FREDERICK, Md. (WDVM) — The roar of the dirt bike engines here at the Barbara Fritchie Classic could rival the sound of the fireworks being held at the Frederick Fairgrounds for the Fourth of July. While the country celebrates Independence Day, the historic race and the longstanding Frederick tradition also has a reason to celebrate.
Richard Riley, the owner of Fredericktown Yahama and long-time dirt bike racing enthusiast, has been running the Barbara Fritchie Classic since 1977. He explains the first running of the Barbara Frichie Classic happened in 1922 but the race did not receive its now iconic name until the 1950’s when the Frederick Lions Club took over operations.
“This is the oldest continuous running dirt track in the country, a lot of people don’t know that,” Riley explained. “We’ve been racing here in Frederick this particular race since 1922, and a tradition is kept up, and as long as we got an [sic] enthusiasm and we’ll do it. The racers want to race.”
The Barbara Fritchie Classic is celebrating 100 years of racing. The race not only holds a special place in the heart of the city of Frederick but also for the Texter and Varnes families who have all raced at the Great Frederick Fairgrounds.
Cory Texter began racing flat track dirt bikes at the Barbara Fritchie Classic in 2007. He comes from a racing family as his father competed in the race and his sister, Shayna Texter-Bauman who won the Barbara Fritchie Classic in 2008, have all raced on the historic track. Texter won the Barbara Fritchie Classic in 2018 but was even more excited for Sunday’s competition as his three-year-old son, Cruise, was competing in his first flat track race.
“It’s [a] really iconic racetrack. My dad raced here, my sister, she’s won here, I’ve won here, and my three-year-old son is actually racing today,” Texted said, beaming with pride. “It’s the first time I’ve ever raced on the same day as him. So this is exciting, hopefully, he can get a win as well so he can add his name to the record books too.”
Flat track racing has been in the Varnes family for three generations. Jimmy Varnes raced in his first Barbara Fritchie Classic in 1961. His son, Kevin, rode in his first race in 1990, and Jimmy’s grandson, Ryan, first suited up in the early 2000s. Jimmy says racing runs in his family’s blood. Kevin explained that while he was never able to race his father, he was able to share the experience with his own son, Ryan.
“That’s pretty fun, it’s something special. I got to race my son a little bit a few years back but now he’s a little bit faster,” Kevin Varnes said.
Ryan wishes he could suit up alongside his grandfather for a lap around the historic track.
“It’s pretty cool to have some history like that. I wish I could at least ride a track with my grandfather once,” Ryan said. “But that hasn’t happened yet but it’s pretty cool to be able to come to the track and say that my grandfather raced here as well.”
The race is especially important to Maryland native and 2019 Barbara Fritchie Classic champion, Brandon Price, who was happy to see fans in the grandstands after the race was unable to run in 2020 due to the pandemic.
“It’s just awesome to be in this atmosphere, just back in my home state, nothing better than that and it means a lot,” Price explained. “I’ve been coming here since I was 12 years old. So just coming here year after year and trying to get upfront and get wins is pretty awesome, have a historic race so close to my hometown.”
The Barbara Fritchie Classic first ran in 1922 and is looking forward to running next year for its 101st race. For more information on the flat track race, please visit their website or Facebook page.