Thunder and lightning. Mashed potatoes and gravy. Peanut butter and jelly. Some things just go hand in hand. For those of us in the Midwest, frigid temps and parked rides can be a less desirable pairing we’re forced to contend with. That is, until the annual Midwest Extravaganza known as the Donnie Smith Bike & Car Show finally pulls us out of hibernation for the unofficial kickoff to riding season.
This year’s show, held March 24 and 25 at the St. Paul RiverCentre, got a jumpstart a day early with the first ever War of the Twins indoor flat track races in Minneapolis. It’s an event you couldn’t have paid us to miss!
War of the Twins Indoor Flat Track Races
It’s been 38 years since indoor flat track racing last made an appearance in the Twin Cities, but on Friday, March 23, the two picked up right where they had left off.
Technically the sport hopped the Mississippi, moving from the Minneapolis Armory to the Lee & Rose Warner Coliseum on the Minnesota State Fairgrounds. But the slew of legendary Twin Cities racers in the building and the excitement hanging in the air atop a thick cloud of exhaust indicated there wasn’t much that had changed since 1980.
Seasoned fans eager to relive the glory days of “The Indoors” at the Armory were among the first to fill seats for the mid-afternoon start of the qualifying heats. These early birds caught plenty of thrills and spills as racers fought hard to get a handle on the fine mist of soda syrup that had been sprayed onto the track the night before.
And it wasn’t long before the next wave of indoor flat track fans began filing into the Coliseum to fill in most of the remaining 5,250 seats that surrounded the track.
Racers in Pro Twin, Pro Single, Pro Hooligan, Amateur Hooligan, Vintage, Amateur Open and Mad Dog classes each took their turn at the line in a fast-paced production run almost entirely by Twin Cities racing’s old guard.
One surprise after another kept fans glued to their seats—albeit on the edge of them—throughout the main event. Taking your eyes off the track for just one moment could mean missing an insane moment like 12-year-old Corbin Erickson whooping the crap out of a bunch of old guys on his 250 in the Amateur Open class.
Even half time kept fans’ attention, as the legends of flat track retrieved their bikes from a single-file lineup on the inside of the oval to parade them around the track.
After a three-hour whirlwind of going fast, turning left and burning off plenty of rubber, racers left fans on a high that couldn’t be blamed on all the smoke.
The War of the Twins was one heck of a way to kick off the weekend of the Donnie Smith Bike & Car Show. And judging by all the race buzz that continued on the show floor the following two days, indoor flat track has carved out a permanent place in the lineup for the coming years.
We can’t wait to continue the tradition.
Relive the War of the Twins Indoor Flat Track Races or see what you missed by checking out the official 2018 recap video:
For more details on the War of the Twins Indoor Flat Track Races, visit IndoorFlatTrack.com.
The Donnie Smith Bike & Car Show
Moto mania continued at the St. Paul RiverCentre less than 12 hours after the conclusion of the inaugural War of the Twins for the 31st annual Donnie Smith Bike & Car Show. Between chatting with old friends, meeting new ones and checking out the insane variety of customizations, it would’ve been easy to spend way more than two full days drinking in the experience. So we did our best to pack in as much of everything as we could in the two days allotted.
Those still riding high on the excitement from the races got to feed their need for speed as soon as they got to the bottom of the escalator in Sturgis Buffalo Chip® display.
Show attendees learned about the Buffalo Chip’s Moto Stampede® race and concert series, and got to check out three different race machines.
For many, this was their first encounter with an Indian FTR750, the purpose-built racing machine ridden by the Indian Wrecking Crew in the American Flat Track series.
While the FTR750 is only available to the pros, anyone who rides on the track or the street could saddle up on this custom street hooligan. Many hoped to bring home this Indian Scout Sixty customized by J&P Cycle from the Buffalo Chip, and GEICO Motorcycle by registering to win it through the Moto Stampede Bike Giveaway.
Across the atrium, everyone took a turn spinning the prize wheel at the Dennis Kirk display.
Of course, a trip to the Donnie Smith Show wouldn’t be complete without stopping to get an autograph from the man himself.
This Donnie Smith original was a favorite in the display, stopping many dead in their tracks.
Current and future chopper-building legends met up at the Metzeler Motorcycle Tire display on both days of the show, with Sugar Bear and Kevin “Teach” Baas showing off an in-progress bike from Teach’s Lakeville North High School class that features a Sugar Bear Choppers front end.
The Pro Class
Some folks save the best for last, but it’s pretty easy to get sucked by the pros right off the bat.
Here were a few favorites from the pro carpet…
"Gilbzilla," the aptly named mutant 2005 blown twin cam HD Softail from Gilby’s Street Dept, took 1st place Pro Class Custom.
Dan Rognsvoog of Cabana Dan Customs never disappoints, and this turbo digger was no exception.
This big, bold, beautiful lay frame Road King from Curly’s Inc. brought home 1st place Baddest Bagger. Well deserved!
Photos just don't do this bike from Joe Kresnyak of Black Sun Designs justice. Fifty-two airbrushed pieces carried its intricate Queen Anne’s Revenge theme throughout the whole bike, with the exception of its gorgeous engraved and gold plated rocker boxes.
Dana Halberg of Deadline Customs definitely outdid himself with “The Goat.” 150+ custom parts including one-off 32” MAD wheels, Pingel wheelie bar, and Erector Set-style frame sure made us look twice. Not to mention the Hayabusa mill and big ol’ Garrett Turbo delivering over 600hp. Dang.
One of only a couple sidehacks on the show floor, this beautiful knucklehead Springer Softail from Dave Dupor of DD Custom Cycle brought home 1st place Open Class Antique.
