A Fast Girl’s Flat Track Finale

Only a handful of women have held a professional flat track license through the years, and Sandriana Shipman is one those elite female racers who has dared to take on a male-dominated sport that’s known for its physical demands and unforgiving nature. Over the past couple of seasons she’s raced for quality teams such as Waters Autobody and Richie Morris Racing, and then struck out on her own under the Triple Nickel Racing banner. After multiple injuries and several incredible comebacks, Shipman is coming back to American Flat Track once again to race the Meadowlands Mile in New Jersey.

And then she’s retiring from pro racing. 

Shipman (55) at last year's inaugural Meadowlands Mile. Scott Cavalari.

What she wants the racing world to know is that she’s not giving up, but she’s taking her fate into her own hands. “I’m not giving up at all,” she says. “I just want to have the chance to walk away from the sport before the decision is made for me. The way my injuries have gone, it’s only a matter of time. I’m frustrated my injuries are pushing me this way, but I’m the one making this decision.”

Shipman has had more than her share of injuries over the years. She’s spent 17 years racing flat track, and throughout that time she’s had multiple vertebral compression fractures, 12 herniated discs, with two of those herniations impinging on the spinal cord. She’s also had 14 broken ribs, a punctured lung, lacerated liver, fractured right hip, four metacarpals broken, plated and screwed, broken right radius and ulna, broken right femur, broken right fibula and tibia … and that’s only naming a few.

Despite all that, it wasn’t until her crash at the Texas Half-Mile in 2018 that she finally started to think about retirement. “When they told me how bad my injuries were,” she says, “it became very real. All of a sudden I was faced with questions like, ‘Will you be able to take care of yourself?’”

Shipman made a surprisingly quick recovery from her horrific injuries suffered at the Texas Half-Mile, and eventually got back in the saddle in late 2018. Scott Hunter/AFT.

Those back to back injuries take a toll, and they’ve left Sandriana to make the toughest decision of her life: retiring from flat track. “After my last injury, I felt like I was losing my identity. I went into a deep depression. Flat track is all I’ve done; it’s all I’ve ever looked forward to. I felt like I was losing my identity. I’ve always thought of myself as just a flat track racer, and it took going through some dark days to realize I am more than that.”

Sandriana isn’t just thinking about walking away for her own good. In a selfless move, she’s also choosing to retire to help other riders. She told us, “I don’t want to go out there and take up sponsor money and then not be able to hold up my end of the bargain. If I get hurt again I can’t uphold my end of the deal, and I don’t want to take anything from other racers and riders who are physically capable of holding up throughout a whole season.”

But fans of the number 555 shouldn’t despair – she’s not completely disappearing from the sport. In her words, “I’m simply shifting my focus. I want to continue riding and racing, but on a different level, instead of not being able to do it at all. It’s upsetting, and it’s been a hard decision to come to, but I have a lot more to give to the sport and the world. I’m more than just a flat track motorcycle racer.”

What’s she planning for the future? “I don’t really have any solid plans,” she says. “I’ve been working with Johnny Lewis at Moto Anatomy (she just recently helped teach flat track classes with Johnny Lewis at Babes in the Dirt, an event organized by Babes Ride Out), and I definitely plan to incorporate myself more with him. Flat track has given me so much, has made me the person I am, and given me determination, drive, and strength. Now it’s time for me to give back to the sport that gave me so much. That’s why I want to stay involved. Over and above that, I’m open to opportunities within the powersports industry; I’m good at a lot of things, I know the sport, and I think I can be a valuable asset.”

Saying goodbye to a sport she loves isn’t easy, but she knows it’s time. “It’s time to bow out. I know I’m fast, I know I have the skill, but I just don’t have it to put all the pieces together right now. I get the chance to decide to step away from flat track while I can instead of not being able to walk away at all. I’ve always wanted to race professional flat track, and I’ve always dreamed of having a family, so I’m going to end this on a good note so I can go chase the rest of my dream.”

Given her success so far, we wouldn’t be against her getting those dreams. - Joy Burgess