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SPORTS WEEKEND

Brant Is Back on Track at Speedway

Motorsports: He returns from Army hitch to find some things have changed in the sport he has competed in since childhood.

July 30, 1999|DAN ARRITT | TIMES STAFF WRITER

It has taken a series of left turns, but Scott Brant is back where he started.

Returning to the weekly speedway racing program at the Orange County Fairgrounds in Costa Mesa this season is like a second tour of duty for Brant, who spent four years in the Army before his discharge last August.

"There were times I was wondering what the heck I was doing [in the Army]," said Brant, 30. "I'm glad I'm out now, but I'm glad I did it. It was a good experience and it taught me a lot about myself and what I'm capable of."

Brant decided to give the military a shot after running into a brick wall trying to find an entry-level job outside of racing. Growing up in Reno and Orange County--he graduated from Edison High--all Brant ever wanted to do was race motorcycles for a living.

He started racing when he was 8 and was so obsessed with the sport, he skipped his high school graduation ceremonies in 1987 so he could race at Ascot Park. Brant competed at Costa Mesa and other local venues until 1992, when he attempted to race professionally in Europe, but was denied a work permit.

"My whole ambition was to go to Europe," he said. "I had a team, I had a contract, but wasn't able to get a work permit because so many European riders were out of work."

After getting turned down again for the 1993 season, Brant quit riding and spent eight months trying to find a job. Any job.

"No one would hire me," Brant said. "I was 25 years old and the only job I ever had was speedway racing."

Brant was convinced his age and lack of skills were preventing him from securing employment, and was essentially told so by one interviewer. He was sitting home pondering his future one day when joining the military came to mind.

"I knew absolutely nothing about the military," Brant said. 'But it sounded good, it sounded like something to try."

Brant, who was divorced at the time, left two sons behind in California and spent his first Christmas without family in the barracks at Fort Stewart in Georgia. Brant was trained as a motor transport officer and remained at Fort Stewart the entire four years.

On occasion, he would watch a videotape of his racing days and get a chuckle from the amazed reaction of his fellow soldiers. He never planned on returning to racing once his service had ended, but after watching all six rounds of the 1997 European Grand Prix on satellite, he felt the urge to come back.

"This tape was about a year old, but I was watching guys I grew up racing with, like Billy Hammil and Greg Hancock, and it got the butterflies going again," Brant said.

Brant had a good source to help him reacquire the necessary racing equipment. His father owns Costa Mesa-based Brant Engineering, which specializes in importing speedway motorcycle equipment from Europe.

Brant, who lives in Riverside, returned to the Costa Mesa track May 1 and immediately made an impact, winning the eight-lap handicap main. Brant said his return has been welcomed by the Costa Mesa veterans.

"I was really surprised because they gave me a big welcome." Brant said. "I guess they wanted more challenge and more competition. I was happy about that and it's nice to hear the top guys support you."

Brant has found the adjustment to the new equipment to be the biggest obstacle in his return. He said the engines in today's bikes are positioned differently, which makes them tougher to handle and maintain.

"The way you need to set the bike up, as far as gearing and carburetion, is like night and day now," Brant said. "That was the main challenge in learning how to ride again."

Brant remarried while in the Army, and he and his wife are expecting their second child later this year. He works in construction and welding when he's not racing, and is helping a friend build a high-speed streamliner, with which they hope to challenge the land-speed record at the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah.

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