Mind Over Matter: A Catch-Up with C-Tex
(Note: AmericanFlatTrack.com initially interviewed Cory Texter prior to the original date of the DAYTONA TT with a plan to publish the feature ahead of the since-postponed AFT Production Twins opener in Atlanta. Subsequently, the global COVID-19 pandemic hit the United States with a vengeance and wreaked havoc with the daily life of virtually every American, let alone the AFT racing (and editorial) calendar. The feature as originally written follows, with an update from Cory included at the end of the piece.)
2019 served both as an encapsulation and the crowning achievement of Cory Texter’s long and varied career as a professional flat track racer. It had it all -- runs of undeniable brilliance, demoralizing defeats and the resulting crises of confidence, title-winning glory, and personal tragedy.
Ultimately, the year saw the achievement of a lifelong goal; Texter was crowned the 2019 AFT Production Twins National Champion, and that’s something that can never be taken away from him.
The freshly-crowned Texter celebrates with the G&G Racing crew.
But now it’s 2020. What can he possibly deliver as an encore?
“My goal is to win more races,” he said. “And I'm going to try to enjoy it more this year.
Texter celebrates a victory in style.
“Titles are cool, and I fought like hell my whole life to win a championship -- those guys are going to have to work their asses off to take it from me -- but I want to win races.
“Last year, I won the first three, and I was pretty loose and having fun. But then I started worrying about points. I had never won a championship, and I really wanted to get it done -- it had been my goal since I was a kid.
“There was a point last year where I was trying to listen to headphones before the race. I had always made fun of people for doing that -- trying to get all zoned in before the race. And then I started doing it. I sat back one day and was like, ‘What am I doing? This is not how Cory Texter operates…’
“I'm at my best when I'm riding loose, having fun, and just going to each race trying to win. Obviously, my goal is to win the title again, but I've already achieved what I wanted to achieve in terms of winning a championship. This year, I'm going to make smaller goals and hope to have an even better year. At the end of the day, things will fall into place in terms of the championship.”
At this stage in the 32-old Texter’s career, mindset and perspective are perhaps even more important than technique and reflexes. He understands what’s truly important, but he also knows how to build upon the lessons learned a year ago to make him an even more formidable title defender than he was an aspiring champion.
“I put everything I have into racing right now, but I also have a family and I have a son. There are other things in life that excite me other than racing. That doesn't mean I don't work as hard as I've always worked, and I think I'm a more complete racer than I've ever been. But at the end of the day, if I don't win or things don't play out the way I need it to, it's just a race.
“My family is important to me. And I want to keep my character. A lot of guys get in championship hunts and act like total (jerks). I want to be a good person at all times no matter what happens on the track. That was something I took a lot of pride in last year. Whatever I did last year, good or bad, I just wanted to be a good person. I think that takes a lot of pressure off the wins and losses -- worrying about other things that are more important than just riding motorcycles.
“Plus, everyone talks about being a champion and say that their goal is to win a championship. But really, there's not many with the experience of having actually done it... It's a very exclusive club. For me to go through what I went through, I think that makes me mentally stronger.
“There were times last season where things couldn't have gone worse, but I still grinded it out and got the job done. The confidence I gained by pulling things together even when they weren't going the way I needed them to is invaluable.”
The AFT Production Twins category is intended to serve as both a talent incubator and feeder series to groom future AFT SuperTwins stars. And yet its first champion -- a rider with premier-class podiums on his résumé -- almost immediately shifted his focus to a title defense rather than look to turn his 2019 success into a springboard back up the Big Show.
Texter said, “I think if I would have stayed on the path I was going -- if I would have won more races -- then maybe some teams would have looked at me and there might have been an opportunity. But for whatever reason, my whole career... I think there are people who still in the back of their minds are like, ‘Cory Texter, he can't get the job done.’
“I was on the podium multiple times as a privateer in the premier class one season. I proved time and time again that I have what it takes to beat the top guys, and I've still never been offered that elusive, no-worries factory ride or anything like that. And now I'm a little bit older and teams are looking at the younger riders and things like that.
“It's frustrating but it keeps me motivated. If I felt like people were all in on me... I don't know, maybe I wouldn't have as much drive as I have right now. I've beaten every single rider in the SuperTwins class at one time or another on various racetracks.
“I'd like to race SuperTwins if I had the right opportunity and right program to do it. I still think I have some unfinished business in that class. But I'm really happy with the team I'm riding for and the bike I'm on.”
That team is once again G&G Racing and the bike remains a Yamaha MT-07DT. The ‘Gs’ in the name represent father and son John and John “LJ” Gronek. Texter’s overall support has been beefed up as a result of last year’s title (Jerry Stinchfield, Holeshot Powersports, Alpinestars, Bell Powersports, Fredericktown Yamaha, Parts Unlimited, Drag Specialties, Motul USA, Kicker Personal Audio, and Stay The Course are among the backers), but it’s still very much a privateer effort.
The G&G Racing pit area proudly erected at the 2019 Meadowlands Mile.
That fact alone underlines the beauty of the Production Twins class.
Texter said, “The guys I ride for travel to the races in a van, and they built the bikes in their garage. And we beat a multi-million dollar team in Estenson Racing, and we beat the factory Harley guys. And we beat them consistently.
“It's not like we had to buy a $50,000 motorcycle. It's cool what the Production Twins class offers in allowing privateers to win races and earn championships. As long as AFT keeps the class on the path it’s on, I think it'll continue to grow. I don't want to see manufacturers buy their way into special treatment. Keep it production. Keep the rules cut and dried, black and white, so all the bikes remain equal, and I think it'll grow every year. I think this class is just what the sport needs.”
