40 Years of ATV Racing at Pine Lake

ImageBelieve it or not the Fischer family and all the volunteers that have helped over the years have been putting ATV races on at Pine Lake in Ashtabula, Ohio for forty years!

40 years ago in 1969 Bill Fischer decided to hold six wheeler races at his extraordinary property he called Pine Lake. Bill with help from his wife Hoppy and kids Bud and Dave didn’t know it at the time but together they had given birth to a legacy that would later hold priceless memories for many ATV enthusiasts worldwide.

Their initial 6-wheeled racing effort launched organized ATV racing as we know it today. A few years later additional classes were formed to accommodate Tri Cart and DuneCycle 3-Wheelers. Soon after, when Honda’s new ATC 3-Wheelers hit the market, more classes were added. And when four wheelers hit the scene in 1985 Pine Lake embraced them with open arms. Even the Honda Odyssey class was a major hit at Pine Lake.

Over the years Pine Lake has seen over 10,000 6-wheeled, 3-wheeled and 4-wheeled ATV entries! In 40-years of dedication and commitment the Pine Lake event has nurtured the entire evolution of ATV racing. There isn’t another track that has this kind of history in our industry.

ImageLike many, I cut my teeth in this sport in Ashtabula. And like many, I too have several great memories at Pine Lake. That’s what this feature is all about. I talked to a bunch of loyal Pine Lake attendees and asked them when their first year was, why they come and best of all, what memories stand out over the years. Those three questions gathered some outstanding reading as you’ll see below.

Before you get started checking out what some of the diehard Pine Lakers had to say about the oldest ATV race in America, be sure to mark your calendars for this year’s 40th Anniversary event at Pine Lake. It’s round four of the AMA EDT Series July 24-26. Besides the race-action on the legendary Pine Lake track, several special attractions are included at this year’s race. Remember when they used to hold a one-hour hare scramble the same weekend as the National? If you do, I’m sure you’ll be happy to know the fun-filled and often muddy hare scramble race has returned this year. In addition, a special one-hour UTV hare scramble is also scheduled. A special presentation during the popular Saturday night party in the pavilion is planned, there’s said to be a few special guests in the announcing tower, I hear the event shirts are one of a kind must haves and much more. I hope Bill Fischer and crew gets an outstanding turn out for their 40th anniversary – they certainly disserve it. So whether you race or not, do you best to try to attend.
–I’ll see ya there.

ImageHarold Goodman
Since 1987

My first year was in ‘87. I race the 60cc Mod class. I think I finished like 18th or something. Since then I think I’ve only missed one year. We absolutely love Pine Lake. Everything is really kept up well here, the grass is mowed, there’s breakfast and dinner, swimming – you name it. They really accommodate people well here. I’ve had a lot of good times here for sure. This is where I raced my first ATV National and where I won my first Pro National in ’96. Since then I’ve won four times here in the Pro class. Pine Lake has been really good to me.

I don’t have one particular year that stands out, they’re all a ton of fun, but the Legends race was really cool. It was great to see Gary rip it up again. He was still as fast as he was when he retired.

ImageRon Baldwin
Since 1969

Well I live less than a mile away, so let’s see I got out of the service in ’55, [Laughing] so I would say I’ve been coming here since the mid fifties.

No matter who you talk to about TT racing and no matter where you are in the country, or world for that matter, if ATV TT racing is mentioned, you can count on them either being here or at least hearing about how great the place is. Pine Lake truly is world renown.

I forget what year it was, but I remember one year it rained really hard, since there was no lightning they kept racing. Somehow I got stuck manning a big firehouse by the lake. As the riders came off the track they lined up one after another so I would hose them and their machines down. Everyone was absolutely covered head to toe in mud. I couldn’t recognize anyone until I hosed them down. It wasn’t a race it was a sea of muddy spray that year.

