Traci Cecco-Pickens, the most successful women’s ATV racer in history, was honored this week by the city of Shamokin, Pa.
At a ceremony Monday night including the city council and approximately 50 spectators including Traci’s family and friends, Mayor George S. Rozinskie, Jr., proclaimed December 10, 2012, as Traci Cecco-Pickens day in Shamokin and presented her with the key to the city honoring her as a historic competitor and role model for the city’s youth.
“I’ve enjoyed 14 years of racing professionally, fought for nine championships and a created lifetime of memories,” says Cecco-Pickens. “I’m honored to receive this key and proud to say I’m from Shamokin – the city that provided me all the tools and resources that I needed to make my dreams come true!”
Yamaha Motor Corp., U.S.A. was on hand in Crawfordsville, Ind. at the Ironman GNCC this weekend to celebrate the career of Traci Cecco-Pickens. The long-time Yamaha rider and GNCC icon has made history by securing her ninth overall women’s ATV series title and announced her retirement atop the Ironman podium.
“This ninth championship is very special to me and by far will be the most memorable – it is going to be my last championship,” says Cecco-Pickens. “I am retiring from chasing championships. With nine titles, my health, friends and memories for a lifetime, I finally feel this is the right time for me.”
Cecco-Pickens may be retiring from the track, but that doesn’t mean she’s leaving racing entirely. “I will continue to be at all of the GNCC events supporting my husband and his racing career,” she said. “Racing is a tremendous part of my life, and I will truly miss competing, but it’s time for me to be part of the sport I love in a different way – whether that be representing longtime sponsors at the track, working the gas can in the pits, or mentoring new lady racers.” To all of the up-and-coming women racers out there, she says: “Never quit setting achievable goals, and always act like a lady.”
Cecco clinched her historic championship at the last GNCC round October 6 in St. Clairsville, Ohio, allowing her to enjoy the Ironman knowing her championship is already in the books. Known as the best woman racer in the history of the sport, Cecco-Pickens captured six wins and was on the podium at every series stop this year leading up to Crawfordsville.
Now that we’re a few races into the 2012 Grand National Cross Country (GNCC) Series, the standings and championship races are starting to take shape. Yamaha is fielding a particularly strong team this year and its Pro GNCC racers Taylor Kiser, Walker Fowler and Traci Cecco, along with Ballance Racing boss Bill Ballance, offered up some thoughts on the season so far.
Bill Ballance Question: You’re widely known as the best off-road ATV racer of all time, and while you haven’t announced any plans to officially retire from racing, you’re transitioning more into a team management role – tell us about Ballance Racing and how you approach your new job.
The first priority is the race team. Our team provides full race support to Taylor Kiser and Walker Fowler in the GNCC race circuit. We also provide some support to Thomas Brown on the MX side.
The second side to Ballance Racing is aftermarket sales and support. We sell all of the race products from companies that sponsor our race program. Also, we build complete race quads.
Ballance Racing started as me competing and winning championships and has transitioned into a program that supports both riders and sponsors on and off the track.
My role as team manager includes many responsibilities and those change from day to day. I spend numerous days testing on the track, which requires me to do lots of riding – this being my favorite part! Other days my time is filled by taking orders from customers, building shocks, setting up race quads, talking to sponsors, and keeping up with what the guys are doing and needing. A big part of my job is developing and testing for companies like Lone Star, Ohlins, Maxxis, and Moto-Xperts. I even build and fine tune maps for ECUs.
The transition has been difficult in some ways. When we are at the races and the guys line up on the starting line, it is hard for me not to be a part of that. However, in some ways it has been pretty easy because of the attention to detail that I give to every working part of the race bike is natural to me. I do this just the same way I did with my own race quad. I try to give the guys the equipment they need and the knowledge I have gained over the years. I want to see them win, and I strive for nothing less.
Yamaha Motor Corp., U.S.A., made its annual donation to the Feed the Children charity Friday, Nov. 18 at Yamaha’s corporate headquarters in Cypress, Calif. Company officials presented two checks totaling $25,000 along with a truck load of donated items to the organization. As part of the festivities, Yamaha also celebrated a successful 2011 racing season with several championship-winning Yamaha Race Team members in attendance.
“The annual Feed the Children and Race Team celebration is something everyone at Yamaha looks forward to each year,” says Bob Starr, Yamaha general manager of motorsports communications. “As we move into the holiday season, it’s a great time to reflect upon the hard work and donations collected over the year that have a direct impact on families in need. Thanks to all of the Yamaha employees and the Star Touring and Riding Association for their efforts.”
ATV racing champions Dustin Nelson and Walker Fowler were on hand to celebrate their successful ATV racing seasons. Both Nelson and Fowler boasted perfect campaigns: Fowler closes out the 2011 GNCC series with the XC2 championship, going undefeated and notching a record 13 straight wins. Nelson was also perfect and clinched his fifth QuadX Championship after winning all eight races in the series.
Typically the season finale, this year’s Ironman landed two weeks before the final round of 2011 coming up at Loretta Lynn’s in Hurricane Mills, Tennessee, which was rescheduled to Nov. 5. Traci Cecco took her eighth win of the year in the Women’s class adding to her record eighth series championship which she secured even before the Ironman. Ballance Racing’s Walker Fowler, who has also already locked in his series championship, took his twelfth straight XC2 Pro Am win – a series record. In XC1 Pro competition, Ballance Racing’s Taylor Kiser finished second – his fifth podium of the season – which moved him to third in overall series points.
Yamaha’s ATV Race Teams have been claiming podiums this season at the nation’s top racing series from East to West. With returning champions and strong challengers on blue, Yamaha riders have seen success in Grand National Cross Country (GNCC), QuadX and AMA ATV Motocross Championship racing and are poised to capture titles in motocross and cross country action.
“We have a great group of racers who are doing spectacular things on the tracks and trails aboard their YFZ450Rs and YFZ450Xs,” says Donnie Luce, Yamaha ATV/Off-Road racing coordinator. “While there are fewer factory programs this year, the competition is still extremely tough – our racers are showing their talents and stamina pushing harder and faster. Yamaha is deeply ingrained in ATV racing, and we’re excited to see how the rest of the 2011 season plays out.”
Here’s a look at Yamaha’s 2011 ATV team through mid-August:
Thomas Brown battled with some of the world’s top motocross racers in the AMA ATV Motocross Championship series finishing a personal best fourth place overall for the year. After a rough start, Brown rose in the ranks capturing three second place podium finishes.
“Thomas has risen through the AMA ATV ranks, and he’s proved he is a rider to be reckoned with in this series,” Luce said.