NAME: Erik "The Nomad" Hartley
HOMETOWN: Springfield, Illinois
YEARS SERVED: 2006 - 2012
DAY JOB: Airport Planner
BIKE: Triumph Thruxton | 865cc, 70hp
BIKE BUILDER: Knight Brothers Motorcycle Co.
FAVORITE TRACK: Tennessee National Speedway
QUOTE TO LIVE BY: "Don't die in your hometown."
The humble beginnings of “Evil Hours Racing” began in 2010 when Erik Hartley was deployed to Afghanistan. Here is his story.
"I was an aircraft mechanic on a C-130 aircraft. My job was exhausting, but otherwise not of particular bravado worthy of a Mark Wahlberg movie. However, it was through this job that I saw the other sides of war. I would see the Rangers before we flew them to hell — and then I’d see them upon their return. Their eyes haunt me to this day. I hauled countless prisoners of war, strapped, shackled, and blindfolded, to the floor. I saw caskets draped in the stars and stripes, headed home to distant mothers and fathers. I saw and heard the bombs exploding in the mountains surrounding the airfield. None of it compared to the Evil Hours.
For most Afghanis, kite flying, or ‘Gudiparan Bazi’, has been a part of their national identity for generations. Before the Taliban banned the sport, entire villages would gather and fill the skies with brightly colored kites. When I got to Afghanistan, I noticed kites flying from time to time. With great naivety, I enjoyed this. I saw it as a sign of Afghanistan returning to its pre-Taliban way of life. Things quickly changed when a pattern began to form. Like clockwork, when the kites went up, rockets would soon follow. My naivety turned to horror and panic when I realized they were using the kites as a way to judge the wind for the rockets and mortars off in the distance. We began to call the time in between “the evil hours.”
War is an indescribable experience. Something I’ve unknowingly spent the last decade trying to explain. I’ve travelled the world trying to escape it, grasping at straws trying to distance myself from it. Little did I know that a random trip to the Springfield Mile and seeing motorcycles going around a dirt oval would finally bring me home. Flat track racing is the family I needed, the experience my soul required, and the sense of belonging that would bring me out of my shell. The motorcycle community saved me. Through Evil Hours Racing, I now hope to do the same for others."