ImageThe accommodations that the Fischers have made for people are unmatched. They let you come camp here a week in advance and don’t charge anything. They supply firewood, dinners, breakfast, swimming… People used to bring jet skis and have a ball on the lake. It’s probably the best ATV racing facility in the country and in my many years of going to tracks all over the country I haven’t seen anyone do more for the riders than the Fischers have. Over the long haul, it’s always been one of the cheapest at the gate to get in. Others have charged way more and don’t have nearly as much to offer. The Fischers could have made a ton of money over the years if they wanted to, but any profit that Bill made has been donated to the local fire department.

ImageSherri Presley
Since 1973

I’ve been helping with the event since 1982, but I’ve been coming since I was a little girl. It was our big summer vacation to spend two days camping out here at the lake every year.

The Fischers used to promote six wheeler races at the Ashtabula County Fairgrounds as well. That’s where I saw my first race. [Laughing] We sat on our neighbor’s roof and watched from there because we didn’t want to pay to get in.

My oldest memory of this place as a little kid was the year that Bud came and talked to us. They used to line the straight stretch with big hay bales which made for a great place to sit and watch. Bud Fischer crashed right in front of us, then sat and talked with us the entire race. I was like 9 or 10 at the time, so meeting Bud was like meeting God himself. He was this big time Pro six wheeler racer, and so friendly. That was the first time I met Bud.

ImageOver the years I’ve watched a lot of riders on this track. I like watching the riders with really good technique. Even of all the factory Honda guys that raced here, I think Aaron Ruple was my favorite to watch. He looked so good and rode so smooth, he made it look effortless.

I also remember the year five of us had to lift Duane Fischer’s bike over the fence so he could race. Back then Mr. Fischer closed the gates so you couldn’t go in or out when the big Sunday feature races were going on. Duane pulled an all-nighter at his house, which is just a few miles down the road, in order to get his bike ready for the main. Family or not, as far as Wild Man Fischer was concerned there were no exceptions for anyone, so we had someone distract him, and while he wasn’t looking we lifted Duane’s bike up and over the gate so he could race. Then during the race Duane was in second place, but on the last lap he waved to us and two guys slipped past while he was waving. [Laughing] He said that wave cost him a couple hundred bucks.

Another great memory was watching you [John Pellan] promoting the Legends 2000 race. You were just like a little kid in a candy store all weekend. It was so awesome to see so many heroes to so many people show up that day. And it all came together so well, my heart broke for you during that first lap when they were all actually out there racing again. That was a really neat moment.

ImageAnd on the other side was seeing the riders like Tim Helter that day. When he raced, Tim Helter was the big scary Kawasaki guy that no one seemed to like, but over the years we got to know him and found out he was actually a really-really great guy. To get to see him out there again with Sparks, White, Hart, Coe, Sundahl, Denton and all the others was so fulfilling. And to see how much he appreciated it was just awesome. I think he had an awful lot of respect for this place, and it was really cool to see him smile and take it all in at the legends race. After that race when you had a minute to really reflect on the day and what we accomplished, it was just an incredible memorable day that I won’t forget.

Mrs. Fischer loved to throw a party. They’ve had so many Halloweens and fun events here at Pine Lake. And they let us get married right here at the lake. We planted a tree that year so our kids and other people could enjoy the same tree at Pine Lake for years to come. [Laughing] It goes without saying, my wedding was another very special day at Pine Lake.

Also the year Hoppy [Bill Fischer’s wife] wasn’t here with us was hard. She died so quick it was a shock for all of us. Then in 2008, when Bill was in the hospital it was a tough year on all of us as well. It was the first race he missed. I know some people might view him as a mean old man with a gun (which he doesn’t carry anymore), but really he’s got a golden heart. He’s a genuine good person that would do anything for anyone. I saw him come in here, sit down and cry when that little boy got hurt in the pits, he just felt so bad. Hoppy was just as nice and giving, and they brought that up in their kids and also in all of us staff people too. They’re the most giving kindest people I’ve ever met and that’s why so many people have so many great memories here.

