Kickstart | Outdoor National Track & Travel Notes
PHOTOS | Antonovich, Maeda, Lindsay & Miller
By now you know that there will be a 2020 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship. The proposed nine-round, eight-track tour has been months in the making, to the point that we’ve extensively covered the challenges, triumphs, regulations, and rule changes that have been made to have some sort of summer series. We’re thrilled that there will be racing this year, as an idle season would have put a number of teams out of business and forced some riders into new career paths. Again, a tip of the visor goes to the MX Sports crew and the track promoters for their work and for investing what they have into racing, because they have a lot of money on the line, too.
Instead of rehashing the same talking points for another week, I decided to put together a small collection of travel notes about the tracks that make up a typical Lucas Pro Motocross Championship calendar. I’ve been fortunate enough to visit all 12 venues over the last nine years and as you’d expect, each one has its own special trait or feature or hidden viewing area that makes them worth putting on your must-see list. You’ll see some things like recommended restaurants and coffee shops, but there are plenty more that I could mention. Want to know about a round-track-city in particular? Drop a comment and I’ll tell you what I’ve found to be solid choices or spots. – Anton
RANCHO CORDOVA, CALIFORNIA
Hangtown is good and viewing seems decent from anywhere. The way it is built onto an empty hillside means there aren’t many “reference points” so TV doesn’t do justice to the speeds that they carry down the technical hills, how big the FLY 150 area is, or the step-up in the back section. It’s always a trip to see the pack come around that big first turn for the first MX rounds of the summer, too. Sacramento is cool with plenty to do and see, there are mountains are to the east, San Francisco to the west, Goldclub Centerfolds is practically at the end of the road if you want to bring backs some of the 90s moto vibes, there’s a big outdoor amphitheater an hour or so away, etc.
Pala is different. Not bad, just different. There are lots of places that allow you to walk around and see the action close, thanks to the way they run the track right in front of the spectator areas, and they get creative with a layout that’s unlike any of the 12. You’ll see the whos who of MX since it’s right down the road from the Temecula hub, but it doesn’t have the fan vibe of Glen Helen. Anyone that’s in SoCal knows what I mean. Depending on what you’re into can determine where you fly into. San Diego County is cool and has a huge beer scene, the North County beach vibe is laid back, there plenty of tracks to ride in the IE, while Orange County has Disney and LA has Universal and the studios, etc.
(I lived 30-minutes from this track for eight years and could recommend a few places in North County, including Peterson’s Donut Corner in Escondido/Yellow Deli in Vista/Privateer Pizza in Oceanside.)
Thunder Valley is excellent. Lots of good viewing from the hillsides if you don’t mind the hike, but you can see a lot from the infield, all because there aren’t things like trees or bushes to block the view. Like Hangtown, the track is really fast, the roost is brutal, the ruts get deep. Everyone in the pits seems pretty laid back, probably because they are out of California for the first time. Denver has everything you can think of, the Rocky Mountains are literally what the track’s built on, Coor’s Brewery tour, the greenery, and food of every kind.
MOUNT MORRIS, PENNSYLVANIA
High Point is true East Coast moto. It’s a bit of process to get out to the track from Pittsburgh, and the hour-plus drive from the city to the track will you take on some tight country roads. Don’t expect the best cell service, so follow the signs MX Sports puts out. High Point is a party to some, so you might really like it, but you can go on your own and see huge parts of the track depending on where you sit up chairs. The changes they’ve made to the layout in the last few years make it nothing like it was, but the big up and downhills they added are cool and now it has the big jumps people will stand by for hours. Prepare to do a lot of walking. Morgantown is a college town, but not too big, and there are plenty of hotels to stay at and local spots to eat.
WW is straight survival. The heat and humidity, the dark dirt and sand, the lack of a breeze, and so on make for a long day. If it rains and the ground gets saturated, then you practically are in the swamp; That made the GP there a few years ago one of the hottest days I’ve ever had at a pro race. It’s completely flat, so you have to walk around to see the different sections. If you’re a Florida vacation type of person, the coast isn’t far and everything like Daytona, NASA, and Orlando is no more than two hours away. The drive between Daytona and Jacksonville has a lot of outlet malls and golfing places, including that Caddyshack themed spot.
Everything you’ve ever heard about Southwick being in the middle of town is true. The property is well taken care of, you can move around to see different things, it’s cool to see how different guys tackle the sand and a lack of any big jumps makes it interesting. There’s a smaller airport nearby and Boston is a longer drive, but like anywhere you can make it a vacation. The surrounding towns have what you’d expect when you think of the Northeast, small and colonial. I was in and out so fast last year, that I only saw the highway, hotel, Skyline Restaurant & Banquet in Windsor Locks, and the Boston airport. But it was worth it to see The Wick for the first time.
