Looking back on the season, 2014 was another bundle of memories... from Gage Beland's horrific accident (and amazingly inspiring comeback)
to Chew and Aldana's midnight raid of Stu's pastry stash, we ALWAYS seemed to have an adventure to share.
It's our hope that this blog will let us share 2015's experiences, in a similar manner.
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!
The 2015 AMA Dirt Track Grand Championships will be held in DuQuoin, IL on July 6-10. This year's honoree will be the current AMA Pro Flat Track GNC1 champion, Jared Mees.
Pre-Registration is available, online, at the AMA website until midnight (CST) on June 28th.
Those competing for the Horizon Award will also need to fill out a Letter of Intent, also available to download from the AMA website.
If you will be competing for the Fast Brain Award, you can find details for submitting your information, here.
The itinerary for the week's program is as follows:
MONDAY (July 6)... MILE... Amateur classes, ONLY (including Vintage Hot Rod, but not Youth Classes). Check-in will be from 6:00 am-8:00 am at the White Building at the entrance to the 1 Mile Track.
TUESDAY (July 7)... HALF MILE... All classes. Check-in will be from 6:00 am-8:00 am at the TT/ ½ mile track in between the fairground billboards.
WEDNESDAY (July 8)... INDOOR ST... Youth classes, ONLY. Check-in will be from 8:00 am-10:00 am at the Southern Illinois Center-Short Track building.
THURSDAY (July 9)... TT... All classes. Check-in will be from 6:00 am-8:00 am at the TT/ ½ mile track in between the fairground billboards.
FRIDAY (July 10)... INDOOR ST... All classes. Check-in will be from 6:00 am-8:00 am at the Southern Illinois Center-Short Track building.
Post entry and pre-entry check-in will also be available on Sunday, July 5th, from 4 p.m. -8 p.m. in the White Building at the entrance to the 1 Mile Track.
Each class will cost $70 to enter, through pre-registration, or $80 to enter after the
deadline. Pit passes are available for all racers, on the pre-registration link, for $15/day or $50/week. Spectator passes are $15/day or $50/week (ages 13+) and $10/day or $25/week for Youth
Racer Pits open each day at 6 a.m. starting on Monday, July 6.
Wednesday, July 8, ONLY: Racer Pits will open at 8 a.m.
Daily Pit Passes are $15 per person for all racers and spectators ages 13 and up.
Daily Pit Passes are $10 per youth ages 4-12 (NON-RACER).
Ages 3 and under are free.
Full week Pit Pass packages can be purchased starting on Sunday, July 5, through Monday, July 6. The cost is $50 per person for all racers and spectators ages 13 and up. The cost for kids ages 4-12 (NON- RACERS) is $25 per person.
Last night, as everyone who hasn't resided beneath a rock for the past few months knows, flat track made its debut on ESPN's X-Games.
For ages, we had heard that "flat track needs to be on TV..." "they need to reach out to other crowds, like Moto X, and bring in new blood..." "Get them off DTX bikes and onto framers..." etc.
Judging from these comments, the X-Games debut should have been an answer to a fan's prayers.
The competition was fierce. A last-lap mechanical issue swept the race leader out of play, causing a dramatic twist that no one expected... and he handled it with first-class sportsmanship, despite the intense disappointment that was painted on his face.
The skeptics who claimed it would be a "HD Showcase," because of the brand's sponsorship and promotion of the event, were probably flabbergasted to see the multibrand competition... and the ones who wailed about how the Kawasaki's have an "unfair advantage" on the miles ("but just wait until they get on a shorter track") undoubtedly pummeled their heads against the keyboard at the podium... the crowds and exposure were unbelievable, to boot.
Instead, all we have been hearing is that "the track sucked."
It was an "unfair representation of our sport."
"It should have been hosted at Lima or Springfield."
Typical post-racing bitchfest... mainly from people who were sitting at home, watching the drama unfold on Primetime cable TV.
I agree... the track was extremely rough. The starting gate was NOT typical of a flat track race. I held my breath, in hopes that everyone would make it out without any serious injury, the entire time.
A week before the event, that track was buried underneath an estimated 8 inches of water. The Texas clay is notoriously known for creating challenging tracks, for many of the riders who
take on the challenge, even WITHOUT being submerged for days on end. Oh, and did we mention that this was a NEW track? The facility had built it especially for the event, hauling in truckloads of
dirt and carving the course...just in time for a flooding that made National headlines.
It's a downright miracle that the track was able to be run, at ALL.
Despite what the critics clamor, very few people could have pulled off the feat that the track crew pulled off, last night.
The track was a single groove. No cushion. Rutted and pitted like an old washboard... but it was THERE to be RUN, and the riders had to use techniques and tactics that many of them had never even contemplated, before.
To the best of my knowledge, there were no serious injuries. Riders managed to draft, pass, and put on an incredible show despite everything that the critics were saying would be their downfall. The diverse strategies, quick thinking, awesome reflexes, and bold drives outplayed the expectations of many of the people who witnessed it.
