The thrill of covering ground at a high speed bit Mike Queen at an early age.
When he was 10 years old, with the help of his dad Ken, the Tempe youngster started racing go-karts.
Not the karts found at miniature golf courses, these were racing karts.
Mike and dad found a bond around the smell of gas and twostroke oil, competing on a circuit of small, twisty tracks for eight years. Next for Mike was a year racing off-road quads which he says were too dangerous.
"When you crash on a quad, the thing just stays with you," said Queen. "It tangles you up and that’s when you get hurt."
With a year away from danger, Queen bought a motorcycle to ride on the street. One of his buddies, who was already a competitive racer, talked Queen into buying a used race-bike.
"The first time out on the track I was faster than the guy who got me started," said Queen.
"He kind of got mad; he’s not racing anymore."
Fast forward to 2004. Queen, a 20-year-old Horizon High School graduate, is in his first season in the amateur middleweight superbike class of the Championship Cup Series. His hope is to succeed, move up to the expert class next year and eventually on to the American Motorcycle Association, which has been a springboard for U.S. racers to compete internationally.
With the last race of the CCS season getting close, about a dozen friends, and possible sponsors, gather under the small canopy attached to Queen’s trailer. Engines roar to life along the pits, racers blip their machine’s throttles. Queen’s father peels off the tire warmers from the bike and lowers the wheel stands. Now it’s up to Queen. As before other races, dad tells son to "be safe and go fast" and gives a pat on Mike’s scuffed leathers. Racers roll past Queen’s pit, on their way to the warm-up lap. Queen falls into the group, slowly rolling through the pits to the track.
The starting grid forms as riders finish the warm-up lap. A signal is shown to the riders when there’s 30 seconds before the start. Anticipating the start, the engines begin to scream, then the green flag flies. The herd of motorcycles somehow fits through the first series of corners, and Mike is in the lead.
Nine laps later, the starter has traded the green for the checkered flag. Out of the final corner Mike has held his lead, he wins the last race of the year and with it the championship of the amateur middleweight superbike class.
At this level of racing, there aren’t the huge throngs of cheering fans seen on Sunday NASCAR broadcasts. Even most of Queen’s guests have left the track. When asked about his wedding band Queen says, "Well I’m engaged and plan on getting married in January."
Talking about his fiancé leaving the race earlier in the day, Queen says "she likes the racing but doesn’t like crowds hangin’ around."
With more seasons like his first, Mike and his future bride are in for more crowds.
Want to learn more about motorcycle road racing? Mike Muserelli, chief technical inspector for the Championship Cup Series, suggests these Web sites.
• www.formulausa.com offers information about the Championship Cup Series, schools for beginning racers, schedules and other things involving road racing in Arizona.
• www.aztrackday.com has information on track days when street riders and where racers can hone their skills without race-day stress.
• www.motorcycletraining.com is the Web site for T.E.A.M Arizona. Here you can learn about training for riders of all skills. They also host racing-oriented schools for those ready to turn the wrist in a competitive environment.