Father's Day is supposed to entail sons and daughters doing some extra work for the old man. But at the races of the Alaska State Champion Motocross Series held at Twin Cities Raceway on Saturday and Sunday, many dads were hard at work for their young racers.
Tim Lee, 49, hosed down his son's motorcycle during a break on Sunday, while Zach, Tim's 16-year-old, joked around with another competitor.
The Lees, from Fairbanks, travel around Alaska to compete in motocross events.
The third and fourth races of the state championship series, hosted by the Kenai Peninsula Racing Lions, had heats for competitors of all ages.
Zach's solid on-track performance is usually made better by Tim's behind-the-scenes effort. This weekend, to accommodate Twin Cities Raceway's sweeping turns, Tim raised the front forks on Zach's yellow dirt bike.
"He didn't even know I did that," Tim said. Slowly, father is teaching son how to take care of his own equipment. But at the moment, Tim is happy to share the experience with Zach.
"I enjoy it," Tim said. "It keeps me busy."
Zach got into motocross because of his father.
"My dad bought me a bike, and I threw one leg over the seat and I was hooked. I loved it," Zach said.
Heather Sindorf, 21, also got into motocross because of her dad. Now she's a nine-year veteran.
"I saw the pictures of him riding and I thought that looked like fun," Sindorf said while taking down a tent that her family slept in over the weekend. She came from Big Lake for the event.
With years of experience, Sindorf said she's gained much more control of her bike. She said she had about an 80 percent chance of crashing when hitting a bump during her ride on Sunday morning, but she was able to stay on two wheels.
"I can get the machine to do what I want it to do," Sindorf said. Correcting mistakes has almost become second nature.
"It's instinct. I just thought about where the tires were and where they needed to be," Sindorf said.
After learning to ride because of her father, Sindorf has also learned the competitiveness that is a must in motocross.
"I'm almost faster than him now," Sindorf said about her riding, compared to her dad's.
Brandan Parra, 29, used to watch professional motocross with his father in California. Though his parents didn't have enough money to buy him a motorcycle, Parra's love for the sport never died.
After spending 10 years in the military, Parra was finally able to afford a bike for himself. He was also able to buy motorcycles for his two boys. Now, Parra considers himself a "race dad."
"I'm going to live my dream through them," Parra said in between fixing the chains on his sons's matching green and black bikes with his tattoo-covered arms. "I realize I can do it for fun, but for them, they're just starting out. I try to spend most of my time teaching them."
Parra may be a race dad, but he's also just dad -- and a proud one at that.
"Now they're progressing," said Parra, who lives in Anchorage. "I more or less just get to cheer them on. If they fall I'm able to dust them off and make sure they're OK and then send them back out there."
The youngest racers aren't thinking about their fathers when they're on the course, though. Valen Flaherty, 12, is just thinking about what he needs to do to win. For Flaherty, a Palmer resident, it's all about getting a quick start.
Unfortunately, "a kid on a Yamaha pushed me away."
The Yamaha's driver was 10-year-old Wes Compton.
"I got in his way," Compton boasted. "Coach says not to be scared of anything because if you go faster than them they are going to be the ones that crash."
Those coaches know what they're talking about. Tim Lee, Zach's dad, used to compete himself. But he got out of motocross after going over the handlebars during a race.
Though Tim says he worries about Zach getting seriously injured while riding, he's also seen his son come back from broken bones.
"It makes you more aggressive," Zach says of responding to injury. "You've been through it. You know how it feels."
Besides, even though Tim's competitiveness makes it a struggle to admit:
"Zach's a better racer than I was."
Andrew Waite can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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