DuQuoin, Illinois... July 4, 2015 AMA Pro Flat Track race.
We anticipated this day with a mixture of dread and excitement.
On the one hand, we were disappointed to miss the annual Barbara Fritchie Classic in Frederick, Maryland (also held on the 4th)... plus, Chew had seen too many friends perish on this track in the past. Despite the fact that we usually take pictures of tracks that no longer run, to share, he had never been able to bring himself to step near the beautiful cushion mile with the oddly-shaped pond in the infield.
On the other hand, I had heard the stories about the incredible racing on this track, and how big a role it plays in the sport's history. One glance at the track told me it could be a fan's dream come true. I wanted to see it for myself.
We were not disappointed. As you can see by our photos, we were treated to a full day of close racing (and lunch, courtesy of Carver's Barbecue)! While the GNC1 main was among one of the closest finishes I have ever witnessed, the GNC2 main grabbed my heart even tighter. The three young men on THAT podium had two big factors, in common. #1. We had watched each of them come up through the ranks, and followed them since they were youngsters, and #2. Each of the three had endured a serious injury during 2014, that left fans praying for their recoveries. Well, they sure recovered, all right... and what a show they put on!
DuQuoin, Illinois... July 5, 2015
This was our "day of rest," so to speak...but "rest" is a misleading word!
We spent a good part of the day trying to figure out what to do about internet capability. We had put airtime on a broadband card, that we were told was received at the track... only to find out that the woman in the office had been mistaken. Our provider has no coverage, there. She DID tell us about another provider, who could sell us coverage by the day or week, but their offices were closed for the weekend.
As morning melted into afternoon, we saw many of the riders who would be competing in the week's AMA Dirt Track Grand Championships heading in to register.
To our delighted surprise, Chris Carr, Johnny Lewis, Brad Baker, Jared Mees, and Davey Durelle were ALSO on hand.
These guys offered the riders tips and advice on everything from riding technique to bike set up. It was amazing to see how much information these superstars poured out... and the amateurs soaked it up like a sponge!
I shot a few videos with Carr, Baker, Lewis, and Mees. As the sun began to slip towards the horizon, we all headed out onto the track for a "Mile Walk."
Here, the week's competitors were treated to a full tutorial on reading the dirt, drafting, focus, and lines. As a non-racing bystander, I came away with a WEALTH of new knowledge. I could tell by the facial expressions of the amateurs in attendance that the lesson had been equally as effective for them... if not more so!
DuQuoin, IL... July 6, 2015 AMA DTGC Mile
The lessons learned yesterday were apparent, today, as the riders treated us to a full day of intense racing action.
The track was incredible. The AMA definitely impressed us by providing the riders with one of the most incredibly well-prepared mile surfaces I have ever witnessed.
The same stars of the sport who were on hand yesterday returned today... and were joined by many others. Jarod Vanderkooi, Jeffrey Carver, Tyler Butts, Ben Evans, and many others were there to lend a hand.
Safety was obviously a huge concern. Before the races, a "Safety Check" was done. Crew members checked the air fence, scouted the track for any concerning spots, tested the visibility of all flags and lights, and tested the ambulance lights and radios.
In addition to the fantastic racing (results of which can be found, here), we had a wildlife show running in the infield. Four deer stood near turn two, watching the full day's race events as they grazed upon the grass within the guardrail's boundaries. A flock of Canada Geese (and one lone white goose) swam at one end of the pond, while a mother duck taught her flock of ducklings to swim on the other end. As evening came, the catfish began to feed, and frogs began to call from the pond's edges. A woodpecker landed on a pole near Chew, studying him as he studied the bikes on the track.
You can find our pictures, here.
DuQuoin, IL... July 7, 2015 AMA DTGC ST
Competitors woke up to a heavy rainfall, which soaked the half mile facility. Because of the rainfall, and a gloomy forecast, AMA officials decided to move the action indoors, and ran a short track program, instead.
We had some challenges of our own, to contend with. We still had no internet, to send back photos and results, but we were making morning trips to a fast food place to use the WiFi over our morning coffee. We had also discovered that our tent converts into a wading pool, in bad weather. Not to be discouraged, we relocated our camp for the week... into a quonset hut that is used to store fairground maintenance equipment.
What can we say? We love this sport.
DuQuoin, IL... July 8, 2015 AMA DTGC Youth ST
Despite the intense competition on the track, the young riders impressed the spectators with the outstanding sportsmanship that flat trackers tend to be noted for.
While our internet is still unobtainable, Chuck Magnusson and Byron Ward were generous enough to offer the use of their internet jetpacks, for the remainder of the week. These guys ROCK, and saved the day for one frustrated media gal!
DuQuoin, IL... July 9, 2015 AMA DTGC TT1
Once again, the skies opened up over the Midwestern cornfields and dumped a good supply of water over the outdoor racing facilities of the DuQuoin State Fairgrounds. Thank goodness for the indoor building and the foresight of the AMA crew, a great day of TT racing was carried out, as planned... inside, but as planned.
The riders put their skills to the test on the raised hill and right-hand turn of the freshly designed course. After two rounds of practice, they were prepared to do battle in their heats.
Racing was a premium in most classes, as the righthand turnbrought the riders to close and competitive racing, and they returned to the more-familiar lefthand turns as they raced towards the finish line and checkered flag.
Full results can be found on this page, and photos can be viewed here.
The nineteen mains ran, and riders were awarded their plaques and plates after the exciting TT Steeple Chase racing.
DuQuoin, IL... July 10, 2015 AMA DTGC TT2 and Awards
The final round of the AMA DTGC brought the riders indoors once again, to a redesigned TT course. While the Thursday course tested the young riders' skills with an elevated jump and firmly packed surface dirt, Friday's course featured a stronger righthand turn and looser soil. Seven-time GNC Champion and AMA Hall of Famer, Chris Carr, explained that the idea behind the alterations was to teach the young riders to adapt in changing situations on the track.
Competition was strong and the racing was close, in most cases, as a spectator might expect in a line up of the nation's
strongest young riders. Full results can be found, here.
Davey Durelle was on hand to award tires to the overall Champions in select classes, and Johnny Lewis awarded contingency prizes towards his 10 Training "boot camp."
Indianapolis, Indiana... AMA Pro Flat Track
We headed straight out from DuQuoin to Indiana, where we were rewarded with yet another great day of photo-finish racing.
To everyone's surprise and relief, the weather decided to cooperate, and the full program was able to be run.
One heartstopping moment occurred when Shawn Baer (who was running better and faster than I ever remember seeing him do, before) had a horrifying crash that split his bike into pieces like an explosion. I can't express the relief we felt, hearing that Shawn was doing just fine. However, since he does finance his own expenses and bikes, it sounds like it's going to be a little while before we see him back on the track.
You can see our photos from the day, here.