When Shannon Matus sees a bright orange traffic cone, she’s reminded of the man who dedicated years of his life to defining the Texas Mile’s race path.
The Texas Mile community paid tribute to its former grid marshal, Cliff Rainey, with the help of Motorcycle Missions on Friday at the Victoria Regional Airport.
Rainey, a quiet mechanic from Leander, was in charge of setting up the mile’s race grid, which he did with traffic cones. Matus, who helped start the Texas Mile, said the man she always had to hug before working on race day impacted many lives at the motorsports event, which had 220 participants Friday.
“His family was all these participants,” she said. “He knew every single one of them because he got to talk to them.”
Rainey was known for his love of hot sauce, and participants used to bring the man they’d chat with before racing down the milelong stretch the spiciest sauce they could find. He died in March at age 34 before the Texas Mile event that month. Last March, his ashes were scattered on the race track he would speed down going 200 mph on his motorcycle. Seven months later, his motorcycle sped across the track to honor his memory.
Rainey’s motorcycle, a 2007 Suzuki Hayabusa, was donated to Motorcycle Missions, said Norman Lawrence, the race director. The nonprofit charity helps veterans and first responders with PTSD and other mental health struggles through building custom motorcycles.
Krystal Hess, who founded the charity in Austin in 2015, said she decided to focus on supporting veterans and first responders to give them a release and a distraction from their pain.
“It’s rhythmic,” Hess said. “When your hands are busy, your mind is not busy.”
Matus said the Texas Mile staff encouraged Rainey’s family to donate Rainey’s bike to Motorcycle Missions to help continue voicing his legacy.
“Cliff is still able to touch people’s lives,” she said. “That’s how we honor him – is by action.”
The bike Lawrence said he and Rainey used to ride up and down the Texas Mile to get their adrenaline fix has now been rebuilt and enhanced by Motorcycle Missions. Rainey, Lawrence said, would have been proud to see his motorcycle now.
“He’d be fit to be tied,” he said. “He’d be out there ripping on it right now. He wouldn’t be working, I can tell you that.”