At the beginning of the month I wrote a blog titled “The Motor Gear Industry Isn’t for the Timid”. If you haven’t read it yet, I would encourage you to do that and report back. If you’re thinking “Rob, you’re lucky I’m even here reading this blog, don’t give me additional homework”, I understand. The short version is this: Our customers are our friends, and we participate in a sport where injuries are part of the game. Seeing our friends get hurt has made for some somber days and anxious feelings - but all of those feelings combined couldn’t compare to what we’re feeling today.
Yesterday afternoon our friend Scott Briody was killed in a MotoAmerica Stock 1000 qualifying session at Brainerd International Raceway. I typed that line, stopped and reread it several times. It still doesn’t seem real. Tosha and I have cried a lot over the past 24 hours. For years we’ve talked about - and tried to prepare ourselves for - the seemingly inevitable circumstance of one of our customers passing away in competition but nothing could have prepared us for the loss of such a great person.
Honestly I don’t remember the first time we met Scott. Maybe it was two years ago? Three? It’s hard to pinpoint because if you were friends with Scott (which wasn’t difficult), you understand he was one to immediately welcome you in and offer whatever he had to you. Friends like this make such an impact so quickly that they make it easy to feel like they have just always been around, timeline be damned. In addition, the Innovative Motorsports pit has always been one of our favorite spots in the paddock because it’s full of great people. That shouldn’t come as a surprise since Innovative is Scott’s team and good people tend to surround themselves with good people. His family is no exception: Scott’s son, Reese owns REB Graphics and does vinyl and graphics for many of the MotoAmerica teams. His daughter Darian has become a regular at the track and every event we see her at she seems to be smiling more and more.
I have a lot of amazing memories of Scott, but my favorite one by far is from - ironically - last season at Brainerd. As usual, Tosha and I were hanging around the Innovative Motorsports rig as Scott was rounding everyone up to load into his F450 so he could shuttle us over to the Wheelie Bar for some fun. The Wheelie Bar is a highlight of the Brainerd facility, an on-site bar with a (you guessed it) racing theme.
As we prepared to leave for the bar, Scott pointed out my shirt. “How come I don’t have that Bison shirt?!”, he exclaimed. I looked down at my shirt, a simple black T with a huge white Bison logo on it. I explained to him that only three of these shirts existed, they were the first Bison shirts we ever had made and I owned all three. Scott didn’t care. “What’s it going to take for me to get that shirt? Not one of the others, THAT ONE. With your musk and all!” We all laughed so hard. I told him if he shaved his glorious beard into a fu manchu mustache that the shirt was his. I’ll be damned if he didn’t jump right on that offer. He earned that shirt, I joined him in shaving my face into a matching mustache and we piled into the pickup, headed for the Wheelie Bar looking… well, ridiculous.
We managed to snap a photo together with the mustaches, Scott and I faking super serious faces. Scott is holding his new shirt and I’m half naked. It’s one of my favorite track memories and photos of all time, and over the past 24 hours I have looked at it a lot. I smile, then I laugh, then I just start crying again. You see, we were supposed to repeat this and start a tradition this year by shaving our faces and raiding the Wheelie Bar again. We talked about it all year. We should literally be shaving our faces and laughing our asses off right now as I type this.
Scott had an impact on everyone, but not just with his goofiness and hilarity. The older he got, the more energy Scott shifted towards helping younger racers and new riders. In fact, our last conversation was at Laguna Seca as he was packing to leave the track and head for Brainerd. He had just finished up a day coaching riders at a Ducati track day and he couldn’t stop telling me how much he enjoyed it. Even though he spent the entire three days prior racing MotoAmerica, he was most excited about the coaching. Scott told me he was starting to enjoy coaching more than racing, and that this would probably be his last season racing so he could dedicate all of his efforts towards helping others race or improve their craft.
As we parted ways at Laguna Seca I helped him load a couple of huge boxes into his trailer to deliver to Brainerd for a fellow racer. There wasn’t much room left in the rig and Scott was exhausted from four days of riding, but he reorganized the front of the trailer and helped load the boxes up with a smile. He scoffed at the offer of paying him for delivering the boxes to the next event.
This season Scott started riding with Bison gear. At the risk of throwing shade at other riders, I have to say our discussion started quite differently from the conversations we’re used to having with pro racers. He told us he didn’t want anything free. He didn’t even really care to get a discount. He just wanted to help support our company because he understood how much money and time we were dedicating to being at the track to support him and his fellow racers. He valued what we were doing and his feeling was that paying for his gear was the least he could do.
Scott received his first Bison suit this year at MotoAmerica round 1 at Daytona. He was so excited, especially since his son Reese designed the American flag emblazoned layout. He didn’t ride with the new suit in practice or qualifying “just in case”. He wanted to keep it perfect for the race! Unfortunately Scott wasted no time “breaking the suit in” with a very fast crash in the first turn of the race, during which he tumbled and slid on every single panel of the suit. He jumped up and finished the race with a half-destroyed bike but he was so upset about the suit. I told him we’d fix that one up and get him another, but of course he insisted on paying for the new suit and any services rendered on the scuffed suit.
A couple rounds later at VIR, Scott was again sporting a fresh Bison suit. Following the race, Tosha and I spotted him standing alone outside Parc Ferme looking happy and rehydrating. Luckily I had the foresight to start recording video on my phone because the ensuing exchange was absolute gold. “They still look perfect!” Scott yelled, motioning to his leathers with a laugh and a huge smile. “That’s uncommon for me! I’m used to ordering a set for every round!” He gave Tosha a hug then wrapped it up with “Checkers or wreckers!” before jumping on the scooter with Anthony and heading back to the trailer.
It has taken me quite a bit longer than normal to write this blog. With each paragraph I type, I sit here, tears streaming and reflect about another memory of Scott. My wife, Tosha, is in Kansas while I am in California. Living in an RV, traveling the US and growing a business together, Tosha and I don’t ever spend more than a day apart. In addition, this is the first MotoAmerica event we’ve missed in almost three years. With those things in mind, we are struggling with this loss even more than normal. We’ve texted each other a lot and exchanged our favorite photos and memories of Scott. As I type this, Tosha just texted me a screenshot of a conversation between her and Scott’s daughter Darian in which Darian asked about the mustache photo. Tosha told her the story about the black shirt and Darian replied “I have that. He was wearing it yesterday. I took it out of the trailer because it smells like him. Not gonna wash it.” Aaaand I’m bawling again.
Okay but let’s all take a moment, regain our composure and remember: Scott passed away quickly doing something he truly loved. He wouldn’t want us to change our course or alter our lives due to his passing. Yesterday Tosha was trying to get a flight to Minnesota simply because she felt she needed to be there with everyone in the paddock. My response? I can hear Scott hollering at her with that loud, boisterous (yet lovable) New England accent, “Why the hell you gonna come all the way up here for?!”
This sport is beautiful and cruel, graceful and unforgiving all at once. As I’ve always said, we as riders all understand the risks when we climb aboard a motorcycle and we quietly know anytime we see someone off on one it could be the last. There’s a feeling that comes with riding that fine line of risk vs. reward that cannot be explained. Scott wasn’t out there competing for podiums. He was doing it because he loved it. All of it, on track and off. I don’t think he’d have wanted to go out any other way.
Checkers or wreckers, baby.