The Great Outdoors is Back

On the road… again. Only sixteen thousand miles, 46 race days, 14 weeks, and 12 Pro National events lie between us and the end. We take a deep breath and plunge head first into it, starting with round 1 at Glen Helen.

It’s last year all over again, but totally different because now we’re living in style. With a 40’ Renegade and a 22’ stacker trailer behind us, fully wrapped, people stare and point as we pull onto the freeway. ‘Started from the bottom now we here.’ We sing and do a little jig as we head out.


Some things remain the same though: The night before we leave, we’re still scrambling to pull it all together, packing, running to Home Depot, finalizing things at home to get us on the road. All of our plans to be ‘dialed’ have gone down the drain. By early morning we’re just hucking our stuff into the rig, telling ourselves we’ll get organized later.

Moto Buddy is still in tow, eager as ever (especially when we approach Glen Helen. His nose perks at the scent which he knows too well by now). But this time we’ve added Gatita–“little kitty”–or as she’s come to be known “Moto Kitty.” We’re like a traveling freakin’ circus alright. We never can make things easy on ourselves.


Glen Helen is everything it’s cracked up to be: one can’t help but feel awe-inspired by its gnarly hills. What’s more is the speed at which the pro riders attack them. With all the momentum of that Talladega, they’re sucked through the turn like a whirlpool and slingshotted toward the base of the great Mt. St. Helens, then it’s up and down and up again, with no hesitation over the precipice, they just dive bomb the damn thing like a horde of lunatics–but very skilled, precise lunatics.


When Josh Grant emerges from that horde with the speed of a torpedo, the crowd goes absolutely nuts. All speculation gets thrown out the window. Of all the people favored to shine at Glen Helen, Josh Grant was not the expected candidate.

For the first time that day my seat hits a chair and I breathe it all in: the brrraaaaaaaaap of the 450s, the warm sun on my face, the constant static of a cheering crowd, the impassioned fans throwing their bodies into the fences along the track. Because no matter who their favorite rider, the great thing about moto fans, is they love a good upset. What better way to kick off 2014 Pro Motocross than the hometown hero, the #33 bike of Josh Grant, leading the entire moto and sailing over the finish line with hardly a challenger.


As the sun sets over Glen Helen that day, the mess of our booth and our hospitality and our rig all around us, we pull up a chair, crack a much-earned ice cold beer, and soak it all in. The Great Outdoors is back. And the journey has just begun…


“Thank You For Coming”

Having come from another race in northern California the previous Sunday, we picked up our new rig in Phoenix, drove eighteen hours to the heart of Texas, made a quick stop to pick up groceries, and ambled down a dirt road that seemed to lead to nowhere, before we arrived at the world-class national track of Freestone County Raceway Texas Motocross.


Exhausted and exhilarated, we watched the sun rise over the track, skies melting from midnight blue to pink to gold creating a brilliant backdrop for the eighty foot tall flags—one for Texas, one for America—that rippled in the dawn breeze. “This feels like pro motocross,” I whispered. The track was eerily quiet, the calm before the storm. You could feel all around you that Freestone was ready for it.

We hadn’t been alone in our mad dash to get here. We heard more stories from other families who had pulled their sons and daughters out of school, hopped in their motorhomes and driven through the night across country for the chance to earn AMA titles at the James Stewart Freestone Spring Championship. They came from Florida, California, Ohio, Colorado, Georgia, and all over the country. We even met people from New Zealand!


Over the course of the day, once more as before we encountered that strange sensation of seeing familiar faces thousands of miles away from the last place we had seen them, this time in the midst of the backroads, family farms, and cow pastures of rural Texas. “I call them the traveling circus!” the announcer, Don Collings, said with a laugh, and we nodded, because the label fit.

The sun brought with it the day’s action and promise of glory. For every child who stepped proudly onto the podium before the flashing of cameras and cheering of fans, a dozen more trudged away from the track disappointed, even crushed, but with the hope that the next moto would yield better results. “The highs and the lows,” we always say to ourselves. Because in every corner of this wild circus, from the people who race to the people who support them—parents, families, mechanics, sponsors, fans, promoters, and track owners—there are the highs and the lows that lead to this strange moto addiction that simply cannot be explained.


By the end of the day, still sleep deprived from the drive and running on fumes we began packing up our booth and debating what to cook for dinner. Something quick and easy, we decided. Almost as if we had summoned him, some unknown individual pulled up on a quad and said, pointing in a general direction, “We’re barbequing ribs. Come on by, we’ve got plenty of food.”

