Life at Speed: Budding motorcycle star McGrane is far from your average teenager

By Mike McGann, Editor, The Times @mikemcgannpa

Logan McGrane

GAP — In a lot of ways, Logan McGrane is a typical 16-year-old.

He’s got a summer job, like a lot of high school students. And is enjoying his relatively new drivers’ license and of course, he’s working to stay in shape for the next football season at Pequea Valley High School.

What’s a lot different from most area teens?

McGrane is a professional American Flat Track motorcycle racer — running for the first time this year as a professional in the Parts Unlimited AFT Singles series — which are aired on tape delay most Saturdays on Fox Sports 1. And when not racing on the dirt on tracks around the country, the teen with deep roots in Chester County races on ice in arenas in the winter.

But to McGrane, it’s all pretty normal. Speaking from his garage/workshop — literally 200 feet from the Lancaster/Chester county line — he shrugs off his unusual lifestyle. You see, he grew up in a racing family, with his grandfather, father, uncle and surrounded by racing vehicles with two and four wheels. It’s what he’s known his whole life.

“My grandfather (Tom McGrane Sr.) started racing, he raced cars all over Pennsylvania,” Logan McGrane said. “He raced modified. And then my dad (Tom McGrane Jr.) was born and he couldn’t race a car until he was 16, so he decided to race motorcycles.”

That led to Kyle McGrane — Tom. Jr’s younger brother — to start racing and ultimately, Logan, to do so. Kyle, only a few years older than his nephew, was emerging as a top talent in both flat track and ice racing, when he was killed in a racing accident in Santa Rosa, CA, in the fall of 2016.

Obviously, it was a devastating shock to the family and then following the death of a close family friend on the track earlier this season— briefly — there was a thought of Logan moving from bikes to cars. 

“Whenever, I’m done racing motorcycles, I’ll probably jump into a Sprint Car,” he said. “My grandfather, right now, would sell every motorcycle in this garage and buy me a car, if I said so.”

But after the death of 24-year-old racer Ryan Varnes in upstate New York earlier this season, it gave everyone pause about the dangers of the sport.

“After my uncle passed away and we had a close family friend (Varnes) pass away three weeks ago — he was my uncle’s best friend — it was rough. He (his grandfather) said the Sunday morning after ‘we’re selling everything, we’re done and I’ll buy you a car.’ But the next Saturday, we were back at the races.” 

Coming from a racing family, it is what you do. You understand — and respect — the danger. But racing is in the blood, being on the track is where racers like Logan feel at home — he’s been competing since he was a little kid, learning to ride at age four and winning amateur national titles at age 15.

At this point, for him, racing a high-speed motorcycle is like walking for most of us, just something that comes naturally.

What’s been more of a challenge is moving from the amateur ranks to the pro series. The talent is extreme and all of the racing equipment is top-notch. Tiny things make a big difference in finishes.

“It’s been a really big change,” Logan said. “The competition is way higher, everybody is fast. My whole amateur career, I was a top-three amateur and now my best finish has been in 11th in the pro. Everybody is so fast, it’s thousands of seconds, hundredths and thousandths of seconds, it’s that close.”

Running with a family team, the budgets are tight and highly dependent on local sponsors. Week in and week out, Logan goes up against teams with factory support and the latest and greatest parts. But he wouldn’t change it — running for his family team is exactly what he wants to do.

“Family owned teams are where it is at, it all comes from the heart,” Logan said.

When he’s not racing — or studying (he attends online school — it’s the only way to keep up with his schedule) — he loves playing high school football.

“I’ve been playing football since I was eight,” he said. “I started at Twin Valley because I lived over there and then three years ago I moved to Pequea and started playing with them. That’s my second sport.”

With a much heavier schedule — and a lot more travel — it can be difficult to make time for football now, as much as he loves the sport.

“This year has been the hardest because being pro,” he said. “In amateur, it wasn’t big — but if you want to make your name in pro, you have to be at everything, be at every race. I might miss a football game or two because of races that I have to be at.”

He said the coaching staff at Pequea Valley has been understanding — knowing that racing has to be the priority, as much as he really enjoys playing — he plays both offensive line and linebacker.

“I love football,” he said. “If I weren’t racing, I’d have my full focus on football.”

But he is racing, and is one of the youngest riders in his class and he says he sees a long future for himself on the track.

“I want to be just racing motorcycles,” he said. “That’s been my goal since I was a little kid. I want to be able to race, make enough money that I can pay the bills.”

Speaking this past week, he talked about his upcoming schedule, which starting last Friday, is pretty grueling. 

“I leave Friday morning for Illinois, I’ll race Saturday, get home Sunday – do everything to to the bikes and then leave Monday morning. I’ll go to Kansas first, to race Tuesday and Wednesday at an outlaw (unsanctioned by AFT) race, then we’ll go up to South Dakota — Sturgis — at the Black Hills half-mile race circuit, Saturday. Depending on how we do, we might stay longer because there’s a bunch more races after and I can make a good amount of money from them.

“After that, we’ll come home. Aug. 20 is Sacramento, CA — I’m riding a bike out there for somebody out in California, — so we’re going to fly out to that one. After that, we go back to Illinois for the Springfield Mile — which is the world’s fastest mile — for two days of racing. We’ll be there Labor day weekend.”

While the schedule lightens up — a bit — in the fall, it’s still pretty much a 12-month schedule when you add in arena ice racing, training time in Florida, and all the work needed to keep the bikes in top shape.

It’s a lot of work and a lot of travel, but Logan McGrane wouldn’t change anything: he loves being on the track and wants to be the best out there.

He’s anything but typical — as teenagers go — one literally driven to succeed in a very tough sport.

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