will take."

The expectations are climbing higher for what is very much a family team. Beyond Kyle's dad Richard and Ryan's dad John, Racing Engine Service of Fort Worth, Tex. helped with the motors, and two of the most dedicated team members are Mike Toole and Buddy Lohr.

"They handle all the little things at the track," Martin says. "They're not getting paid but they have a real passion for it. Everybody's family comes to the races and it's a big pitch-in effort. It's not a pro effort but it's a good group of people."

But don't be fooled by this close-knit crew. Winning is still at the top of the agenda.

"We started this for fun and we still have that attitude," Martin says. "But for us fun is doing well, fun is winning races. And to win a championship in our first year would be really special."


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About this article
Series Other bike
Drivers Buddy Lazier , Russ Wikle , Dane Westby , Dustin Dominguez