Chesterfield’s Jerry Randall still racing motorcycles in his 70s

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  • Jerry Randall races his motorcyle at the Loudon Road Racing Series in 2018 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, New Hampshire. Randall, 70, has been racing motorcycles for five decades. COURTESY MARTIN HANLIN

  • Jerry Randall, of Chesterfield, removes the ignition cover from the motor of a Yamaha road racing bike in his shop, earlier this month. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Jerry Randall, of Chesterfield, who has been racing motorcycles for 50 years, stands beside one of his bikes in his shop, earlier this month. Randall, 70, is still working on and racing motorcycles. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Jerry Randall, of Chesterfield, who has been racing motorcycles for 50 years, with one of his Yamaha road racing bikes in his shop, Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2020. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Jerry Randall, of Chesterfield, who has been racing motorcycles for 50 years, with one of his Yamaha road racing bikes in his shop, Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2020. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Jerry Randall, of Chesterfield, puts the rear wheel on a Yamaha road racing bike in his shop, Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2020. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

Staff Writer
Published: 2/21/2020 9:26:09 PM

NORTHAMPTON — Jerry Randall slows his Yamaha YZFR6 motorcycle to an idle after crossing the finish line. His competitors, many of them several decades his junior, pull up to discuss the race they completed and talk shop on the track at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. When Randall removes his helmet, it reveals the weathered face and bald head of a 70-year-old man.

“He pulls his helmet off, and they go ‘holy crap this guy’s a lot older than I am,’” said Eric Wood, Loudon Road Race Series Co-Executive Director and Randall’s longtime friend and competitor.

Randall has raced motorcycles for the better part of five decades. The Chesterfield resident first developed an interest in motorcycles as a teenager in the 1960s. He made them his business when he started Valley Motorsports Inc. 45 years ago, shortly after graduating from UMass in the early 70s.

“It’s usually you stumble into racing, whatever kind it might be. You stumble into competition by way of friendships or a tip or a reference,” Randall said. “Pretty soon you’re in the middle of it.”

His racing disciplines range from motocross to bicycle racing and triathlons in addition to some car competitions as well. A story about Randall for the Daily Hampshire Gazette in 2002 was headlined “Ageless wonder keeps competing.” He was 51 then and focused primarily on dirt racing. Almost 20 years later, Randall hasn’t slowed down.

“I’ve never left (racing),” Randall said. “You keep trying to stop doing it, but it just drags you back.”

The Loudon Road Race Series has occupied half his year from April to October for the past decade. It’s a nonprofessional circuit that organizes three classes of competition: novice, amateur and expert across various age groups.

“You’re just doing it for plastic trophies and glory,” Randall said.

The New Hampshire Motor Speedway track spans 1.6 miles, and laps take around 75 seconds. Racers can reach 140 mph on the straightaways and hover in triple digits around the track.

“It’s frightening but kind of fun and exhilarating when things go well and difficult when it doesn’t,” Randall said.

He’s not just out for Sunday cruising, either. Randall contends at the expert level. He also built his race bike from scratch, modifying it in the garage of his home in Chesterfield. Randall lifts the motor and caries it between the bike and his workbench using his bare hands rather than a winch. In order to stay in such strong condition, he maintains a workout regimen in the gym between three and five days a week.

The combination of technical prowess and physical readiness has led to continued success. Randall won a non-age restricted race in 2018, becoming the oldest victor in the series’ 21-year history.

“That will stand forever,” Randall said. “I don’t think anyone will be at it at my age. I’m not sure why I am, either.”

Part of the reason is he’s still good at it. The LRRS age groups go up to over-50, so Randall regularly competes against riders 20 years younger than him – though they are exploring an over-60 classification in 2020. He needed to win the final race last season to finish second in the overall standings and accomplished it.

“It means a lot to be successful and to win or to have a great result, there’s no better feeling,” Randall said. “If I wasn’t competitive, I wouldn’t do it.”

That feeling comes with inherent injury risk. Falls happen. Randall has broken bones and suffered concussions from hitting the pavement.

“The body takes a beating when you fall down. There’s some wear and tear but everything works well enough to continue at this point,” he said. “In reality for most of us that race, everything seems like it happens almost in slow motion when you’re doing it. Until something goes wrong then it’s fast forward.”

Randall maneuvers the 450-pound bike with the grace of experience. Randall’s style resembles the one world-class riders used in the 90s more so than today’s elite, who regularly hang off the bike inches from the pavement.

“Jerry’s an animal for an older guy. He goes after with every bit of the vigor of a 20-something,” Wood said. “If you’re gonna go racing with Jerry and make a pass to him at the end of the race, you expect someone who’s going to hit back.”

Over his decade on the track, Randall developed a rivalry with South Hadley native John Grush. They both race on the same motorcycle and shared information while they were modifying the bikes for racing.

“We’ve had a pretty interesting racing history together. He’s a pretty fierce competitor. He definitely rides very well - doesn’t want to give up an inch of pavement,” said Grush, 60. “He’s one personality off the track – he wants to help people, and on the track he’s very competitive.”

The competition keeps Randall coming back. He’s based some of his guiding philosophies around competing and finding what it takes to win.

“I see competition as a reflection of life. Each time you go out here you go through a lot of emotions,” Randall said. “It encompasses all the feelings you have in your lifetime: anticipation, fear, success, happiness.”

He’s not out there for recognition, nominal contingency awards or trophies. Randall threw out a pickup bed full of trophies when he recently remodeled his house.

“I don’t keep many trophies,” he said. “The only one that matters is the next one you get.”

Kyle Grabowski can be reached at kgrabowski@gazettenet.com. Follow him on Twitter @kylegrbwsk.



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