Then, around July, the Tracy racer — known as “Tony the Tiger” from his racing career in the late 1990s to early 2000s — regained the familiar taste of victory. He wasn’t about to let a chance to finish on top slip away.
Meiring, 29, secured his place this month as the champion in the 15-race American Motorcyclist Association, District 36, Dirt Track Black Plate series.
He was in second place behind Dominic Colindres of Brisbane going into the series’ final race on the quarter-mile oval at the Lodi Cycle Bowl on Oct. 6, which turned out to be Meiring’s opportunity to win it all.
Until then, the series had been more like a roller coaster. Meiring, with support from his father, Bob Meiring of Mountain Ranch in Calaveras County, had a few third- and fifth-place finishes, plus a second-race finish in June in Lodi.
He saw that he had potential to keep winning after his July 20 win at the Stanislaus County Fairgrounds in Turlock.
“We led every lap that day,” Meiring said. “We didn’t get too focused on the points, but we knew we were back in the hunt.”
That was round 11 of the 15-race series. He ended up winning four of his last five races. He saw the District 36 title in reach after he beat Colindres in rounds 13 and 14 at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds in Santa Rosa on Sept. 28 and 29.
“I ended up winning on Saturday night, and he finished second,” Meiring said. “The District 36 AMA official came up and said, ‘Hey, just to give you a heads-up, (Colindres) is only 19 points ahead of you.’”
Each race win is worth 20 points in the series, and second place is good for 16 points. Meiring went into the final round, Oct. 6 at the Lodi Cycle Bowl, with 171 points. Colindres had 190 points, but he was also among the top racers in the AMA Flat Track Pro Singles series, which was racing in Tucson, Ariz., that same weekend.
“He wasn’t at the race, because he had to head down south, so the pressure was on me,” Meiring said. “If I win Saturday night, I win the championship. No pressure at all.”
Meiring’s main competition that night would be Casey Yarrow of Fairfield, winner of that night’s Dash for Cash race. Meiring led every lap in the main event, but Yarrow was close behind and in position to take the lead if he got the chance.
“The last lap he tried to make a move, and he crashed pretty hard, from my understanding,” Meiring said. “My dad gave me the sign that I had a very big lead. I took a glance behind me and immediately had a big grin on my face. It was pretty exciting.”
The series win represents a comeback for Meiring, who in 1999 received the AMA Horizon Award for up-and-coming young racers. He raced for Kawasaki from 2002 to 2004, for the Corona Suzuki team in 2005 and 2006, and then for the Yamaha team in 2007 and 2008.
Meiring said his sponsorship opportunities faded away after Daytona Motorsports Group bought AMA Pro Racing in 2008, and he and his father had to pick up the bills for his racing. He didn’t race much in 2009.
He got back into it the following year, racing Kawasakis, but found little success in the 2010 and 2011 seasons.
With support from his father and his girlfriend, Amanda Carranza, Meiring started anew in 2012 with Honda 450s, competing in the Black Plate series.
Now, with the championship series win, he hopes to gain sponsorships and defend the series title in 2013.
On the way, he will live by the words of his motorcycle racing hero, the late AMA Hall of Famer Ricky Graham, whom Meiring met as a teenager.
“You’ve got to have serious fun. That’s what he would tell me all the time,” Meiring said. “If you’re not being serious about it, there’s no reason to be that competitive. If you’re being serious about it but you’re not having fun with it, you’re not going to get the results.”
• Contact Bob Brownne at 830-4227 or email@example.com.