Performance Profile: Kaley Johnson – 67J
The QCrew is serious about petrol-powered fun, and not just in the summer months. Regular readers of GoQCrew.com already met Kaley Johnson when we announced that the Ice Racer of the Year had joined the QCrew. Our Crew includes summer, winter, track, snow, and water champions – extreme weather… doesn’t bother us in the slightest.
Moderate weather, however, can sometime be a challenge.
The 2016/2017 Ice Racing season has been shortened by the intermittent thaws and freezes we experienced. We had a chance to talk to Kaley about it.
QCrew: The warm weather created a few postponements or cancellations of ice races this year. Were you able to get out on the ice?
Kaley: Yes, unfortunately my major ice race of the season, Ice Race Grand Championships, in Cadillac, MI was cancelled due to the warm weather along with a few other ice races I planned on. Although the end of the season was not so good for ice, my season started off a little earlier than the past few years. I was out riding on the ice the weekend before Christmas, whereas last year I did not get to ride on the ice until the middle of January. This let me get a lot of practice before racing started in the middle to end of January. I was able to compete in a couple of local races, but none of the District 14 races. I also ran the Lakeview 2 hour Endurance race for their Winter Fest with my brother as my partner, but unfortunately the clutch went out on my bike after the one hour mark. We do still ride if there is water on top of the ice as long as there is enough ice underneath. For the Lakeview Endurance race there was 12 inches of ice, but it was a very warm day causing the ice to be soft with a little water on top.
QCrew: It sounds like you are pretty comfortable in varying conditions – as long as the ice is strong enough to keep you on top, anyway. How long have you been riding? And how long and you been racing in competition?
Kaley: I’ve been ice racing for 10 years. When I first started out I only raced in the local races put on by the Muskegon Motorcycle Club, but slowly transitioned into attending the District 14 Ice Races and the Ice Race Grand Championships. My first year at the Ice Race Grand Championships was in 2010 and I finished 3rd in the 85cc Modified class. As you can guess it was quite a shock when I took my helmet off on the podium and no one knew who my family and I were and that I was a girl racer. From there on out my dad became very involved in taking my brother and me to all of the District 14 Ice Races throughout Michigan to compete with the best ice racers in the state. Over time we’ve kind of stepped back from attending all of the District 14 Ice Races due to the fact that most of them are on the opposite side of the state from where we live. My brother and I are able to get a lot more seat time in and ready for the Ice Race Grand Championships every year by riding on the lakes all day long that are within 5 minutes from our house instead of spending all morning and night in the car to race in a couple classes.
QCrew: Oh – so your whole family must be very much into motorcycles and racing?
Kaley: Yes, my family is also very involved with motorcycle racing. My dad, Stan Johnson, joined the Muskegon Motorcycle Club a while back and that is what got my brother, Kyle Johnson, started in racing. My brother had been on a bike for a while and my sister, Makenna Johnson, and I decided we wanted to try racing too. We started out hillclimbing as a family and eventually got into ice racing. About four years after we started ice racing, we began racing flat track in the summer instead of hillclimbing. My sister doesn’t race any more, but my brother has accomplished his dream of racing dirt bikes professionally. My brother got his professional license in 2013 and ended up driving all the way down to Daytona Beach, Florida to win the season opener at his first professional race ever. He had a successful first season, but ended up winning the Pro Singles Championship the following season in 2014. In 2015 he moved up to the GNC1 class and participated in the first ever X-Games Flat Track. He had a few get offs that season which put him out for a little while. He decided to take the 2016 season off from racing to recoup, but plans to come back strong in 2017 in the American Flat Track GNC2 class. Both of my parents are very supportive of my brother and I’s racing and make sure they are at every race.
QCrew: Wow, that’s fanstastic. Tell us about your bike(s)?
Kaley: I have two 2009 Honda 450’s and one 2017 Honda 450. I race the same bikes on the ice that I do on the dirt, just set them up differently. In the summer one of my 2009’s is set up more for half-miles whereas the other is set up more for short tracks and TT’s. I have not yet ridden the 2017 on the dirt, but loved the way it handled on the ice so I am excited to get on that on the dirt this upcoming summer.
QCrew: So, you will be racing flat track this summer?
Kaley: Definitely. I normally run about 15 races in the summer. For the most part I following the Steve Nace All-Star series because it follows my brothers professional schedule. It is easier on my parents for me to be racing around the same area as my brother especially when all of these races are out of state. The Steve Nace races usually fall the night before the professional races but on a different track. I also compete in a few District 14 races here and there when we want to spend a weekend closer to home. This past flat track season I went over to Canada to attend a few Flat Track Canada races for my first time ever and I really look forward to hopefully making it back over that way this summer. I have not yet started to prepare my bike, but plan to in the upcoming days. I will be racing my first race of the season in Pensacola, Florida the Saturday after my brother’s season opener on March 16 in Daytona Beach, Florida. I have not yet gotten any practice on the dirt yet this year, but hope to before I head down to Florida. Past years I have not gotten any practice before going to Florida, but with this unusual weather, I may be able to get out on the short track we have in our backyard before we head south. If the weather stays nice and the track is able to get dried out, I will be out there practicing to get a little bit more prepared for my first race of the season.
QCrew: How different is flat track vs ice racing? Which do you like the most?
Kaley: Although there are some differences between flat track and ice racing, it is very easy to go back and forth between the two. The major difference between the ice and dirt is that on the ice you are able to just get right on the gas coming out of the corner and your rear tire will stick and drive. However, on the dirt you have to roll the throttle on coming out of the corner or it will most likely high side you. Most people would think that the ice would be slippery and harder to ride than the dirt, but honestly you get more traction on the ice than you do the dirt. Due to all of the screws in the tires you are able to trust your tires going into the corner every time and the surface is always consistent, whereas on the dirt not all parts of the track are consistent. One corner may be dry and slippery and the other one could be tacky and hooked up. This is why it is hard to choose a favorite between the two. By the end of each season I am always ready for a change and to move onto the next type of racing.
QCrew: What does your sponsorship by Quicksilver mean to you and your racing? Do you actually use the products?
Kaley: The Quicksilver Powersports has been a huge help with my 2017 racing season. They have provided me with a wide range of their products along with a new jacket to wear ice racing and a set of leathers to wear flat track racing in the summer. As all of the expenses of racing add up quickly, it is great to have companies like Quicksilver Powersports jump on board and help riders out. I do use the productsin my bikes and they run great. Along with the great products that Quicksilver provides, the QCrew members are very caring, take good care of me, and make sure that I have everything I need.
QCrew: Thanks for taking the time to share with us, Kaley. We’re really looking forward to following your success this season!
Credit for some of the included photos to Brian Caswell (SPEEDSHOT PHOTOGRAPHY)