The Racing Capital
of the World
August 13, 2012 | By Tom Surber
Motorcycle racer and team owner Pete Cline was watching the popular BBC automotive enthusiast show “Top Gear” one night when a bolt of inspiration hit him.
“There’s a show called ‘Top Gear’ in the UK, and they had a little mini-sode on there about disabled veterans from the British armed forces, and they were racing a car trying to qualify it for a car rally, and it was very inspirational,” Cline said. “I saw that and wondered, ‘Why can’t we as a team do something like that?’”
Cline put those thoughts into action for his AMA Pro Vance & Hines XR1200 Series race team. He looked up veterans groups online, found the Wounded Warrior Project and reached out to the non-profit group that assists wounded American service personnel.
“We developed and nurtured a dialogue, and in that process we found out that they were really protective of the Warriors, and rightly so because they’ve sacrificed quite a bit for this country,” Ohio resident Cline said. “They’re dealing with things that we wouldn’t even normally deal with on a day-to-day basis, and so we were very kid gloves, I guess, for lack of a better term. We wanted them to be the driver as far as the PR and the content, and when we developed a working relationship with them, that’s when all the other pieces kind of fell together as far as other team partners coming on board and seeing the value.”
The pit crew for Cline and his Team Ohio Racing, which fields the No. 26 bike sponsored by Oxford Consulting Group, RevZilla.com and Rider Insurance, will consist of four members of the Wounded Warrior Project during the two AMA Pro Vance & Hines XR1200 Series races at the Red Bull Indianapolis GP on Aug. 17-19 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. One of the Warriors is United States Marine Corps veteran A.J. White, from nearby Greenwood, Ind.
Cline, who started his racing career in 2004, formerly raced in the Western Eastern Roadracing Association (WERA), in which he won a number of regional championships. When he heard about the formation of the XR1200 Series for Harley-Davidson bikes more than a year ago, he decided to get involved. In his efforts to build a team, Cline searched to find a unique characteristic that would set his operation apart.
Then came the magic moment while watching “Top Gear.”
Cline, from Upper Arlington, Ohio, had experience working with military personnel in his full-time job for the state of Ohio’s motorcycle safety program. Wounded Warrior Project participants first started working on Cline’s motorcycle racing team last month at the AMA Buckeye Superbike Weekend at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Arlington, Ohio.
“We really wanted to go over the top with the Wounded Warrior Project and really make it an event because Mid-Ohio is my home track, it’s 45 minutes from my house,” Cline said. “Logistically, we tried to pull off a lot. We had four crew scheduled and they were all from the Central Ohio area, so it was adding this public relations value to the team as well as what we were trying to accomplish.
“We set very realistic goals as a team. One: to have fun. To qualify, which we did. To finish the race, which we did, and to not yard-sale or wreck the bike, which we didn’t do.
“So we accomplished all our goals. It went off real well. We had a silent auction at the track and the racing community came together and donated a lot of great stuff, and we generated over $1,100. We put on a meet-and-greet dinner in the paddock area on Saturday night for the crew, and we also arranged with track management to bring in 15 additional Warriors to watch the event.”
This weekend at Indianapolis, Greenwood resident White will fulfill a dream by working at the Brickyard.
White, a 30-year-old, married father of two girls and a boy, was injured while serving in Iraq in 2009. He later suffered additional injuries while training for a deployment to Afghanistan that forced his retirement from the Marines.
A longtime race fan that has attended the Indianapolis 500 and Brickyard 400, White first got involved in racing while living in Seattle, where he served on pit crews for teams competing in Super Figure 8’s racing.
“They’re the ones that really brought around this true love that I have for racing,” White said. “I absolutely love the sport of racing. Anything that’s loud and goes fast, I absolutely eat up.”
The Wounded Warrior Project has helped White with physical therapy and assisted him in getting discharged from the Marine Corps. Already familiar with White and his experience with racing, the Wounded Warrior Project considered him a highly qualified candidate to assist Cline with his team at IMS.
During a test in which Cline’s team participated last weekend at IMS, White met his new teammates for the first time.
“It’s absolutely crazy,” he said. “I don’t know what to say. I don’t think there are words because I never dreamed I’d walk down pit lane at IMS. This is a dream come true. This is something I’ll tell my grandkids, and if I’m alive long enough, my great-grandkids.
“Who in the state of Indiana would not want to be able to walk around this place like I just got to and have the opportunity to meet a bunch of really great guys?”
White is enrolled in the vocational rehabilitation and employment program at Ivy Tech Community College of Indiana through the Veterans Administration. His goal is to graduate from Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business with skills in supply chain management, a field he worked in as a Marine in Iraq.
Cline also has ambitious immediate goals for his race team. He is trying to attract enough sponsorship to continue racing this season in the XR1200 Series with Wounded Warriors serving on his crew.
“When we were at Mid-Ohio, we knew it would affect us because of what they’d been through, but we didn’t think it would affect them,” Cline said. “You come away from this feeling like you’ve made a difference in somebody’s life, and maybe taking them away from something they need to be removed from for just a little bit so they can forget some of the stuff they’ve gone through.
“To do that, and I guess to make a long-term impression on somebody like that, I didn’t really think about it. But that’s what we’ve done, and that in itself is great.”