A couple of over-the-top creations caught our eye in the Urban Bagger/American Bagger booth including this lay frame painted with over 25 distinct images from Kory Souza Originals that ended up landing Judges Choice.
It’s a good thing this rad HD XL 1200 from Lil’ Evil Inkorpor8ted didn’t have the keys in it, or we might’ve ridden off with it. It took Sportster Street 1st place.
Even for a rat bike, Jeff Smith’s ’71 CB750 was pretty surprising. It’s not every day you see a steering wheel, foot throttle and suicide shifter-mounted clutch. Of course, you gotta love the Hamm’s can fuel cap and Schlitz suspension covers too.
Every inch of Brett Myhre’s ‘72 CB750 was dripping with ‘70s flair, from the classic Harman spirder all the way to the velvet-upholstered seat.
Nick Cramer has had a hand in creating some pretty amazing bikes that have shown at Donnie Smith over the years. We’re a big fan of the super clean ’91 FXR he brought this year.
Greg Lew is all about keeping it classic on his panheads. Best Antique went to his 1965 (left) and 1st place Pan/Knucklehead Mild Custom went to his original tropical green-painted 1952 (right).
Anyone fighting for survival would be lucky to have Alan Hassler’s ’82 Yamaha Maxium with its paracord grips, .44 Mag topped and paracord-wrapped hand shifter, and ammo case bags.
Savannah Rose of S&S Cycle originally built this short chop Sporty in her kitchen for the Sturgis Buffalo Chip’s 2017 Motorcycles As Art™ exhibit, Old Iron - Young Blood, curated by Michael Lichter. Hats off to her for winning 1st place Open Class Custom Sportster on her first full build at her first ever Donnie Smith Show.
What’s your daily rider look like? It is if you’re Michael Prete, it looks like this ridiculous chopped copper Suzuki Intruder built from salvaged copper water pipes.
Flea from House of Kolor hit one out of the park with this Road King he painted for his wife. “Loca Rubia” or “Crazy Blonde” drew the attention of Dave and Jody Perewitz with its variegated gold leaf, silver leaf, ultra-fine pinstriping and the beautifully airbrushed faces on its front fender and tail. It took home the Perewitz Pick.
We knew Paul Dotten’s ’83 Caddy Coupe had some insane hydraulics. Luckily he was nearby when we took this shot to give us a demo. The thing can practically do a backflip.
This ‘63 Buick Riviera was absolutely mint—an impressive feat after being stolen from one of the Donnie Smith Show coordinators and completely trashed.
It’s the finishing touches that always make Jeff Fenske’s cars stand out to us at this show. We loved the patina on this ’72 Mercedes 220 as well as its bullet shell trim and lock mechanisms.
Built in just 30 days on a $3000 budget, ITW Hot Rod’s “Bugly” proved necessity is the mother of invention by combining a ‘64 Beetle front end, ‘37 Chevy Humpback rear and ‘65 Buick portholes on the hood. The inside is equally as interesting with a ‘58 TS10 470 Continental Cessna Motor, a monster 700 R4 engine, a boat throttle to control each carburetor, rear air ride, a custom built tube frame, and right hand drive.
So much beautiful detail on this 1960 VW Double Cab named “The Black Pearl.” The original factory body was decked out with hand-pained pearlescent graphics, and its custom ostrich leather interior just begged you to get inside.
It’d be easy to stare at this 1950 Mercury from Cavan Lasch all day. The pearlescent paint totally played tricks on your eyes, making the color change from deep blue to rich purple.
This ’59 Caddy convertible named “The Gambler” had us betting on red with its HOK custom fade topped with Roulette Red Kandy Shot, spoked red wheels, custom red paisley upholstery, and custom fab fiberglass console featuring an airbrushed mug shot of Frank Sinatra.
A GM front end, Dana 44 rear end and custom-built one-piece box with shaved handles made up the ultra cool Corvette Silver exterior of this 1950 Chevy pickup.
Although not an official show entry, a tiny remote-controlled pink Corvette piloted by a paraplegic therapy dog named Tia Marie deserves an honorable car show mention, as it turned just as many heads on the show floor as the competing cars.
More to Explore
Bikes and cars may get main billing at the Donnie Smith Bike & Car Show, but the Parts Extravaganza, Tattoo Expo, Budweiser Happy Hour and vendors alone make this show worth the trip.
The Tattoo Expo, held on the 3rd floor of the RiverCentre, grew considerably for its second year. The 30+ participating tattoo artists stayed busy throughout the two days inking attendees at their booths.
Judging by the number of parts from the swap thrown over shoulders on the show floor, there’ll be plenty of tinkering down in the coming months.
The Budweiser Happy Hour was extra bumpin’ this year…perhaps fueled by the round of 50 beers show promoter Neil Ryan bought at its start.
Relive the Donnie Smith Bike & Car Show or see what you missed by checking out the official 2018 recap video:
As we headed down the road the day after the show, an impending snowstorm was quick to remind us it could easily be another month before riding season fully took off. But with our cameras full of photos and our heads overflowing with inspiration, there are enough good memories to ride it out.
For more details on Donnie Smith Bike & Car Show, visit DonnieSmithBikeShow.com.
Presented by The Sturgis Buffalo Chip
Known as The Best Party Anywhere®, the Legendary Buffalo Chip believes festivals should be fun like a high five, reenergize you like a broken rule, and romance you like someone you just met and have to take home.
This nine-day festival remains one of the most televised festivals in the world and has been featured on the Travel Channel, the Discovery Channel, CMT Bike Week, HISTORY, TLC, National Geographic and more.