Speed Freaks

Phoenix has long held the title of "speed capital of the West," though not for reasons that make any of us proud. Thankfully, some people are trying to lend new meaning to that label. Racing sports such as NASCAR, Supercross and motorcycle road-racing are becoming more popular nationwide, even meriting their own cable channel, SpeedVision. Turn on SpeedVision on a Sunday, and you just might see Phoenician Eric Haugo on his Suzuki GSXR 750 racing around Daytona at 160 mph for the local Huge Industries team.

Haugo is currently the only rider for Huge Industries, the team (as it were) founded by English expatriate Mark Chisholm. Having ridden street bikes since age 15, Chisholm was drawn to the California SuperBike School, where he learned the intricacies of track racing. "That was it, I was hooked," he says. After a motorcycle vacation to Phoenix 12 years ago, he relocated here and started Huge Industries, a motorcycle parts distributorship.

Chisholm began sponsoring riders in national competitions two years ago. He started with one rider, sinking money into track time, tires (which cost $250 to $350 a pair, going through three or four pairs per weekend), fuel (at $10 to $18 per gallon) and other expenses.

"This was a fast local guy who had only been to one or two nationals," Chisholm says. "The riders need someone to help them out . . . to believe in them, that they can be more than a fast local guy."

At the start of this year's racing season, Huge Industries had three riders on its team, but that wasn't to last. After using Huge's resources to get to a major race at Daytona, two-thirds of the team, including Huge's initial beneficiary, defected to start its own team. This was understandably a blow to Chisholm. "Riders can be unreliable and flaky," he says. "But they're not usually deliberately malicious."

That leaves Huge with Haugo, who placed ninth nationally in last year's Formula Extreme class. Chisholm hopes to sign Vincent Haskevec, a Czechoslovakian rider from Los Angeles (whose leathers read "Czech This" across the ass), but for now his attention is focused on Haugo, who usually finishes in the teens, earning purses between $500 and $1,000 per race.

"At this level it doesn't pay the overhead," Chisholm says. To finish in the top 10, it's almost requisite that riders be factory-backed instead of riding for small, private companies. For a privateer, as small-team riders are called, Haugo's success has been phenomenal.

Haugo races this weekend at the CCS Southwest Regional Championship Series at Firebird International Raceway, as does Chisholm. "I haven't been out in a while, so I might as well embarrass myself," he says, laughing. Even at the business end of it, speed is a tough addiction to kick.

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Brendan Joel Kelley