Dale Singleton was the David who twice slayed the factory racing team Goliaths by winning the prestigious Daytona 200 in 1979 and 1981 on privateer Yamahas. He also won the AMA Road Racing Championship in 1981. Singleton was one of the best-liked riders in the paddock. The friendly Georgian was dubbed the "Flying Pig Farmer" by a fellow racer. The press picked up the moniker and Singleton played into the myth by carrying baby pigs into the Daytona winner's circle during podium celebrations. Singleton’s bright career was cut short when he was killed in a plane crash in 1985.
Singleton was born on August 27, 1955 in Dalton, Georgia. When he was a boy, Singleton spent his allowance on motorcycle magazines and would stay up late at night reading about his heroes with a flashlight under the blankets. His father bought a motorcycle shop when Singleton was 14 and he began racing local short track races.
His father didn’t favor Dale pursuing a career in racing. When Singleton gradated from high school, his father offered to buy him a new car if he would quit racing. “Dad, I believe I'll just keep on driving this little ol’ Maverick I got here and go to the short tracks on Saturday nights,” he said.
The Singleton family went to Bike Week at Daytona Beach, Florida, every year and young Dale yearned to have a chance to race on the famous Daytona International Speedway road course. In 1972, he finally got his chance when he and his dad built a bike to race in the sportsman amateur racing competition. Singleton won his class and became hooked on the speed of road racing. Working with his father also taught Dale to become a meticulous mechanic.
"Dale had the need for speed,” said Spencer Singleton, Dale’s younger brother, who became part of his brother’s racing crew when he turned pro. “He had a fearless ability about him and he always had to build his own bikes. It was his way or nothing at all."
In 1973, Singleton picked up sponsorship from racing enthusiast Taylor White and raced a 250 Grand Prix bike as a novice. He progressed steadily up the ladder and in 1976 he began racing professionally. In his rookie pro season, he showed promise by scoring his first national points in the national road race at Loudon, New Hampshire.
Singleton made a huge jump in 1977 when he became a consistent top-10 finisher and earned his first podium result in Sonoma, California. At the end of the ’77 season, Singleton was ranked fourth in the final AMA National Road Race standings.
His rise continued in 1978 when he finished runner-up in the final standings and scored his first career win at the Loudon Classic road race national. Also in 1978, Singleton began racing abroad. He was part of the American team in the annual Anglo-American Match Races. He also contested select GPs and international invitational races.
Singleton will always be best remembered for his Daytona wins and he scored his first victory in the 200 in 1979. He served notice that he would be a serious threat that year when he earned the pole on his Taylor White-sponsored No. 30 Yamaha TZ750. In the race, Singleton and David Aldana emerged as the leaders and the two had a great battle for the lead until late in the event when Aldana’s bike seized, leaving Singleton alone in the lead to take a very popular victory.
In the Daytona winner’s circle, Singleton brought along a baby pig he called Elmer and photos of the celebration show a jubilant Singleton crew with Dale holding up the baby pig. Even though Singleton was not really a pig farmer (it was his girlfriend’s family who raised pigs), he played up the moniker of the “Flying Pig Farmer.” Every year at Daytona, he’d bring a new baby Elmer to the race. He was even offered additional appearance money in European races if he brought Elmer along. Elmer was not one pig, but in fact a series of different baby pigs. In an early 1980s magazine interview, Singleton laughed about having to tramp through muddy old farms in Europe trying to find a baby pig to buy when he competed overseas.
At the end of 1979, Singleton finished a close runner-up in the AMA road racing championships, just three points behind Rich Schlachter.
In 1980, Singleton finished second at Daytona and won the Pocono (Pennsylvania) National, but only finished fourth because he spent much of the season racing in Europe.
By 1981, Singleton reached the zenith of the racing career when he won his second Daytona 200, this time against a much deeper field of factory entries (including Yamaha’s Kenny Roberts and Honda’s Freddie Spencer) than he faced during his ’79 victory. Again, Singleton rode a Yamaha TZ750 he built himself with sponsorship from Taylor White and Beaulieu, an Oriental rug manufacturer.
When asked about his success at Daytona in the face of big-budget teams, Singleton said it all came down to preparation and race strategy.
“Most of my advantage at Daytona is the fact that I got to the level I’m at by doing my own thing mechanically,” Singleton explained after winning his second Daytona 200. “I know the inside of the bike’s engine like the back of my hand. When I race Daytona I increase the tolerances and build it to last. I’m real aware of all the small details and know how to push the bike when it counts. I know how easy it is to ruin an engine turning 11,000 rpm at 180 mph.
“As far as strategy, I always try to stay in touch with the leaders, but not show my hand too early. It’s the last 20 laps or so of the race when I would start to gamble a bit, sliding both wheels and really making that final push to the checkered flag.”
Singleton went on to win the AMA National Road Racing Championship in 1981. It was the culmination of a sure and steady ascent up the ranks of American road racing. Racing earned Singleton the money to build a beautiful home in the foothills of Northern Georgia. He also had a large workshop where he prepped his race machines.
Having reached the top in American motorcycle racing, Singleton retired from two wheels after the 1982 season and began to pursue a career in NASCAR racing. In 1985, he died in a private plane crash while traveling from a stock car race.
Years later, Singleton’s brother restored Dale’s Daytona-winning Yamaha and the bike was presented to Daytona International Speedway’s museum during an emotional ceremony on the 20th anniversary of Singleton’s second win in the 200. Singleton’s Yamaha was also on display at the Motorcycle Hall of Fame Museum for a year.
One of the all-time fan favorites in AMA road racing history, Singleton will always be remembered for his against-all-odds victories at Daytona and his “Flying Pig Farmer” persona.