Lisa and Barry Bauman: Proud Parents

Ask any parent and they’ll tell you straight out: There’s no stronger feeling in the world than a parent’s love for a child. Parents may have trouble explaining the depths of the bond, or why the feelings are so intensely visceral. But they’re there, deep down. Parents just know it. They feel it.

Lisa and Barry Bauman are no different. The couple from Salinas, California, who originally met in grade school, have two boys they simply adore, and like most parents have tried to do all the right things while bringing them up: behave, help others, get good grades, do your chores, treat others as you’d like to be treated, be honest, respect your elders, work hard, be fair.

Basically, be good people.

And their boys Briar (23) and Bronson (21) have, with very few exceptions, done that.

But the brothers Bauman have pushed a little harder and ridden a little farther than your average brothers. On top of being good people and responsible young men they’ve also excelled in the sport of motorcycle dirt track racing – and have now positioned themselves at the very top of the professional ranks, finding themselves in 2019 in the unlikely position of being factory rider teammates on the sport’s most dominant team – Indian Motorcycle.

Given the rarity of factory rides, and the otherworldly talent it takes to actually get one, it’s a truly astonishing thing.

The Bauman Brothers' debut as Indian Motorcycle factory teammates happened at Daytona in March, with Briar (left) winning and Bronson (right) grabbing fifth. Not a bad start. Brian J. Nelson photo.

It’s not lost on Lisa and Barry, either.

“For us it’s a dream come true,” says Barry. “Honestly, it’s cloud nine stuff. Parents always want the best for their kids, want them to succeed, and be happy in what they’re doing. But this has been over the top, for them and for us. Especially given the obstacles and frustration of last year.”

Last year was an absolutely rollercoaster year for the brothers, both dealing with frustration and sweeping changes to their teams and motorcycles. Bronson nearly left racing altogether, quitting his team mid-season and racing out of the back of his van by himself with his own money – and a little help from Weirbach Racing. And Briar, teamed with Dave Zanotti and Michelle DiSalvo, changed from Kawasakis to Indian motorcycles mid-season after suffering a host of disappointing finishes and mechanical issues with their Kaw engines.

Briar Bauman dominated the 3rd annual DAYTONA TT on March 14 with a winning margin of more than five seconds over runner-up - and TT phenom - Henry Wiles. Bauman is currently leading the AFT Twins presented by Vance & Hines series. Brian J. Nelson photo.

But fortunes would turn suddenly for both riders. Briar went on a tear, scoring seven top-six finishes with a runner up at Peoria and a win at Williams Grove. He’d have nabbed a second win at Minnesota had he not run out of fuel in the closing laps, and might even have beaten Bryan Smith, Jared Mees and Jeffrey Carver Jr. at the Meadowlands finale had he not run out of tear-offs. Still teamed with Zanotti and DiSalvo, Bauman was arguably the fastest AFT Twins rider in the last few races of the season.

Bronson, as most know, was invited by the injured Brad Baker to fill in on Baker’s factory Indian at the Buffalo Chip TT and Black Hills Half-Mile in August – and did well, finishing fifth and sixth, respectively. Bronson’s deal was week-to-week at first, at least until his high finishes throughout the balance of the season (a fifth, two sixths and a second at Williams Grove) registered with Indian’s Gary Gray, who began to take a much more serious look at the younger Bauman – eventually offering him a factory spot alongside Briar during the off-season.

A bit of early-season inconsistency has brother Bronson 10th overall in the championship chase prior to the So-Cal round, but given his speed on the Indian FTR in the latter half of last year he's expected to inch his way up the leaderboard in 2019. Photo by Brian J. Nelson 

“Barry and I have seen a lot of racing over the years,” Lisa says, “and 2018 was pretty turbulent, especially at first. But things turned out wonderfully for the boys in the second half of the season and over the winter break, and we couldn’t be any happier for them.”

“Absolutely,” adds Barry. “Having them together, on that team, headed by Dave [Zanotti] with Michelle [DiSalvo] helping and the Indian factory behind them? Wow. You really can’t ask for more than that. It’s just amazing.”

Briar and Bronson got into motorcycles reasonably early and started racing at 9 and 7, respectively [Briar is older by 22 months]. They quickly left most boyhood pursuits behind (Briar was an especially good baseball player), hooked on the action and excitement of the central-California dirt tracks.

“Their first race was a Ricky Graham memorial meet in King City, California,” remembers Barry. “And it was actually Lisa’s idea. I’d ridden motorcycles and three-wheel ATVs and street bikes for many years and had had my brushes with crashes and near-misses, one with a girlfriend on the back in my younger days, so I knew the dangers. As a parent, you never really want your flesh and blood exposed to that, so I was pretty hesitant. Of course, Lisa said, ‘we need to do this,’ so we did. The boys were still playing Little League baseball at the time. They loved the racing immediately and wanted to quit baseball right there and then. I told them they couldn’t quit mid-season, although I could see they didn’t have the love of the game as I did [Barry played high school and semi-pro ball for many years ].

The brothers Bauman in their central-California early days, when going racing was inextricably linked to good grades, doing chores and being respectful of adults. Bauman archive.

“So Lisa and I set up some rules about racing. We’d always emphasized a work-first/play-later mentality – homework, grades, chores, etc. – and that’s how we moved ahead with the racing. We told them that if they wanted to race – and I’ll tell ya, they wanted to race every weekend – they had to maintain a B average, be respectful of teachers and adults, do their chores, all that.”