ImageKevin Presley
Since 1972

I’ve been coming here since I was a little kid. I remember when they used to have the tower on the other side of the track, the track was just grass and a big mud hole was purposely a part of the track. That was a long time ago.

There have been a lot of great memories here. I remember the year Al the Whipper jumped a six wheeler ramp to ramp. He jumped the first time and cleared it then did it again because it wasn’t dramatic enough, he wanted to roll it. They had the ABC Wide World of Sports here one year with the Goodyear blimp.

Another great memory that comes to mind is Bud’s shirt. He used to race a Springer 6-wheeler that he pretty much built himself. It looked the same every year and so did he. He wore the same blue shirt and black helmet for ten years straight. [Laughing] It’s funny looking back and showing someone those old photos of him. They ask what year that shot was taken. It could have been any year or decade for that matter. He literally looked the exact same for ten years straight.

ImageAs far as my own racing memories out here, 1985 was my best. I raced a 200X in the 200cc 3-Wheel Pro class against Curtis Sparks and finished third that year. That was a great memory. There were ton of 200Xs here in the mid eighties.

When I was done racing, I remember the year Bud came up and asked me if I wanted to flag. I said, uh….no, but did it anyway. I’ve been the flagger every since. That’s the way it works around here. You do a job one year and you’re stuck with it for decades. I do it once a year and that’s enough. Actually I enjoy it. There’s no one here, rider or staff member, that doesn’t enjoy doing their part. We all enjoy the event and are happy to help out.

ImageJimmy Elza
Since 1994
My first year at Ashtabula was 1994 I believe. I rode the 80 Mod class that year. I remember everyone telling me how nice of a place this was. When we pulled into the track I remember thinking, man they weren’t kidding. Between the awesome swimming, fun Saturday nights and sweet lemonade, this track would become one of my all time favorites.

It was more like a vacation than a race weekend. I also recorded my best pro class finish here back in 2000 with a third place behind Shane Hitt and Harold Goodman. My best memories from Pine Lake have to be from Old Man Fischer, what a character. He scared me to death that first year when he told me he was going to chain my bicycle to a tree. [Laughing] I was also with Sean Sermini one year in pre-staging. Serm went up to old man Fisher and told him how great the track was and how it was his favorite national. Old Man Fischer took a big drag off of his cigar and blew the smoke right in Serm’s face without saying a word. Classic!

ImageLouis Debarbieri
Since 1985

I started coming here right when the three wheelers were getting phased out. It’s just a friendly group of people here. People will give the shirt of their back to help one another. And the facility is fantastic. There’s swimming, camping – it’s like a vacation spot.

I think the best year was in 2000 when they had the Legends Race here. It was so cool to see Jimmy White out there again. He raced with me in the Plus 40 class that day besides his Legends class. It was really a memorable day to be on the line with him. He called me the next day at my restaurant and congratulated me for winning. It was probably one of my best moments in racing.

There have been a lot of great memories. I learned how to win at Pine Lake from Travis Spader, who had been coming here since the three wheelers days.

All in all, I think TT people are little more friendly than the motocross crowd. It doesn’t seem as cut throat, especially at Pine Lake. It’s my favorite for sure.

ImageDonny Banks
Since 1985

My favorite Ashtabula memories were in 2000 at the Legends race. I remember one of the funnier moments. We were all gathered together for a group photo. Curtis had this real serious look on his face. He said, “hey guys remember we’re older now and we all have to get up and go to work tomorrow, so let’s look out for one another and be careful out there.” When the light came on all hell broke loose. It was game on just like back in the day. No one cared what he said before the race. But yeah, that was probably one of my all time favorite times, the Legends race there.


ImageOne year Shane Hitt, Randy Howard and I were at Shane’s house getting ready to go to Pine Lake. We were testing motors, and I had a certain motor that a guy did for me. We were racing near Shane’s house. They just took off and left me. Shane had a dog named Lucky. He only had three legs. That son of a gun passed me right at the end of the road. So I knew right then it wasn’t going to be a good trip for me. Anyway, I think I put a different top end on to make it a little better, but I remember going down the big straight-a-way and Carol Brandt blew past me like I was standing still. Long story short I don’t think I even qualified for the National that weekend.


