The Barbara Fritchie Classic’s past two champions, Brandon Price and Cory Texter, are expected to compete in this year’s race at the Frederick Fairgrounds.
Those were the first names race organizer-sponsor Richard Riley mentioned when listing early entrants for Sunday’s event, and for good reason. It’s always noteworthy when former Barbara Fritchie champs return to Frederick for the annual Fourth of July race.
This year, though, the most noteworthy return happens to be the race itself.
Canceled last year because of the coronavirus pandemic, the Barbara Fritchie Classic will be held once again on the half-mile, oval, dirt track at Frederick, just in time to mark its 100th year as a Frederick tradition.
“And now it’s back,” he said. “So we’ve got a lot of excitement.”
The race has been a local mainstay since it was first held at the Frederick Fairgrounds in 1922, and its history has been thoroughly documented in Ted Ellis’s book, “100 Years of Flat Track Racing: The Barbara Fritchie Classic Frederick, Maryland,” which was published late last year.
Granted, 2019 wasn’t the only year the Fritchie Classic was canceled. Cataclysmic events, such as World War II and the Great Depression, as well as rain have forced the race to get called off.
But the Barbara Fritchie Classic always bounced back. As Riley said, it has stood the test of time.
This year, the Frederick Fairgrounds will host a concert and fireworks after the Fritchie Classic. Riley hoped those additional holiday activities might draw some new families to the race.
“We’re seeing a lot more younger kids starting to show up in the stands,” he said. “More families of 25-, 35-, 40-year-olds starting to get interested in this because it’s a very exciting sport, very risky as well.
“But it’s something that you don’t see every day,” he said. “It’s America’s most extreme sport, it is how the American Flat Track guys do it.”
While the race doesn’t typically feature a slew of the sport’s biggest names, it has proved to be a training ground for future stars.
“We’ve got some of the best amateurs and up-and-comers. They start up, they cut their teeth on these tracks,” Riley said. “They climb the ladder here, and sometimes they come back and entertain us.”
Price is one such rider. In 2019, aside from enjoying a fine rookie season in the American Flat Track Twins series, he won his first main event checkered flag at the Fritchie Classic, which is part of the Steve Nace American All-Star National Flat Track Series.
Nineteen years old at the time, Price became the first Marylander — he was born in Sparks and resided in White Hall — to win the race in 30 years. He also was the first rider in at least 50 years to win the event on an Indian motorcycle.
Price beat four-time Fritchie champ Sammy Halbert and Texter, who won the main event in Frederick in 2018.
Aside from Price and Texter, others already signed up to compete in this year’s Fritchie Classic are Ryan Varnes and Cameron Smith.
“These are all guys that are in the Grand National program, and we have some real good professional guys,” Riley said. “Now we have some extra money donated by the local community, we have almost 15,000 dollars of purse money, so hopefully we’ll have other good riders that signed up.”
The Charles E Bristor Fast for Freedom Barbara Fritchie Bonus will provide bonus purse money for top five finishers in All Star Twins and All Star Singles to honor Charles E Bristor, a decorated veteran of the U.S. Army Air Forces who fought in World War II. Charles Bristor’s nephew Billy Bristor provided that money.
A new class featured this year is called Hooligans, which allows racers to compete on street bikes.
“They have to be qualified, they have to have a racing license, but they can take this bike right off the street,” Riley said. “”These are not truly professional racers, and they are going to come out on this equipment.”
Since its first running, the Barbara Fritchie Classic has become firmly entrenched as a Fourth of July tradition in Frederick. Originally called the Delphey Classic because brothers J. Paul Delphey and Chester Delphey started it, the race eventually was renamed the Barbara Fritchie Classic.
Ellis’ book delves into the race’s extensive past.
“The book really puts all the history together in a readable format, written by a serious enthusiast who is a good writer,” Riley said. “It’ll hold your attention if you have the least bit of interest in motorcycles and particularly this Barbara Fritchie Classic that has stood the test of time.”
NOTES — Aside from All Star Twins, All Star Singles and Hooligans (18 years and older), other classes at this year’s Barbara Fritchie Classic are Super Singles, 450 Amateur, Senior 40+, 250 Amateur, Open Singles Amateur and Vintage (1984 and older). Front gate for spectators opens at 10 a.m., races start at noon and finals are scheduled for 3 p.m. Tickets for adults cost $20 and $10 for children ages 7 to 12, while children 6 and under can enter free with a paying adult.