THE BEST OF JODY’S BOX: A MAN WHO LOVED RACING TOO MUCH TO EVER QUIT
BY JODY WEISEL
As a general rule, I don’t recommend meeting your heroes up close and personal. As much as we glorify them for their prowess on a motorcycle, they are often a disappointment in person. Being good on a motocross bike is not an automatic corollary to being a good person. Of course, there are exceptions— some of them exceptional.
Chuck “Feets” Minert was exceptional. He was a motorcycle superstar long before most of us were born. He was a factory BSA rider who won the biggest races in America, including the famous Catalina Grand Prix in 1956. Feets also raced the Daytona road race when it was held on the beach itself. He is one of only a handful of riders to have earned Grand National dirt track points and AMA National motocross points in the same year. When motocross became popular, Feets went to Europe to learn the ropes and came back to lead the BSA team during the 1970 Trans-AMA series. Feets’ Trans-AMA glory was immortalized by a cameo in Bruce Brown’s groundbreaking On Any Sunday movie. And, in the ultimate honor, BSA built a replica of his Catalina-winning bike and sold it to the public.
I first met Feets at Saddleback Park in the late 1970s. He was 46 years old, and I was a snot-nosed 30-year-old when I came upon Feets late in a moto as we headed down towards the road turn. I knew it was him, because he was on a BSA B50 (vintage even then), and I wanted to pass him—not just because I caught him, but because he was “Feets Minert.” I saw him as big game, a feather in my cap and a chance to say I passed one of the fastest men in America (and I planned to leave out the part about him being 16 years older than I was).
As we careened along the hillside towards the big, sweeping turn down by Santiago Canyon Road, I pulled up on his outside, but I couldn’t get my front wheel in front of his. He wasn’t blocking me as much as gently moving me over. Finally, I careened off the track as the cackle of the big BSA went on its merry way.
I went over to him in the pits to complain about his riding style, but he grabbed my hand in his giant paw and shook it firmly while saying, “Great fun! Great fun out there, wasn’t it?” I learned two things that day: never try to pass Feets Minert on the outside, and this guy was going to be my friend for the rest of my life—although, sadly, that meant for the rest of his life.
I’m proud to say that I came to think of Feets as a father figure, a brother in arms, a mentor, and, beyond a shadow of a doubt, the nicest, most honest and humble man I have ever met. Over the next 39 years Feets and I spent every weekend at the races and all of our spare time flying aerobatic airplanes together. As I write this we are coming up on the fourth anniversary of his death—October 24, 2016. I find it fitting to dedicate this space to him.
Feets loved motorcycle racing so much that he never stopped. When all of his contemporaries had hung up their leathers decades earlier, Feets kept right on racing. He raced his first race in 1947 and his last one 66 years later. A conservative estimate was that he raced 2500 races in his career. To the MXA wrecking crew, he was just one of the gang. He was quick-witted, honest to a fault and incredibly humble. Feets was gracious to everyone he met, but he never wanted any fuss made over him and turned down honors and awards in droves over the years, because, while he enjoyed what he had achieved during his Pro career, he didn’t think it was a big deal.
When I got the call that he had passed away at the age of 85, my heart sank. I had lost the hero I chased into that Saddleback turn 39 years ago and my dearest friend. And, the sport had lost a motocross hero who was larger than life—on the track and off it.
Every motocross racer should remember Feets Minert— not just because he was a famous factory racer whose photo was on the cover of magazines, but because he was a man who so loved motocross that he couldn’t quit.