Tragically, while the team, bike, and rider all return in 2020 to defend their crown, there’s a major void -- mechanical and emotional -- that must be filled.
He explained, “Last November, Jon Reid, my best friend and my mechanic last year, was killed in an automobile accident.
Texter and the late Jon Reid celebrating sweet victory at the Texas Half-Mile.
“Jon went on the victory lap with me after my first win in Texas, and he was the first guy to hug me after I won the championship. Unfortunately, he's no longer with us. That's been really tough for me this offseason… just losing a best friend and somebody who believed in me and was constantly keeping me motivated.
“We have some other guys that are stepping up, some other friends of mine -- Julian Sparacino and Adam Renshaw. I can hire good mechanics. I can hire the best set-up guys or whatever. But for me where I'm at in my career, it’s just as important to have people around me on race days that I'm comfortable with. Guys I know want to be there to help me, not just to collect a paycheck. I like to have that family atmosphere on race day.”
Texter will have more opportunities to bask in that atmosphere in 2020 with the AFT Production Twins’ schedule expanding to include Short Tracks along with the preexisting slate of Miles and Half-Miles. In fact, he’ll open his title defense on the compressed battleground that is the Atlanta Short Track.
He’s primed to get after it following a long and productive winter.
“Honestly, guys probably say it all the time, but I feel really good this offseason -- even better than I did last year. I think my training was more structured this year, and I knew what I had to work on. In years past, I'd bounce around from different rides and different teams, and I didn't really have a structure. I just tried to get in good shape. But this offseason, I focused on things that I'm not very good at... things that bring me out of my comfort zone in order to teach this old dog new tricks.
“I've been doing a lot of motocross. I’ve moto’d a little bit here and there over the years, but now I'm moto-ing three times a week. And I've been doing a lot of mountain biking. I think it's really good cross training. I've never done either of those very consistently throughout my life. I've always been a gym guy, runner, road bike... but I'm trying to mix in some new things.
“As far as my riding goes, I feel really good. I train with Briar and Bronson Bauman, Jarod Vanderkooi, Brandon Robinson, and my sister (Shayna Texter). A lot of the times we go riding those guys kick my ass. It's similar to last year. But riding with fast guys all winter and the competitiveness we have with one another -- iron sharpens iron. I think it helps all of us. Just look at the results we all had last year. And it really helps that none of those guys are in my class; they offer me more advice than maybe they would if I was racing them.”
And yet, somehow, Texter senses he’s once again being overlooked and underestimated despite the fact that he’ll be the one to brandish the #1 plate when the AFT Production Twins line up in Georgia on March 28.
Perhaps Texter’s greatest trick is more like that of the Devil than an old dog.
“It's kind of funny,” he said. “This offseason, all the talk is about everyone else in Production Twins. I've been flying under the radar again. That's cool -- last year no one even picked me to be competitive, and I won the championship.
“That’s okay -- I like flying under the radar. I don't mind proving myself every time. I hear other champions talking about wanting to prove other people wrong. Well, I just want to prove myself right. I couldn't care less what everyone else thinks.”
A few days prior to the DAYTONA TT’s original date, Texter’s top-secret plan to race as a wild card in the premier-class opener was made public. Unfortunately, that plan was almost immediately derailed when the nation, like the larger world, effectively came to a screeching halt as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Rather than fly the flag for the AFT Production Twins class in the first-ever AFT SuperTwins race, Texter packed his bags and returned to Pennsylvania.
He said, “The Friday before DAYTONA was scheduled to go, I took my family back home. After training in Florida for six or seven weeks, I went home, got groceries, and just got things situated so I could be in control of what I can be in control of. Since then, I’ve just been sitting up here, training and trying to keep things rolling as much as I can.
“It's not too bad. I live right out of Lancaster City, which is suburb-y... I'm still allowed to go to a private motocross track I can ride at, and I can run and bicycle. I have a gym in my basement too. I'm just trying to utilize my time the best way I can and do things that the other guys might not be doing.”
Even though he’s retained the ability to keep his edge physically, it can be more challenging to remain sharp mentally, especially with so much still uncertain.
“It's really tough -- just to find the motivation. Everybody is so bummed out about life right now. Training is pretty much a lifestyle for me, but it can still be difficult to structure things when we don’t know how long this is going to last. Ideally, you’d want to ramp up your training, but you don't want to get burnt out from over-training either. I have ramped up my gym workouts a little bit, because I think I have some time to build up a little more strength. And I just try to ride as much as possible.
“My team has had some extra time to do some things with the bike that we didn't necessarily think we’d have enough time to do before -- more dyno work and things like. In that way, it was good to have a little more time. Obviously, under the circumstances, nothing was good about it, but it does allow them a little more time to prepare and get ready.”
Even prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Texter maintained a healthy perspective in balancing racing and life. This new reality has only further cemented that outlook.
Texter and son Cruise are often seen riding around the paddock along with Texter's wife Amber.
“I've always been a bigger picture kind of guy, and this is definitely bigger than racing right now. It bums me out for everybody, especially people losing their and everything else within the industry. I've been getting emails from sponsors saying, 'Hey, we're shut down. We can't send you product.' I come from a family-owned Harley dealership, so I know the struggles with the economy as well as anybody.
“And for me, as a professional athlete, it's tough. I rely on sponsorship so much. I can’t just eat hot dogs and mac and cheese to save money -- I have to focus on my nutrition. When you don't have any money coming in, it's tough, especially when we don't know for sure when we’ll be able to race again. But at the same time, I don't feel right to ask some of these people for money because they are struggling too.
“Like everyone else, I'm trying to come up with ways to just get through it.”