“We used the racing as leverage,” adds Lisa. “And for the most part it worked! They were really good about it. Of course, they’re good kids anyway, but they were pretty strong-willed at times. Especially Bronson. We couldn’t afford daycare when he was small, so he stayed with me, and I even opened my own daycare facility. Anyway, when he got into Kinderdarten and didn’t like what the teachers were telling him, he wouldn’t listen, and he’d say, ‘you’re not my mom!’ [Laughs] That didn’t go over too well…we had to work on that a little!”

Nattily-attired Briar posing for Mom and Dad with his roomful of trophies and championship plaques. Bauman archive.

After that first race at King City, the racing scene expanded rapidly for the boys – and for Lisa and Barry. “I ran into a high school friend at the Ricky Graham race named Bobby Caldera,” remembers Barry. “His kids were racing a lot at the time, and that evening he said, ‘Hey, we’re going to Lodi tomorrow. You should follow us up and come racing.’ So I said, ‘What’s Lodi, and where is it?’ He just laughed. We ended up going, and wow…that really opened our eyes, so we kept going, doing short track and TT races up there, and traveling to local and regional races after that. We did the Barn Series thing in Chowchilla, the Eddie Mulder Series, a whole lot of different tracks.

Brother Bronson, not to be outdone regarding trophy and championship heft as well as his ability to dress the part. Looking good! Bauman archive.

“We didn’t do any motocross in those days,” Barry added. “I was still a little gun-shy about them getting hurt or getting landed on off a jump. So when Rod Lake got the boys dirt bikes a couple of years later we padded them up with every possible piece of safety gear – bull-riding vests, Leatt braces, pads everywhere, the whole shebang. The off-road stuff ended up being a lot of fun, and I even got back on a bike and started riding with them. Nowadays, of course, the boys ride moto pretty often to train. And of course I still worry.”

These days it’s hard to mention Briar Bauman and not mention his also-successful girlfriend Shayna Texter – who, like Briar (and now Bronson) – has carved out her own special place in the annals of professional dirt track racing. “We just love Shayna,” says Barry. “She’s like a daughter to us, and she’s been so great for Briar, especially on a professional level. I think she’s taught him a lot – how to deal with sponsors, the ins and outs of being a pro at this high level, etc. It’s funny, but I remember the day I believe she took notice of him. I could be wrong here, and she’ll probably correct me if I am [laughs], but we were at Peoria, and Ronnie Brown was wrenching on Briar’s bike, and I noticed Shayna eyeballing him in a different way. I don’t think it was too long after that they got together.

Briar and Shayna Texter went at it pretty much all race long at the 2011 Knoxville National. Texter took the win, her first-ever National victory and....

“I remember the day she got her first win at Knoxville, too,” Barry adds, “back in 2011. She and Briar battled pretty much the whole race. She moved him over in turn three, and he bumped her back a little later to re-take the lead. This was pretty early in his first professional season, maybe his third race? Anyway, she came back to win, which was her first National win, which I didn’t know about right as it happened. But the crowd … wow, they just went nuts. It was a phenomenal ride. When Briar was interviewed after the race he seemed as happy as she was. I remember him saying something like, ‘Once I got out in the lead I sensed someone about to pass me, and I figured it was James Rispoli… and suddenly there was this ponytail flyin’ in the wind!’ Well, the crowd went crazy at that.”

...the first-ever Main Event win for a woman in Grand National competition. Afterward, Briar was nearly as happy as Shayna. That's third-place finisher Michael Toon on the right.

Barry mentions ‘danger’ and ‘worry’ pretty often when he speaks about motorcycling, and he has the crashes and near-misses on ATVs and streetbikes as a young man as backup. But when he and Lisa are asked about danger and their sons’ involvement in a sport with obvious risks, they’re suddenly quiet.

“I pray a lot,” says Lisa softly. “In the early days I couldn’t even watch, which I guess is ironic since it was me who pushed this racing thing with the kids early on. You know, as a parent you love your kids so much. So much. More than a spouse, or a sister or brother. That’s a special bond. A greater love. So it’s hard. It scares the heck out of ya. Did I mention I pray a lot?”

“It’s hard to talk about,” echoes Barry. “But you know, there are shootings and car accidents and all sorts of dangers just living your life every day, and you don’t have much control over that. We’ve talked about this with the boys. They know the dangers, the reality. We’ve seen some kids pass away in our years in racing. It happens. But in the end, and we talk about this, whatever happens, they are doing something they dearly love, and I think that makes a big difference. I also think the Twins riders take pretty good care of one another out there due to the high levels of respect among them. That doesn’t mean it’s safe, but I believe they understand and acknowledge the limits of what’s acceptable and what’s not a little more than the generally younger and generally less-experienced Singles riders do.”

At Daytona, Briar treated his mom Lisa to a victory lap, which she seemed to thoroughly enjoy. "I couldn't watch in the early days," she says, "even though I wanted them to race. I knew how much they loved the sport." Photo by Brian J. Nelson

“While we were hammering on and pressuring the kids back when they were younger,” says Lisa, “Barry made good-natured fun of me though some of it, and we laughed about it a lot. But like most parents we simply wanted to raise good boys and good men. We wanted strong, independent and well-rounded young men, and we put that pressure on them to be that way. You need to do this. And that. And don’t do that. And they did it. It’s paid off. They’re really confident this year, too; we haven’t seen that since they were younger. We’re extremely proud of them.

“It’s really quite rewarding,’ she adds. “But what’s even more rewarding, I think, is when I hear from friends or fans or even strangers, who say, ‘You have the greatest kids! They’re so polite, so nice.’ It makes you feel great to hear that. It’s like Barry’s Mom says… ‘that’s your report card!’ It’s really great to hear.”

“And hey,” Barry adds with a laugh, “it tells us we didn’t completely fail as parents!”

No, Mr. and Mrs. Bauman, you certainly did not.