Motorcycle racing a family affair for Burlesons

Monday, July 18, 2005
The Burleson family, Merry, Cory and two-year-old Isaiah, posed on Cory's No. 909 for this story. Submitted photo

CARROLL COUNTY -- When Lead Hill's Cory Burleson heard there was a girl riding motorcycles around Harrison, he just had to crank his hot-running Kawasaki ZX7R 750cc bike up and go meet her.

He did, at a bike shop in Harrison where Merry Arcand showed up on a 1998 ZX6R 600cc Kawasaki, and a courtship between the two street riders began in 2000.

Merry, a 1998 Harrison High School graduate, was playing hard to get until Cory crashed his street bike going 172mph.

"He was all skinned up and I had to take care of him," Merry said recently from the parts counter at Smith Cycle Center in Green Forest where she works. "He slid 1,148 feet on the ground. I took care of him for two months."

They were married in 2002, and bikes are still a big part of their "family," which includes Merry, Cory, two-year-old son Isaiah, and two racing teams from Smith Cycle Center.

"Smith Cycle Center is Cory's main sponsor as an individual rider, and they also contribute to our endurance race team, Team Takeoff," Merry said.

That team includes Cory, Smith Cycle Center owner Brent Smith, Josh Lowrey, Darnell Dorsey, and Merry.

Yeah, Mom is still biking it, taking her turn on a 2003 Suzuki GSXR 750cc bike the endurance team races in the heavyweight super stock division four to eight hours at a time.

"It's addictive. I love it," Merry says about racing on a hard surface closed track. "I can't wait for the next race."

Team Takeoff earns its name, as they "inherit" tires from Cory's bike. A sprint racer, going all out for eight to 10 laps, Cory can't leave tires on too long, always keeping fresh ones on the pavement.

So the endurance team takes those used tires and wears them out on the four to eight-hour events they ride, each running out a tank of gas, about 45 minutes to an hour, before switching with another rider.

"I've loved motorcycles ever since I was a kid," Merry said. "My mom kept saying no, so when I was 18 I moved out and got my first bike, a Ninja 250. I kept it six months and traded for a new bike.

"I got a motorcycle, a tattoo and a tongue ring all in one year," Merry said with a laugh.

Cory began his legal racing career in August 2003, and Merry went along.

"Isaiah was born April 15, 2003, and we took him to races," Merry said. "It's a family affair for us. Isaiah is two now and fascinated with motorcycles.

"Since I was already going, I wanted to get on the track. It cost $100 to ride on track practice day at Hallett Motor Speedway near Tulsa. I hated it the first time, but Cory loved it," she said.

"I was antsy with all the motorcycles around, so I got my CMRA license this year. You have to go to school and take a test and do rides on two weekends, learn about all the flags on corners -- stop, caution, wreck ahead."

Merry got her first taste of racing on March 19, 2005, at the Motorsport Ranch in Cresson, Texas. It was a six-hour endurance race with 50 teams entered. Merry rode two hours in that one.

"We finished seventh in our class," Merry said about that first race. "On the track I've pushed it to the limit but never went down. I only wrecked once on the street when I dropped my Ninja 250 in a parking lot.

"But if you race, you will crash," she said, which is why she wears a full two-piece leather suit made by Alpine Star, boots, gloves and a full-face helmet.

"Komodo Leathers in Texas sponsors me and are fabricating a custom leather suit for me, the first one they've made for a female," Merry said.

Remember, most races are in the warmer months, so how hot is that gear in July and August?

"It's really hot, but you're going 80 to 140mph," Merry said with a grin. "It still gets really hot, and when you're not riding, you're out there in the sun helping out with gas and tires."

Not to mention helping a husband who once won 3-of-5 events at the WERA Nationals in Birmingham, Ala., in the heavyweight and lightweight super stock divisions, and a son who just may have inherited his parents love of motorcycles.

Motorcycles and family. That's the life for Cory, Merry and Isaiah Burleson.

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