By Scott Robertson
The best motocross racers in the world descend on the Tri-Cities this weekend as the 2015 Red Bull National, the fourth stop on the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship tour, runs from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturday at Muddy Creek Raceway.
“If you compare motocross to NASCAR,” says Sam Gammon, who runs Muddy Creek and is in his third year of hosting the Lucas Oil Series at the track, “then the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship is like Cup Racing. It’s the top tier. Everything is bigger and better.”
The series is also comparable to the NBA or Major League Baseball in that the best individual competitors from around the world come to the U.S. to compete in this league, even though there are other circuits running all over the world. “The current points leader in the series is actually from France,” Gammons says. “There are competitors from Australia and Germany running as well.”
There is a World Championship Series in Europe, Gammons says, but it has roughly half the talent pool of the Lucas Oil Series.
When the uninitiated observer thinks of motocross, he or she might think of only the most rudimentary small bikes kicking up a lot of mud – in short, pretty basic stuff. The truth, however, is that there’s a remarkable level of technological advancement that has brought the sport into the digital age.
“We start our timed qualifying at 8 a.m.,” Gammon says, “and that’s done by transponders. Each of the bikes has a transponder and we have transponders around the track.” Through readings taken by those transponders, the fastest 40 competitors in each of the two categories of competition will be moved forward into the afternoon races. There’s no need to have 50-70 officials with stopwatches marking every lap of each rider in qualifying. It’s all done digitally.
Once the fields have been narrowed, opening ceremonies for official competition will begin at noon, followed by two races for each class of bike. The 450cc bikes will race at 12:12 and 2:12 p.m. The 250s will race at 1:12 and 3:12 p.m.
“The 250 and 450 numbers represent the size of the engine in terms of displacement,” Gammons says. “The 450 is the premier class.”
This season, Gammons says, the series features its deepest field of competitors in over four decades of competition with a trio of former champions, six former winners and a long list of challengers set to compete. With defending champion Ken Roczen, two-time titleholder Ryan Dungey and 2009 champion Chad Reed all in search of added hardware, up and comers Eli Tomac, Blake Baggett, Justin Barcia, Christophe Pourcel and more are eager to take the next step in their careers.
And while the 450 class has the established riders who’ve paid their dues to be called the best in the world, the 250 Class is where riders including defending champion Jeremy Martin, Cooper Webb, Marvin Musquin and Adam Cianciarulo are cementing their status as future stars of the sport.
Tickets will be available Saturday at Muddy Creek Raceway. Like nearby Bristol Motor Speedway, Muddy Creek is a fan-favorite track. Muddy Creek’s rich soil and superb sightlines make it one of the best venues for spectating in the entire championship.