By Scot Harden
Climbing the Ranks: My First #1 Plate The magic of European Engineering and Casey Folks Enters My Life
The winter of 1971 marked an end to my first year of racing. I had only started racing in September, so it wasn't even a full year, yet I managed to earn the #28 in the Motorcycle Racing Association of Nevada's(MRAN) points championship for the year. I had some success, won a few novice races, had turned amateur and was looking forward to the start of the 1972 racing season. In the winter of that year something happened that had a huge impact on the direction of my life. Local MRAN #1 125cc racer, one of southern Nevada's best and co-owner of Sportsman Cycle Sales Casey Folks built a house just 1 mile down the road from mine in Paradise Valley. Back then we lived out in the "country" far from the Strip and center of Las Vegas surrounded by open desert and farmlands. I knew who Casey was because I had watched him race and knew he was a very accomplished rider and co-owner of Sportsman Cycle. Plus, he was pretty hard to miss, even back then he stood out in a crowd. Something about the flaming red hair, big ears and Australian Bush hat he wore after the races. During Christmas break as my friends gathered at the mini-mesa, the riding hangout behind my house in Paradise Valley, Casey showed up one day on the very first fiberglass tanked Penton 125cc Six Days to hit Las Vegas. He was out breaking it in when all us wannabes descended on him like locust. Little did I know Casey had been following my results and after a while he asked me if I wanted to take it for a test ride. I couldn't say "yes" fast enough. From the moment I let the clutch out I was transported into another dimension. Power, handling, suspension and most important of all the glorious sound it made, the ring-ding-ding that Pentons were famous for. It was like waking up in the future. I was hooked. It had twice everything my Suzuki had.
As soon as I got home, I started bugging my grandparents about getting one. Don't get me wrong I loved my Suzuki Duster but this was on a completely different level. The Duster was like Marlo Thomas (Star of "That Girl" on TV at the time) and the Penton was like Raquel Welch in One Million Years BC (let’s see how many of you know what I am talking about). In any case the sales job on my grandparents worked and we put a deposit down on one at Sportsman Cycle and waited. Unfortunately, Penton 125 Six Days were hard to come by and by March we still didn't have a bike and since I had recently turned expert, I desperately needed one. We eventually found one down at a Penton dealer in Needles owned by Danny Davis''s family. I remember the drive down to Needles like it was yesterday. It seemed like it took forever to get there and twice as long to get home and as soon as we unloaded it I was gone. I don't think I came home for a week except to get gas. I rode the wheels off that thing. As the year wore on, I realized how tough the 125 class was. There were some really good MRAN riders in those days. Danny Davis, Bobby Davidson, Pat Friel, JL Wray, Eric Elizondo, Ken Cameron, Jack Johnson (whenever he chose to ride one, he was mainly riding 250s by then going for overalls) and a bunch of other guys. I got better with each race, climbed up through the points standings and won my first MRAN #1 plate going all the way down to the final race of the year after a close points battle with Pat Friel clinching the championship at the final race of the year. Pat later became one of my best friends and mentor. He sponsored me at big races like the Las Vegas 400 and even gave me a job at his plastering company so I could pursue racing full time. During this period I entered my first professional race, the 1972 SNORE 250 where my teammate JL Wray came oh so close to winning the 125cc class. We got beat by defending SNORE 250 champs Casey Folks and Tom Scales by just 11 seconds after an epic back and forth battle over 7 hours where we never more than a few minutes apart. Not bad for two sixteen year-old, punk kids in their first pro race. 1972 was my first experience with Penton Motorcycles.
The Penton Six Days was a landmark bike in motorcycle history. Not a perfect bike but a great step in the right direction. Little did I know that I would get to know the Penton family and John Penton himself quite well and the we would become good friends and that I would play a significant role in the future of Penton and KTM motorcycles and work alongside Jack Penton. All that was far off in the future in the winter of 1971. I couldn't even imagine where motorcycling would take me back then. I was just in love with the feeling of riding a motorcycle across the desert and the tremendous sense of freedom and possibility it all meant. As I mentioned in Chapter 2 the late 60s/early 70s were a great time to be alive. It seemed like everything was possible and that even a young teenager living on a farm in the outback of Las Vegas could dream big dreams and that a dirt bike might just be the perfect vehicle to take you anywhere you wanted to go in life. Included are some photos of me in action on the bike. You will notice I am wearing my Sportsman Cycle race team jersey, something I was very proud to wear and a start of my long, close personal friendship and relationship with Casey Folks.