EVERY RIDER OUT THERE displayed a talent that goes FAR beyond what a typical newcomer would see, as far as "going fast and turning left," and I don't think that even the harshest critic can deny, they ALL did one heck of a job.
The "X" in "X-Games" stands for EXTREME... and that's exactly what this event was, in this fans eyes.
In my opinion, they rocked it.
Imagine that you have a coworker who is CONSTANTLY late for work.
Your boss, knowing that you and the coworker are good friends, wants you to talk to him about his perpetual tardiness.
"I just don't want to have to fire your friend," your boss says, "And I've written him up, so many times, there really isn't another option."
You know that your friend is a hard worker (when they are there), and really can't afford to lose their job.
So, that's why you find yourself confronting your pal as they clock in, a good hour into the work shift.
"Hey, man," you say, "Glad you made it."
"Yeah," he says, "Traffic was awful. I swear, I don't know why the city doesn't put in another access route connecting the interstates... it gets so congested, every morning."
"Well," you begin, with a deep breath, "That's kind of what I was needing to talk to you about..."
"Oh, man... I need to get a cup of coffee. You know, the city really ought to consider putting in an extra lane for us working stiffs. There's no reason we should be stuck on the road behind all of the gawkers and semis... and whoever thought to make the speed limit 45? Seriously... if it were 55, or even 65, traffic would move a lot faster."
"Um..." you falter, "Have you thought of leaving a little earlier? Maybe... taking a different route?"
He brushes off your suggestion with a wave of the hand.
"What they REALLY need to do," he says, "Is to change the work hours of this place. If we started a couple hours later, and left an hour or two earlier, we wouldn't have to deal with the morning traffic jams."
"But..." you try again, "That would cut down our work hours, and our pay!"
"If they raised our pay, we wouldn't NEED to work as many hours."
"Look," you say, "The boss wanted me to talk to you about your punctuality. Man, you are on the verge of being FIRED. You NEED to DO something."
"Fired?" He gasps. "What do you mean? I'm the best employee they've got!"
You bite your lip.
"He doesn't WANT to fire you... but he NEEDS you to be here ON TIME. What can you do, to make this happen?"
He collapses into a chair, at the breakroom table.
"I can't believe this... me. FIRED. Man... you know... if the city would just get rid of those stop lights on Broad and Main streets, that would take care of a lot of the problem, right there..."
At what point do you give up?
We run into the same frustration, while talking with fellow fans about ways we can help build the sport.
People are MORE than happy to tell you what the sanctioning bodies SHOULD do. They need to revamp the rules... or do away with them, altogether... but keep the racing close. They need to lift the regulations on tires and fuel, but make sure that there is no advantage given to those with deeper pockets. They need to get more races on the agenda, all over the country, but not anyplace that requires us to burn up more fuel to attend. They need to bring in more twins races, for those who have spent the last couple of years getting a Basic Twin bike ready, but not so many that it makes things unfair for those who don't have rides.
"Ok," we say, "But how can the FANS help the sport?"
They should lower the sanctioning fees and invest more into TV coverage and advertising, but raise the purses to make the effort more rewarding. They should get rid of Fan's Choice, because it keeps people from attending, but they should PROMOTE Fan's Choice, because it could introduce the sport to new fan bases.
"All right," we say, "But what can WE do... as FANS... to help the sport grow?"
They need more TV time... reality shows... every race, on the speed and sports networks... maybe a documentary series or two. The sport is FULL of human interest stories, exciting action, and all of the other things that make it a success... we just need to get the word out!
"It sure does," we say, "But what can WE DO TO HELP?"
They ought to do away with the fireworks and T-shirt cannons... but use laserlight shows and big screen TVs with rider intros, and theme songs for each rider... cut out on the track prep, but keep the track safe for the racers... bring in live bands and hot umbrella girls, but cut down on the loud music and do away with the sexism.
It never fails.
We ask for suggestions... bringing in new fans... sharing the sport on non-related media outlets... keeping things positive online, to keep from turning off potential sponsors... donating to riders and supporting amateur races... etc.
EVERY SINGLE TIME, they respond with a sentence that begins with the words "They need to" or "They ought to."
Am I saying that we should keep silent on issues that need addressed... not mention our thoughts and ideas?
Not at all.
Like the chronically tardy coworker, saying what "they" should do doesn't fix the problem. Insight into what WE can do... and acting upon it... is the key.
So, I ask YOU...
What can WE... the FANS... do, to help the sport of flat track to grow?
The trip down was fairly uneventful. We got caught in traffic (caused by pothole repairs) in Tennessee, and made it through a weekend rush hour, in Atlanta. Other than that, roads were clear and traffic was sparse.
Others weren't so fortunate. We had reports from riders, crew members, and race fans... some of whom were stuck in Kentucky or Tennessee for 14-26 HOURS, due to bad road conditions.
The National Guard was out there, on Highways 64 and 65, passing out bottled water. Some of these folks reached the track a day later than we did, even though they had LEFT a day EARLIER. Crazy dedication...