Let Me Tell You About This Race: Brandon Robinson
Every rider who has advanced to the Progressive American Flat Track ranks has competed in so many races throughout their life, it’s virtually impossible for them to recall every last one. However, some races are simply unforgettable, whether due to triumph, disaster, excitement, chaos, or hilarity.
In this series, we’ve asked a number of the world’s greatest dirt trackers to tell us about one particular race that stands out in their memory be it a Progressive AFT Main Event, a regional amateur race a decade ago, or simply an epic backyard barnburner.
This week it’s Mission SuperTwins superstar Brandon Robinson, whose long and distinguished Progressive AFT career was nearly snuffed out before it really got rolling:
I feel like a lot of guys talk about the good moments, but there's one race I'm known for more than anything else in my career and it's not a good moment. That race would be the 2009 Indy Mile.
It was just one of those freak incidents. Four of us went down going into the first corner off the start. If I remember correctly, it was (Henry) Wiles, Jethro Halbert, Shaun Russell and myself.
I remember banging gears, getting to fourth gear, and going into the first turn. Then Jethro's bike was cartwheeling through the air. It took Shaun right off his bike, and I ended up running Shaun over.
I was thrown over the bars, and the next thing I know, I landed on top of the airfence simultaneously with the bike. That just created like this big “moon bounce” effect. It actually threw me up and over the catchfence and out of the track. I was like a homerun ball out of the ballpark. It was insane. I don't think I've ever seen anything like that in my entire career.
What's crazy is, the catchfence must be eight-foot high, but if you go to the Indy Mile, you'll know the outside of the track is another five-foot drop compared to the track.
I remember flying through the air and smoking a telephone pole. And when I finally stopped flying and landed, I was laying halfway on the access road with the other half of my body on the curb.
I lived through that.
So... yeah. I was just numb. My legs were going one direction and my upper body was going another. I was pretty messed up.
I couldn't believe what just happened. It was a freak deal. I knew something was wrong, bad. It was weird. I don't really remember screaming or crying. I guess adrenaline took over.
It was kinda funny. I was laying there for a few minutes and no one actually knew I went out of the ballpark. My bike was wrapped up in the fence; it got stuck wide open and blew up in the fence. People were scrambling. I remember it taking (Steve) Morehead a hot minute to find me. People were like, 'Holy crap, this is gnarly.'
The big stuff was my pelvis was broke into five pieces. My hip was broke into four pieces. And my hip socket was crushed on my right side. So I had to have two surgeries. I ended up having three plates, 21 one screws put in, and 177 staples to hold me together at the two incision points.
I remember that night I told my parents I quit. I got talked out of it pretty soon afterwards, but it was a miserable two weeks in the hospital.
Obviously, I had a really, really long recovery. A lot of guys break an arm or an ankle or whatever, and it's a six- to eight-week recovery. Literally, I had no feeling in my right leg for over a month. I still only feel about 90% of my right leg. It was just everything from having to do normal tasks again to getting back to even trying to face the fear of getting back on a bike.
That was actually my rookie season. I was leading the Rookie of the Year contest going into that race, having a pretty decent year. It almost ended everything before it even began.
I thought multiple times about hanging it up and quitting. It was probably a solid two years between getting physically and mentally over the hurdle. I came back and raced the next year, but I was definitely not the same. I was very timid, kind of scared.
I only raced like half seasons the next two years because I didn't have the funding. And I was scared – flat-out scared for a while.
I got to 2012, and it was like, 'You know what? This is it.' It was that "how bad do you want it" moment in my life. I got my first actual ride from Bill Werner on his Kawasaki team. I always give Bill a lot of credit for giving me an opportunity. But man, those first couple years after the crash, I didn't know if I still had it. I wanted it, but I didn't know if I had it.
My first podium came that year – three years later – at the 2012 Indy Mile. Full circle. It was almost a Cinderella story.
I was actually hurt again then. Of course. I guess that's a part of who I am – I ride hurt a lot.
I broke my shoulder blade two weeks before in a crash at the Castle Rock TT. I came to realize it's a dog-eat-dog world in the sport. Literally, I crashed and the next day guys were calling about my ride.
And at that point, I wasn't really making money, just enough to get by race to race. So I sucked it up and knew I had to finish it out and go do it. Thankfully, the only position that didn't really hurt to be in was the riding position.
The 2012 Indy Mile was such a weird race. Bryan Smith was obviously the guy to beat on the Miles in that era, but he had an electrical gremlin, and I think Jake Johnson went down in the race.
The next thing I know, I'm leading this thing. It was the first time I had ever led a national, and I led like half the race. You know, if it wasn't for lack of experience, I might have won the thing. But I was pretty dumb, so I didn't have any idea what I was doing leading that thing.
But just to get that first podium at that track was like redemption. 'All right, I can do this.' That spring-boarded me throughout the rest of my career.
Thankfully, it's all worked out. I feel like I'm better now than I've ever been. But it took a long time to get here.
That 2009 Indy Mile kind of made me who I am in a sense. The biggest take away from all of it is I'm so much more grateful for what I have and the opportunities that I have because of what I went through.
Racers Are People Too, Brandon Robinson Edition
Favorite Food: Mom’s Chicken Marsala
Favorite Restaurant/Stop on the Road: P.F. Chang's in the Atlanta airport, Terminal A
Favorite Band: Blink 182
Favorite Song: “No Interruption” by Hoodie Allen
Favorite TV Series: This changes weekly but my all time fav has to be Game of Thrones.
Favorite Movie: Super Troopers
Favorite Hobby that Doesn't Involve Wheels, Engines, or Racing: Here’s where my inner dork shines bright; I’m actually a big fan of board games, card games, and puzzles.