By Loretta Gillespie
The Cullman Times
Seth Hooper was exposed to racetracks from the time he was just a little boy of seven. The sound of engines revving, the smell of motor oil and hot tires, the checkered flags, grandstands full of excited fans…no wonder it rubbed off on him.
Seth’s dad, Scotty Hooper, started racing dirt bikes at the age of 19, then moved up to racecars and in 1992, started racing motorcycles.
Now both men race nitro bikes on the American Motorcycle Racing Association circuit (AMRA).
They might well be the only father/son championship team on record with the AMRA. Both have been traveling and winning since 1998. They won national championships every single year since then.
It must be inherited, because Seth’s son, Lucas, 3-and-a-half, goes full blast on a pint-sized four-wheeler and daughter Harlee Beth, 7, has a kids-size Razor.
Seth’s wife, Tina, works at the Surgery Center in Cullman, and attends races as her schedule permits.
Each season, beginning in March and wrapping up at the end of September, you’ll find the Hoopers on the road in their motorhome, trailing their bikes and followed by their crew. The next race on their schedule is in Bradenton, Fla., March 10. “We put about 40,000 miles on that motorhome every year,” said Scotty Hooper.
They will hit some of the biggest tracks in America, places like Phoenix, Arizona, Las Vegas, Nevada, Bakersfield, California, Bristol, Tennessee, Houston, Texas and all over Florida.
Seth has made friends from one end of the country to another through racing. His best bud, Chris Smith, of Nashville says that the camaraderie, spending time with friends and fellow racers, is important to Seth. “Seth loves being able to do something that most people cannot do mentally and physically. It helps him take the edge off from his stressful job,” said Smith, “And Seth loves competing against other people.”
The Hoopers race under the name Rooster Motorsports, sponsored by My-Way Transportation, S&L Leasing and H&H Farms. Vern Burbridge is crew chief for the Hoopers, on the nitro bike, with Allen Davis as crew chief on the top fuel bike. They run a six-man crew, including Steven Galati from Florida. “Johnny Vickers, owner of Hawaya Racing in Millers Creek, North Carolina, rebuilds our engines,” said Hooper.
With speeds up to 230 mph, this is a sport where only the best, most experienced drivers are in it for the long haul. “We pull about 4 Gs on initial takeoff every time, covering 60 feet in less than one second,” Scotty described.
Seth often says that the bike “whoops” him, referring to the fact that the bike accelerates so hard from the starting line that it leaves black and blue marks on his inner thighs from laying on top of it.
These guys have to know their equipment intimately; exactly what their bikes are capable of, the intricacies of each track, and perhaps most of all, their own strengths and weaknesses.
“I tell Seth that he needs to remember to breathe,” laughed Scotty. “It takes your breath and you have to remind yourself to breathe.”
Scotty knows the pitfalls of racing, having hit a wall himself, back in 2008. It was sort of like getting thrown off of a horse. He had to prove to himself that he could ride again — and he did. Now he takes every safety precaution for himself and his son. “We wear 40 pounds of leather for protection,” he explained. “We also wear bullet-proof vests in case of an explosion from the nitro, and the best helmets that money can buy.”
All that equipment is necessary. Seth practically sits on top of a 17-inch wheel, pulling 450 hp. “Just think about it like this,” explained Scotty. “A car weighs about 3,000 pounds and has four wheels. Seth’s weight, including the bike, is around 600 pounds, and he is riding on two wheels.”
At 54, Scotty has been racing for most of his life, as has Seth (who turned 33 last Thursday, Valentine’s Day) Scotty says that Seth still scares him sometimes. “He is the only son I’ve got,” Scotty said candidly. “I sure don’t want to see him hurt. That’s why we are so careful, we have a checklist and we go over and over it before each race. The main thing isn’t winning — it’s his safety.”
Scotty's own dad, the late J.W. Hooper, died when Scotty was only nine, so they never had the type of bond that he has with his son. Seth’s grandmother, Barbara Elsworth, and maternal grandparents Leon Goodwin (whose birthday is today) and the late Geraldean Goodwin were all afraid to watch Seth race. Seth is Goodwin’s only grandson with five granddaughters, and the stress of the race was just too much for them.
According to Scotty, racing is actually a great confidence-builder. “It helps you be confident in your daily life, in making decisions, in thinking clearly,” he said. “You learn to trust your decisions.”
“You have to think constantly in racing,” said Scotty. “We talk about different situations all the time, but there is really no way to prepare for an accident.”
Karen Hooper, Scotty wife and Seth mom has her own concerns about the dangers involved in racing. “I don't understand the need for speed but I do understand the need to be good at something that you enjoy. As much as I don't like seeing my son in danger, racing is something he enjoys and looks forward to.”
“He and his Dad get to spend quality time together at something they love,” Karen continued. “He has met some really nice people all over the states that will be friends for life. They share their stories, parts for the bikes, their elbow grease helping a fellow racer get ready at the track so as not to miss their pass on the track and the good times and bad on and off the tracks. As a mom, I stay humbled and on my knees praying that he stays safe. And as a mom, isn't that what all moms do — not only for their own children, but for others, too?”
Scotty agrees wholeheartedly. “This is a sport that brings you closer to God,” he said. “We say a prayer every time before a race, and again when we get to the finish line.”
“It humbles you,” said Scotty, softly.
For the Hooper’s 2013 schedule, follow this link: http://www.amraonline.com/Schedule.html
For more information visit: AMRAonline.com or www.mywaytrans.com
2007 Pro Eliminator 3rd Place National
2008 Pro Eliminator National Champion & Region 2 Champion
2010 Pro Eliminator & Super Gas 4th Place National
2011 Super Gas 5th Place National
2012 Pro Eliminator National Champion & Pro Rookie of the Year
8 Overall wins in Pro Eliminator and 4 R/U Finishes in Super Gas
6 All Time Records in Pro Eliminator and 4 All Time Records in Super Gas