RedBud is RedBud. That’s the only way to put it. The fans take it to a new level and everyone is there for a good time, but there comes a point when you’re like “Okay, I’m good on the RedBudddddd chants every 45 seconds.” Another track with good viewing if you’re willing to walk around. The Leap is a must, the long uphill sweeper where Dungey went over the bars on a Suzuki is a cool spot to watch guys get on the gas, and the three big hillsides will let you see large patches of the track. South Bend is a much larger college town than Morgantown, but aside from Notre Dame, I don’t know what there is to do there. It has every sort of place to eat, hotel, gas station, and liquor store that you would expect. Round Barn Brewery & Public House is a local brewery that has a connection to the track and they produced a LaRocco’s Leap beer one year. If you camp, then just watch the races on the smaller tracks each night and the fireworks.
If High Point is East Coast Moto, then Spring Creek is Midwest Moto. You never know what the weather will do there, could be hot or cold, sunny or storming. Be prepared for either. Watch by the sand rollers, climb Mount Martin, hang out in the infield. You’re not going to be able to see everything from one place. The hillside by the hairpin turn and the finish line is an underrated spot to watch from. Fans are very polite and into the action, so it could be a good time in the camping lots, but it won’t be RedBud crazy. Stay in Rochester because there are a surprising number of hotels; I always hear about Canadian Honker and Newt’s but have never been.
Washougal might be one of the best races on the schedule to watch. Guys are starting to know where they stand in the championship by this point in time and the battles on track are very, very good. This is the only National that I’ve personally camped at, so I can confirm it’s a fun time and everyone in the PNW comes out for their weekend in the woods. Yeah, it can be a party but it’s not out of control like B Lot. If you really want a good time, spend the first night in Portland, which is close by, so you can go to SeeSee and get a coffee, watch PIR on Thursday, stop at the food stands in the center of the city, then hit one of the countless strip clubs. Camping Friday night at the track is fun because you can really soak it in all that night and all day Saturday. Personally, I’d rather stay in the city than camp; there’s plenty to do and see in town, tons of coffee shops or bars to have a drink in, and nothing beats a real shower after a day trudging up the hills. It’s a pain to leave on Saturday, so either camp again or wait for the traffic to die down and drive back to town.
This is the only track that I’ve ridden on a true Pro day (125 Intermission race) and it gave me a newfound respect for every person on the starting line. That roost is vicious, the shadows are in very fast sections, and the base is icy slick.
NEW BERLIN, NEW YORK
Unadilla is excellent. The drive through that part of New York is nice, no matter if you come from the south or from the north. There’s really not much to see or stop at, so you know you’ve made it when you see the big barn. Again, walk around, but you’ll see a lot from a handful of hillside spots. It sounds like the party vibe from the past has gone away, which is a bummer. But if you’re a diehard moto fan, then going to ‘Dilla is a must. So much history has happened there and it’s a trip to know all the greats have put a knob to the rocky dirt. In normal circumstances, you’ll see Team USA announced, LL grads make their debut, and guys are still really pushing to get a good result for their rank in the series. Like I said, the hotels and airports in Utica/Binghamton/Syracuse/Albany are a decent drive away, so you’ve got to really love moto to go there.
Budds Creek is like Southwick in a lot of ways. Right next to a road, you have no idea that there’s a massive moto track on the other side of some trees. Parts of the track are right on the fence and I cannot think of any other round that has that. Again, you’re gonna walk and some of the areas are steep, but it’s worth it to get to a hill and see big parts of the track. By this time of year, we have an idea who is going to win the title. Budds can get super humid and the trees block any sort of breeze but don’t offer much shade. I always like seeing what signs those fans paint every year. I stayed in Lexington Park, MD, last year, which is a short drive away with plenty of hotels but I don’t know what to see. The only reason I say that that town is because there is a place called Saturday’s Choice, a trailer in a dollar store parking lot, and the crab cakes there were one of the best meals I had all summer.
Despite being so close to RedBud, Ironman is nothing like it. Everyone from IN/KY/OH/MI/IL makes the trip to watch the last race, so you’ll have a lot of similar Rust Belt Moto people in one place. I know some people that camp there every year, but again, it’s nothing like B Lot. They’ve done a good job making changes to the track and getting good viewing opportunities, but it’s not the greatest because it’s so spread out. You’ll walk a lot and since it’s mostly flat, getting all the way around the property can be a quick trip. Depending on how a racer’s season as gone will determine how much effort they put in at this race. Guys that will want to impress teams will send it, guys with confirmed rides and a year of good results to their credit will go through the motions a bit. Some people will hang out, others bail as fast as they can. It’s very much a “last day of school” vibe.