ImageTom and Ruth Farr
Since 1984

Let’s see the first time Timmy and Tommy raced here they were 12 and 14. They shared the same three wheeler, a Honda ATC 200S. We’ve been here every year since! We haven’t missed a year in 25 years now!

Those first two years were pretty memorable. Timmy went over the bars on the straight stretch. Then the next year he was coming out of the bowl and someone wrecked in front of him and he went over the bars again. Then the guy behind him ran over his head. His helmet protected him but it really scared us, so we certainly won’t forget that year. My daughter Julie shot the whole thing on video.

Another great year was in 2000 when the Legends Race was here. It was just a really neat year. Not only was it fantastic to see them race again, but to have Tommy and Timmy’s heroes hanging out with us in the pits was so cool.

ImageScott Carey
Since 1993

Pine Lake is the Daytona of ATV Racing. The place IS ATV racing as far as I’m concerned… ATV racing was born here 40 years ago.

Every year is a great one here at Pine Lake, but I would say my most memorable year was in 2004 when we finally won the Pro class. We were dialed in perfectly and Dave [Kister] rode a flawless race that day. I think we had five runner-up finishes here, so to finally get the big win was so awesome. I’ll never forget it.


ImageDave Kister
Since 1983
I’ve lived just around the corner for my whole life. I think my first year here was ’83 when it was still all three wheelers. My first race here was’86 on a new Honda Fourtrax 250R, which I got from Fischer’s Honda of course.

There are a lot of good memories here for sure. The first thing that comes to mind is all the years I finished second here. Whether it was Denton, Hitt, Goodman, Bakker or Timmy, every year I came close but for some reason could never pull off the big win. Seconds are good but I really wanted to finally win one. So I think the most memorable year for me was 2004 when I decided to race again after calling it quits for a few years. Scot (Carey) helped me out and somehow we finally put it altogether and won one. It was great. I sure won’t forget that one.

But every year, whether I’m racing or not it’s a tradition to come here and just hang out. The Saturday night party is always a good time, the facility is awesome and the people are great. I’m glad they’ve kept at it all these years.

ImageMark Stewart
Since 1970

I remember when a mud pit was part of the track. That’s how long I’ve been coming. The bowl used to be muddy and much deeper, but other than those two things the track was pretty close to what it is now. Boy, there’s a lot great memories here. I raced six wheelers and Dune Cycles three wheelers here back in ‘76 I think it was.

I’m from Sheffield and grew up only about three miles from the track. The first time I came to Pine Lake I was about ten years old. My mom and I were riding a couple dirt bikes around the property. We decided to ride around on the ATV track and out of nowhere Old Man Fischer came hauling around the corner in his truck with a gun in the back window. He came up on us and started driving circles around us. I remember being scared to death. My mom said to just stay still. Once he recognized who we were he drove off, but the stories of Wild Bill and his gun are true. One year I remember he pulled a guy out of his truck and was ready to beat him up for driving back and forth all over the place. Turns out he was handicapped! [Laughing]

Bill’s actually a great guy. Pine Lake hasn’t made him rich that’s for sure. The sole reason he and the Fischers have held events here for forty years is because people enjoy the opportunity so much. It’s really a legendary event and I’m happy to have been a part of it for all these years.

ImageThom Veety
Since 1988
This is absolutely my favorite track for taking TT photos. It’s got a really good variety for getting good shots.

I had been here a couple years and really enjoyed each year better than the last, so I wrote Mr. Fischer a letter saying I really enjoy the event and how it’s my favorite track in the country. The next year when I pulled in, he told me to get the hell out of here, I don’t want you here. I asked why. He said you wrote me a letter saying how much you hated this track, so I don’t want you here if you hate it so much. I said Bill, look at the letter again, you’re mistaken. I said it was my favorite track not the worst. Ever since then, we’ve gotten along real well.

