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Race of Gentlemen: See the Rides, Meet People Keeping Pre-1950s Racing Alive

TROG began in 2008 by founder Mel Stultz and 10 members of reformed motorcycle club “The Oilers”

Inside TROG The race of gentlemen 2017

Ryan Struck for Rolling Stone

The Race of Gentlemen – a mix of motorcycle and hot rod racing – has a very particular twist: It takes place on the beach in Wildwood, New Jersey. To qualify for the race, all cars and motorbikes must be pre-1950s, each with accurate parts and tires from that era. A crowd of almost 15,000 people make their way to this Jersey beach town each year to compete or cheer their favorite driver. Here’s a look at the rides, and the characters, that make this a distinctly unusual annual event.

Sumner Dilworth

Showmanship

Races begin at 8 a.m. and don’t stop until the sun sets. Mel Stultz knows that putting on a show is essential to keeping spectators interested, so holding on to the back of a hot rod at the beginning of the race has spectators wondering, “What the fuck is wrong with this guy?”

Ryan Struck for Rolling Stone

First Female Motorcycle Winner Hopefuls

Friends Jennifer Sheets and Crystal Geisey are both racing their vintage bikes in the hopes to become the first female motorcycle TROG winner. This isn’t their first weekend on the beach in New Jersey – last year they came as part of the pit crew – but this marks their first time racing on the track. 

Ryan Struck for Rolling Stone

Lining Up for Their Heat

Hundreds of racers line up for their turn to race. After a racer finishes their heat they often drive back and get back on line to race again. The addiction to speed has them push their cars and motorcycle to the mechanical limit.

Ryan Struck for Rolling Stone

Only a Race

Most TROG racers treat the event as a “family reunion.” Even though Crystal (left) and Jennifer were facing off in a grudge match, their favorite part of TROG is being able to catch up with each other.

Ryan Struck for Rolling Stone

Hard Reality

Crystal’s bike breaks down at the start of her “grudge” match between Jennifer Sheets. For most attendees of TROG, they spend an entire year rebuilding and tweaking their bike for the race. No matter how much work they put into a bike, it can break down on the line and an entire year’s worth of work and expectations can be destroyed in a second. 

Ryan Struck for Rolling Stone

Traction

As the day’s races continue, traction on the beach becomes an issue. Racers find their bike or car fishtail when taking off at the beginning of a race. 

Ryan Struck for Rolling Stone

Fireside

At the end of race day, the space is cleared of all cars and a bonfire party takes place on the beach with music and food.

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