DALLAS - Ben Spies was in Dallas recently to open his restaurant, called Stackhouse Burgers. But Spies (rhymes with bees) spends most of his time overseas racing in MotoGP, the highest level of motorcycle racing.
"When someone asks me 'What's MotoGP in Europe,' it's not just like NASCAR is over here," Spies said. "It's kind of a combination of being an actor, a NASCAR person and a football player."
As a kid growing up in Longview, Texas, Spies starting riding dirt bikes when he was five and starting racing at age eight.
He won the Superbike World Championship once before moving to MotoGP. He's become a popular figure in Europe.
"They're asking you to do modeling shots and you’re like, 'I’m not a model, I’m a motorcycle racer,'" Spies said.
The sport has its dangers, where spills can come at 160 to 200 miles per hour, and when you're on a motorcycle, there isn't much protection.
"I fell at 150 and 170 miles per hour and you have no scratches on you, and sometimes you have a bad one and you break something," Spies said. "We wear the best stuff we can and the tracks are safe and we've actually got air bag units in our suits.”
Spies recalled a bad crash not too long ago.
"It ripped tissue from my sternum and broke a rib and had a concussion, then I had to sit out the next race because I wasn't able to ride," Spies said.
His business partner, Randy Kienast, said it is hard to keep Spies down.
"Ben went overseas and did very well and kept moving up," Kienast said. "He's a fierce competitor and just has that will to win."
Spies has also started a cycling team based in Dallas that will compete within the United States. His goal is to develop new riders, but big events, like the Tour de France, may take a while.
The name of the team is Elbowz Cycling Team, just like his nickname.
"It’s been with me forever," Spies said. "It's the way I ride my bike - my elbows stick out. I don't know if it's the best nickname, but it's something that's stuck."
It's stuck because, as he says, it's the only way he can ride fast.