Over the length of his 30-year race career Terry Poovey earned 11 AMA Grand National wins on mile, half-mile and short track courses, while racing aboard Bultaco, Harley-Davidson, Honda and Rotax-powered machines. It’s been said that Poovey knows how to go racing as much as he knows how to race. His successful stints with various teams and his post-retirement presence with a championship-winning race team would seem to confirm that.
As a schoolboy, Poovey was inspired by the race efforts of his older brother, who was competing in flat track and hare scramble events. "My brother Teddy has been the biggest influence in my career," he said. "He was a National number in 1973 and ‘74. He built my first mini bike I started racing on in 1968 and he built the last XR750 I raced at Springfield.” In 1974 at age 16, Poovey obtained his Novice race license, which he held for only a very short time. He earned enough points to qualify for his AMA Expert license after just three Novice class races.
He entered AMA Expert flat track races across the country, taking wins at the Daytona short track and others. His first AMA Grand National win came aboard a Bultaco at the 1976 Talladega, Alabama short track. He would wait three more years for his next Grand National win, earned aboard a Harley-Davidson XR750 at the Columbus, Ohio half-mile.
In 1979, Poovey was the first Grand National racer to ride a monoshock-equipped XR750. The monoshock for the XR 750 was designed by Joe Bolger (also a Hall of Fame member), and built by Tuner Doug Sehl. Poovey won the half-mile race at Meadow Lands, Pennsylvania aboard the machine. In the following years he enjoyed wins while mounted on a Harley-Davidson at the 1980 and ’81 Indianapolis Mile races.
While racing as a privateer in 1982, Poovey won the Knoxville, Tennessee half-mile on a Honda. He was recruited by the factory Honda team in 1983, and won the season-opener at the Houston, Texas short track. That same year he debuted the Honda RS750 machine at California’s Ascot Speedway, and helped develop the platform that racers Ricky Graham and Bubba Shobert had success with in later years. He returned to Harley-Davidson equipment with Tuner Tex Peel in 1984, earning another Grand National win at the Harrington, Delaware half-mile. In 1985 he took a victory at the Louisville, Kentucky half-mile.
Another 12 years would pass before Poovey earned another a Grand National win. But his next two wins would come with great personal satisfaction and special sentimental value. Poovey won the 1997 AMA Grand National event at the famed Daytona Short track, racing aboard a Rotax-powered bike. He returned to the top of the Daytona podium again in 2000.
Many fans regard Poovey as a short-track specialist. But just four of his Grand National wins were earned on short tracks. However, he has a career total of 20 wins at Daytona, 18 of those accumulated as a Junior and Junior Expert racer. “It's the first big race I ever won,” said Poovey. When I came here as a Junior in 1974, I won two out of three nights. I won the Junior night, then came back the following night and won the Junior-Expert night. If you combine the old short track and the new track I have 20 wins at Daytona."
In 2001 and 2002, Poovey won the non-AMA sanctioned Formula USA Flat Track championship titles while still competing in the AMA Grand National Championship. He officially retired from racing in 2005, and in 2006 he began work alongside Tuner Kenny Tolbert as part of Chris Carr’s AMA Grand National race team. Tolbert also happens to be Poovey’s brother in-law: Terry is married to Tolbert’s sister Kathey. They have a grown daughter, Katey, and reside in Euless, Texas.
Poovey is one of only a handful of riders who have competed in 350 AMA National main events. His stats spell out the success and staying power of his career: over 200 top-10 finishes, 80 top-five finishes, 11 National wins and two championship titles.