There’s been so much good racing here and it’s such a great facility. The people that come here are really a good bunch. But, I think in the twenty years that I’ve been coming the best year was the big Legends Race here in 2000. That was just outstanding.

ImageZac Willett
Since 1997

My first race here was in ’97. I raced the 90cc Super Stock class. I grew up racing here. Every time I pull into Pine Lake it just triggers some good old memories of racing the mini class here against a bunch of riders that later became really good friends of mine, like Mark Kendall, Matt Bartosek…. Man, we used to duke it out wheel to wheel every year. It was a blast. We would come a week early and just act a fool, tear up the town and camp out in the pits. It was like going off to summer camp for us.

The track is also a ton of fun. Put it altogether and it’s just a great weekend. We haven’t missed a year. I would probably come to this one even if I wasn’t racing.

ImageKevin Bures
Since 1979
We raced six wheelers here. I think I was eight racing the Pee Wee class in one. I love coming here. The facility is outstanding, the people, the atmosphere, just everything.

One of my most memorable years was my first 250 B class win in 1994. It was great, there must have been about 60 of us, so it felt pretty good to pull that one off.


ImageAaron Reisig
Since 1991

Pine Lake is always a staple in our summer. We’re only three hours away so that helps too.

Pine Lake is great. For me I remember all the years of working up through the A classes, watching the likes of Shane Hitt and some of the other guys that were so dialed in here.

2008 was my first year racing the Pro class, so I would say ’08 is a pretty memorable Pine Lake year for me. I was wheel to wheel with Harold Goodman on the start. He had a wheel on me going into the first turn. Before the restart he came up and thanked me for not drilling him because he kind of slid out a little and I could have took over the lead if I did. I was just stoked to be in second and running with him. I don’t think there’s anyone out there that wants to end up hurting someone just to gain another spot. Anyway, it was nice to run with one of the best riders in ATV racing history.

I don’t like the guard rail they have now. I think they should cut a bunch of 55 gallon plastic barrels in half and fasten them to the railing so there’s a continuous cushion in case someone runs into the rail. In nearly twenty years of coming here, that’s probably the only negative thing I can think of. The place and the people that run the race are just outstanding. It’s the best.

ImageIan Ffitch
Since 1994
I first came to Pine Lake because it was part of the Nationals. Pine Lake is known throughout the world. It was a great experience and I found the track to be really challenging. It was really cool to be able to ride on the legendary Polish turn and through the infamous bowl.

A memory that stands out is when Tim Farr and I drove around the track in the PEP rental car. Tim launched the car out of the bowl lap after lap until we tore the underside up on it. He certainly didn’t go easy on that poor little rental.

Pine Lake is a great time, year after year. I never really got a great result there but loved coming. I truly do miss it from half around the world in New Zealand.

ImageKen Marcou
Since 1994

We’ve always loved the Pine Lake facility. It’s more relaxing and comfortable here than most tracks.

I have several great memories here. One that comes to mind is the year I first started racing the +30 class. There were a bunch of us, and some really good riders like Porter, Goggins, Evans… You had to qualify for the main event. I was riding a Honda chassis with a 500cc Suzuki engine. I ended up having a great weekend and wrapped up the championship here that year. That’s probably my most memorable year here.


ImageWell, I hope you enjoyed reading what some of the diehard Pine Lakers had to say about this incredible ATV experience. In part of Pine Lake’s 40th anniversary, be sure to check out our recent special feature: 6-Wheeler 40th Reunion at Pine Lake

And if you get a kick out of those really old school three wheelers, check out the interview I did with John Plessinger, creator of the Tri Cart, which went to market before Honda’s US 90 (later called the ATC) in 1969 – making it the first three wheeled ATV.

–That’s all for now, see ya at the races!

  • Tags:

  • Comments


    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

    ATV Scene.com