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2024 Birmingham Supercross | Kickstart Recap & Gallery



“How’s this race going to go?”

The topic crossed my mind plenty during the trip to Alabama for the 2024 Birmingham Supercross, the ninth round in the Monster Energy Supercross Championship. How Protective Stadium got the slot on the over anywhere in Atlanta had been a hotly discussed topic since the 2024 schedule had been announced, but a place with a new stadium and a nearby convention center big enough to hold all of Fan Fest that’s within a reasonable drive of multiple cities in the southern market all made it appealing to the series’ promoters.

Having the hyper-competitive 450 Class and 250 East Coast Region duke it out on pure red clay was going to be another exciting element in the title fights, especially after all the different dirt types used in Daytona the week before, and every rider in either division went into the race with unique expectations.

Despite all those positives, the Brasfield & Gorrie-built venue and its modern features like seating that’s close to the action and standing areas to socialize that overlook the field and the nearby urban renewal, does not have a roof, and that left it open to days of heavy rain.

Word that the Alabama race would be a mudder started to circle in Florida. Early forecasts and radar previews showed storms rolling through on Tuesday and again on Friday, with a chance of it stretching into the early hours of Saturday morning. Knowing that the expected four-six inches of rain would make building the track a challenge, Feld Entertainment, the AMA, and the teams agreed in their weekly meeting that a modified layout would be best.

I packed for the worst weather and hopped in the rental car on Thursday, a seven-hour drive that was broken up by an overnight layover in Tennessee. Birmingham is just over two hours from Nashville and about the same distance from Atlanta, and during the springtime drive, I agreed with the idea that this race could pull fans from all over. A look at the Ticketmaster page before leaving the hotel showed that the remaining seats were about 25-dollars before fees, and there weren’t many left.

Super Parking was in a garage behind the restaurants near the stadium and was connected to two hotels and the BJCC through a series of bridges. The indoor pit setup was sort of like St. Louis, but the split-level layout of the building spread things out, with the Monster Energy-backed teams, Honda, and the Lawrence VIP in one room and the others in another larger area.

Torrential downpours hit on-schedule Friday afternoon and everyone with a pass was happy to be working indoors. The AMA ran the technical inspection procedures in a back corner, and with no Press Day riding to dirty the bikes, everyone seemed to split by 4PM.

I walked onto the stadium floor between showers at 6PM to check out the tarp-covered track. There was standing water in the transitions, but one exposed jump face was easy enough to get to that I hopped over to get a real idea of the dirt’s condition. Rock solid, as expected. The Dirt Wurx crew didn’t start on the modified design until Wednesday, which swapped the standard issue SX-whoops for GP-waves, added more room between jumps, clipped down the lips on the faces, and rounded the edges of the lanes so that water could easily channel to the stadium drainage.

The stadium crew turned the spotlights on around 7PM, right after I climbed back into the seats to get better angles for News Break and ahead of another round of rain. This storm went on for hours, well after I left the track, got back to the hotel, had dinner, and passed out on the bed in the hotel.

Seeing how the track looked when it was uncovered and a morning meeting with Dave Prater meant I had to get to the stadium early on Saturday. The rain ended sometime overnight, but it was to be concerning, and I wanted to know how much water that uncovered jump face had taken on. I walked out just as the first tarps were getting tugged off by the quad, and as expected, the jumps looked good. Some of the areas in between were water-logged, especially the bottoms of the bowl turns and between the big double, but clear skies and some work with the heavy equipment would be enough to get it into shape before the night show.

Dirt Wurx Manager Alex Gillispie wrapped up a conversation with one of the crew and we talked for a few minutes before I left the floor. “It was a good week, even though we started a day later, on Wednesday, because there was an inch of rain scheduled for Tuesday. It ended up being the right decision, because even though it didn’t rain all day when we were at the house, it rained all night and that was almost a relief, so it didn’t feel like we lost a day,” he told me. “Press riding being cancelled helped us, because we worked on Friday morning until the rain and just made it happen.

“You don’t want to build a full-blown Supercross track and then have it be a mudder,” he explained of the modified layout. “When we agreed on the mud track, it showed rain today. It’s going to be a dry race track with soft spots for sure, but the triples are now doubles, the finish line is a bit shorter, the whoops are rollers, and we took one jump out of each rhythm lane so that they can get out of the bowl turns and get ready for the lane.”

The red clay was well-suited for the weather, as it seemed to handle the additional moisture without becoming pure slop. It was the most pure dirt that I think I’ve ever seen, as there were no added elements like sand mixed in; in fact, the only other organic material I saw was some tree roots and branches. “We got this dirt from about 16 miles away from here” said Alex before I left. “It was a giant hole in the ground that went twenty feet deep and was still perfect material.”

“Meet Dave on the suite level for the interview,” read the text message from Sean Brennen.

I’d been in the stadium’s tower the night before, when my shoes were dry and clean, but the start straight had left them wet and covered in red mud, and there was no chance I’d be allowed in the carpeted halls with them on my feet. So as soon as the elevator door open, I slipped them off my feet and carried them to the room where Prater was waiting and watching the track come together.

One-on-one time with the boss is hard to come by, especially on race day, and the fifteen minutes we got together was more than enough to talk about the season so far and what was expected of Birmingham. Prater has been in an executive position for years and over times has learned the ins and outs of sports business, which was evident when we talked about the public’s opinion that SX should only be indoors compared to current trends in stadium construction. “I think there is a perception out there that there are all of these stadiums with roofs. And if you look into it, and believe me, I have, the stadiums built in the last fifteen years are without roofs,” he explained. “SoFi was built with a roof and the new Titans Stadium in Tennessee and the new A’s Stadium in Las Vegas look like they will have them, too. It looks like the trend is going back that way, more covered stadiums would be best for events because you wouldn’t have to deal with the elements. But the elements add another excitement level to the races, and you have to think about it both ways.”

“For years we were at the Georgia Dome and loved that venue. When Mercedes-Benz Stadium came about and the Georgia Dome was no more, we tried that for a few years. Logistically it was tough, with two different buildings for the Fan Fest and then the track,” said Prater of the southern market. “And then we went to Atlanta Motor Speedway, as you know and tried that. We just wanted to get back into a traditional stadium, and Birmingham is only a couple of hours to the west, so a beautiful new stadium was worth a shot.”

“The last four weeks have been record turnouts in those venues. Detroit, Glendale, and Arlington were, and I don’t know if Daytona officially was, but I’m fairly certain it was. And Birmingham is going to be a record, too, because it’s our first time here. The sport is in a good spot and over the last year and half, for the first time, we’re all pulling in the same direction.”

With no riding on Friday and a trimmed down practice schedule, I decided to video the second round of Timed Qualifying from the stands. The bleachers made it easy for me to go from section to section during the 250 A and 450 A laps, and from there it became pretty obvious that there were no obstructed or bad seats around the bowl. The downtime gave me a chance to talk with some of the people in the crowd, and most I talked to had driven a few hours to see the new place, had been to other southern SX races in the past, spent part of the afternoon in the pits, and knew what was going on with moto. It was the exact crowd that was expected.

Michael Antonovich

Michael Antonovich has a wealth of experience with over 10 years of moto-journalism under his belt. A lifelong racing enthusiast and rider, Anton is the Editor of Swapmoto Live and lives to be at the race track.

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