Story and photos by Matt Polito
Trading t-shirts is a common method of connection. In a very basic sense it ties us to others in our community regardless of geographical boundaries.
This is a story about a pair of T-shirts, one that rode on fighter jet in Afghanistan and made its way back to the United States and one the rode on the back of the quickest motorcycle on the planet and made its way to Afghanistan.
At the center of the exchange is Brock Davidson, motorcycle drag racer and owner of Brock’s Performance, a motorcycle aftermarket company based in Ohio.
The exchange was initiated by Master Sergeant Michael Snell, USMC. Snell, who resides in Yuma, Arizona, has been a Brock’s Performance customer since ’06. For Davidson, Snell was more than a customer. and the two became friends.
“Michael was one of the first people to get a ZX-14, and one of our first customers to buy ZX-14 products from us,” said Brock. “He is very friendly and very personable, and we’ve kept in touch. We had a mutual friend in Jeff Wilson who used to work in Sports Promotions for Suzuki and now owns a dealership in Yuma, AZ.”
In 2008, Snell rode to the Myrtle Beach bike rally and was able to meet his performance buddy. “He rode his bike from Yuma to Myrtle Beach,” recalled Brock. “That is a hellava’ ride. He introduced himself and handed me a t-shirt from Jeff’s dealership. We gave him one of ours.” At the time, Davidson had no idea the trip his black “Brock’s Performance” shirt would take.
Snell had joined the Marines in 1986 which gave him another connection with Davidson. “My fiancé Rhonda comes from a military family,” explained Davidson. “She has a weak spot in her heart for anyone in the military. She kept in touch with Michael, and his progress over the months.” Through their communications Davidson learned that Snell had recently been stationed in Afghanistan.
This past August, Davidson received an e-mail from Snell reading:
I brought your t shirt here to Afghanistan so I could PT in it. Well Us Marines are only allowed to wear green on green PT gear. Today I handed your t shirt to a pilot and he flew it over Afghanistan and did what pilots do. I will be sending it to you in a few days with a certificate stating what when where …
We got this covered over here you just keep putting your smack down on the track.
A few weeks later Davidson received a package from Snell. In it, his well-worn t-shirt accompanied by a signed certificate stating it had been flown by pilot who goes by the call sign “Guids” aboard an AV-8B Harrier II jet during a mission in Afghanistan on August 15th.
“I was floored,” said Davidson. “He took the time to have the certificate printed up – which I thought was the coolest thing ever. In the middle of Afghanistan in the midst of all the chaos… he is thinking about Brock’s and all of the people here. Words can’t describe what I was feeling.”
Davidson wanted to return the favor, but he didn’t have access to a fighter jet. The fastest machine he had access to was the 1500 horsepower, 245 mph Top Fuel Dragbike of Larry “Spiderman” McBride.
“The shirt Michael had given me had been on a fighter plane so it had been pretty fast,” said Davidson. “The fastest guy in our world is Larry McBride. I asked him if he could wear a shirt for me to give to Michael, and he was all about it. He couldn’t wait.”
Davidson set it up for the AMA Dragbike national event at Summit Motorsports Park in Norwalk, Ohio. He had the t-shirt signed by racers and fans and had a brief presentation during opening ceremonies of the event. McBride then wore the shirt during eliminations on a pass of 6.01 seconds at 234 mph.
McBride, the ten-time AMA Dragbike Top Fuel champion, always wears an Elmer Trett t-shirt in honor of his late mentor whenever he makes a pass. While he is very particular about what he wears when he races, he didn’t hesitate.
“I was honored to be asked to do it,” said McBride. “I am very proud and supportive of our military. Rarely do you get an opportunity to reach out like this to one of the people who put their lives on the line to protect our freedoms.”
“We got a tremendous reception to it,” said Davidson. “The people of the drag racing community really came together to let Michael know we were thinking about him and all of the soldiers in the VMA 214 Black Sheep Squadron.” The shirt is about to be delivered to Master Sergeant Michael Snell.
“Thank you, Michael, for everything you do for us and our country.”
The certificate indicating the mission on which the Brock’s Performance T-shirt was flown.
Brock Davidson (left) with Larry and Steve McBride.
Larry McBride taking the t-shirt bound for Afghanistan on a 6.01 second, 235 mph run.
Master Sargent Michael Snell, USMC, and his Kawasaki ZX-14
Pre-race festivities at Summit Motorsports Park in Norwalk, OH.
McBride dons the shirt prior to the run