Craig Robinson received his first BMX bike in 1979. His dad gave it to him after a trip to California.
Mr. Robinson, 48, passed this love of racing on to his step granddaughter Mackenzie Guess with her first BMX bike a couple of years back for Christmas. She loved watching Mr. Robinson on social media and thought the sport was cool.
“You get out here, you feel like you’re 15 again. Get on the bike, you start pedaling,” Robinson said. “It’s an addiction. You get back on, you know, it’s like you never got off.”
The duo will compete in a state championship qualifier Saturday at Toledo Speedway. They’ll travel to Akron on Sunday to compete in a state race. Then there’s Buckeye Nationals back at the Toledo Speedway BMX track, Aug. 10-12.
Mr. Robinson and Mackenzie train at Toledo Speedway’s BMX track four times a week. They’ve traveled as far as Fort Wayne, Indiana, and Flint, Michigan for practice and competitions. And in Ohio, they’ve gone as far South as Cincinnati.
Though Mr. Robinson is committed to racing, he’s also an LPN at Foundation Park Alzheimer’s Care Center. He works the graveyard shift from 10 p.m. to 6:30 a.m. shift.
But when he wakes, four days out of the week in the summer he’ll head over to the track with Mackenzie.
“I just think it’s cool to, you know, this is where I can get my energy out of after school,” said Mackenzie, a self-proclaimed daredevil who attends Elmhurst Elementary.
That’s quite a change from Mackenzie’s first experience racing.
Tuesday evening in front of friends and family, Mr. Robinson and Mackenzie attended a clinic at Toledo Speedway. Track coach Heath Ries, 36, teaches clinics for different skill levels. One of the things he enjoys most is watching riders improve.
“When (Mackenzie) first started, she couldn’t even stand up to pedal,” Mr. Ries said. “She would sit on her seat, and she would pedal all the way around.”
Mr. Robinson’s wife, Heidi, watched Tuesday’s training with Mackenzie’s mom, Alicia Martinez-Fordham, 29. Mackenzie’s half siblings, Emma Dye, 7, and Frederick Fordham Jr., 2, also tagged along.
Ms. Martinez-Fordham said Robinson and Mackenzie were close before they started racing. According to Ms. Martinez-Fordham, Mr. Robinson helped raise Mackenzie.
Now, the two are even closer.
“Instead of having a bunch of school friends, I can have friends here,” Mackenzie said. “Instead of just sitting inside, you know 13-year-olds — we’re sitting outside with our phones and everything — they’ll actually be like ‘We should go to the track, or we should go outside and ride our bike instead of just sitting inside.’”
When Mr. Robinson bought Mackenzie the red, white and black Redline for Christmas in 2015, the two raced around Toledo Speedway for fun. For the most part, it’s still that way today.
Except now, racing is a lifestyle for them.
“It’s absolutely amazing,” Ms. Martinez-Fordham said. “He is hands down the best grandfather in the entire world.”