Everett Brashear was one of the top AMA dirt track racers of the 1950s. From 1952 to 1960, Brashear won a total of 15 AMA nationals and dozens of regional races. Four-time AMA Grand national Champion Carroll Resweber named Brashear as one of his major influences and he was generally acknowledged by his peers as one of the most talented riders of his time.
Born in Beaumont, Texas, on January 17, 1927, Brashear grew up with little interest in motorcycling. He first took up motorcycling after he left military service in 1946. He bought an Indian Scout and started racing on the street with his buddies. Brashear was 21 when he began racing in 1948. His budding career was delayed a bit after he was injured during his novice season of racing. Brashear recovered and got right back to racing. One of his closest racing buddies was Tommy Byars. The two learned to race on the rugged tracks all around Texas, Louisiana and Alabama.
In 1949, he was high-point rider in the novice ranks, a feat he repeated the next year as an amateur. 1951 was his first expert season, but he didn't make much of an impression. 1952 was a different story, however. Brashear broke through with his first national win at the half-mile track in Sturgis, South Dakota. It not only marked the first win for Brashear, it was also the first win for Harley-Davidson's new KR model race bike.
"That sort of made Harley pretty happy with me," Brashear recalled.
1953 was an incredible season for Brashear. No one was better on mile and half-mile dirt ovals. He won four nationals that year and was considered by most to be the rider to beat when the Grand National Series was instituted in 1954. Unfortunately for Brashear, he was seriously injured in a night race in Alabama in May of 1954. His bike sputtered and he pulled over to check it out. Another rider came around on the dimly lit track and hit Brashear. He suffered numerous injuries, including a serious head injury that left him into a coma for seven days.
Against all odds, Brashear bravely returned to racing in September of that year. He was fit enough to finish runner-up at the Indy Mile on September 1, and then came back the following weekend and won the Langhorne (Pennsylvania) 100. It was a triumphant return that inspired all who had the privilege to witness his comeback.
In 1955, his return was complete, and again he dominated many of the mile and half-mile races, winning five nationals. It proved to be Brashear's most successful season, yet he was lost the championship to rookie sensation Brad Andres, who was practically unbeatable in road racing events.
"I never really went to many road races," admits Brashear. "I would always go to some local flat track races to make a little extra money instead. Winning the championship wasn't that big of a deal back then. I wouldn't have made one dime more if I'd won the title."
So dominant was Brashear on the miles and half-miles, that his bike was claimed after one race. George Roeder, who was racing as an amateur at the time, ended up with the bike and found that it wasn't as great of a machine as everyone had thought.
"Everybody thought I had some special motor from the factory," said Brashear with a laugh. "Luckily, the bike they claimed that year didn't even have my best motor. The worst part of that deal was that I had to take the $1,000 that I got for the claimed bike and go to Milwaukee and buy another bike. Harley never reimbursed me the $1,000."
Brashear came back to win his second straight Springfield (Illinois) Mile in 1956 (right) along with another win at the Charity Newsies in Columbus, Ohio. He finished tied for fourth in the final standings that season.
At the end of the 1957 season, Brashear was, as he puts it, "canned" by Harley-Davidson after he rode a BSA to victory in several regional dirt track events.
"I didn't ride the BSA to make Harley upset. I was doing a favor for a dealer who put me up a lot during the racing season."
So in 1958, Brashear rode a BSA Gold Star in the Grand Nationals. It was ironic when Brashear, known as a tried-and-true Harley-Davidson rider, rode a BSA tuned by Tom Sifton, perhaps the best known Harley tuner of the time, to win what many called the best AMA Grand National of the era, the 1958 San Jose (California) Mile. In that race there were almost 50 lead changes among a tightly packed group of riders. On the last lap, Brashear made a perfect drive out of the final turn to nip Sammy Tanner and Carroll Resweber at the line. Brashear ended the '58 season in a tie with Dick Klamfoth for third place in the series standings.
Brashear returned to Harley-Davidson in 1959 but had a sub-par season. His best result was a fifth-place finish at the half-mile track in St. Paul, Minnesota, and he dropped out of the top 10 in the series standings for the first time since 1954, the year he sat out most of the year due to injury. Brashear, now 33, knew his days of racing were numbered. He retired from racing in 1960 and took a job for Triumph distributor Johnson Motors in California. His retirement was short-lived, however. He came back and won his final AMA national, the Sacramento (California) Mile on July 17, 1960.
Another bad crash in a county fair race at the end of the year convinced Brashear to give up racing again. He came back and raced select events for the next four years (actually earning his top finish in the Daytona 200, sixth, in 1964 on a Matchless), but had already moved on to life outside of racing.
Brashear went on to do just about every job in the motorcycle industry. For a short time, he ran a Harley-Davidson dealership. Then he was a district manager for Triumph, an insurance agent, eastern sales manager for Yamaha, national sales manager for Kawasaki, head of Husqvarna distribution and, finally, a representative for aftermarket manufacturers. In all, Brashear spent 47 years of his life in the motorcycle industry in one form or another.
Inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1998, Brashear is retired in San Diego, California, and is an avid golfer. He keeps busy with a small business that customizes and rebuilds golf clubs. He has four children and, as he says, a "bunch" of grandchildren. Brashear still takes time to occasionally make appearances at racing events around the country.
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