We followed our noses to the barbeque, pausing sheepishly on the outskirts of their pit, scanning the scene for a familiar face. “I don’t think we know anyone here,” I mumbled, but someone on the inside caught our hesitance and summoned us over, offered us a plate, and encouraged us to “Eat up! This is real Texas barbeque!” So we did, and those ribs were so melt-in-your-mouth delicious I can proclaim with honesty they were the best I had ever tasted. We loaded our plates with chicken and sausage, macaroni & cheese and salad and we ate until there was no room for more. We mingled through the group, shaking hands, trying to figure out who to thank for the food, but it seemed that everybody was host, and yet nobody was host. Maybe it was Jimmy, maybe it was Paul, but they were all from Texas, and they were all proud to say, “Thank you for coming.”


Welcome, to the Lucas Oil Legion

You may have noticed some changes taking place with the look and feel of the My Lucas Oil team. At this time, we’d like to introduce you to the all-new team homepage…


Over the course of 2013, we watched our team grow in number and solidarity. We heard about your triumphs—earning the win that you had trained hard for, mastering a new trick, scoring your first podium—and your struggles—horrific crashes, frustrating injuries, and small mistakes that led to great losses.  We witnessed the hours, weeks, and sometimes months it took you to rehabilitate after an injury.  We shared your joy as you passed your love of your sport on to a young loved one.

We watched you go to battle week in and week out, rising to the challenges that competition brings because of your love, even your addiction, to your sport. And throughout all of it, you waved the Lucas Oil flag, you wore our shield, and we, are all the better for it. So today, to the adrenaline junkies, to the Weekend Warriors, to the die-hard dads, and the promising up-and-comers, we welcome you to the all-new Lucas Oil Legion. We are fighters. We are champions. We are many.

Why are Pros Racing Amateur Races? An Opinion Piece…

“Why are PROS racing AM races?” a tweet notification popped up on my screen. A fair question, of course. One that I’m sure many MX riders, particularly women riders, are asking. As many of you know by now, women’s pro motocross, dubbed “WMX,” has been relegated to amateur events for 2014 after losing its home alongside men’s Pro MX.

The responses that followed from fellow angry tweeters were absurd, at best. No, it’s not because “some man” decided. And no, “that man” most certainly isn’t D. Coombs. For some reason people at large have crowned Coombs as the King of Pro Motocross, as the man behind all the decisions. I don’t know much, but I certainly know this to be a vast misconception. In the Pro MX world, there are much bigger players than Coombs. (And to his credit, it was Coombs who dreamed up bringing WMX to the Pro series in the first place, so give the guy a break.)

If you want to blame the television networks, or the sponsors, you’re getting warmer. The simple fact is that pro racing hardly exists without the corporate bodies who fund it, but let’s not pretend that these are acts of charity. We’re all in business to promote ourselves—our brands, our products—and thusly, we invest in the events and athletes that are marketable.

Female MX athletes are some of the most dedicated, die-hard athletes in the biz. Factory team managers are completely at a loss.  Imagine watching these girls with so much talent, so much drive, and nowhere to go. In fact, most people in the industry are pretty bent up about the state of WMX.

But the cold, hard truth is that WMX is simply not marketable—at least not yet. And if I’m going to charge anyone with that crime, I charge you. Yes, YOU: Motocross fans. There’s little money behind women’s racing because the fans aren’t behind it.

“But they’re not as fast as the guys,” you say, and I admit, this is largely true. And while there’s simple anatomy to blame (men are anatomically stronger than women, generally speaking), and while female athletes on the whole are at an evolutionary disadvantage (men have been competing in athletic events for thousands of years; meanwhile, in the powder room, the women are knitting), I think it goes deeper still. After all, we’ve seen the likes of up-and-coming female athletes like Courtney Duncan who has the speed to beat plenty of her male competitors in the amateur scene. Still, at Loretta’s I didn’t see a whole lot of people—sponsors or fans—who seemed all that interested in pursuing her.

If you really get down to it, I think you’ve got to dig into the very culture of motorsports, one in which women play a very clear role, and it’s a silent, porcelain-faced, half-clothed one. Let’s be honest, the Monster girls get more coverage at motorsports events than all the female racers combined. Female athletes can only hope to be blessed with a pretty face, so that maybe the camera will be so generous as to gaze upon them.

Now before you misconstrue my argument, please understand that I mean no disrespect to the models. Haters: pipe-down. There’s room for both Dianna Dahlgren and Jessica Patterson in this industry. All I’m saying is, what if we celebrated talent just as much as we celebrated beauty in our young women? What if we gave WMX another chance, a REAL chance? What if we, THE FANS, invested a little more time and interest into WMX, not just for ourselves, but also for our daughters, our sisters, our girlfriends, our wives, our mothers, and for the sport we love?

Maybe instead of being angry about WMX joining the amateur events, we can see this as an opportunity. After all, this year female racers have eight national events at which to compete, compared to last year’s measly three events with the Triple Crown. At least one of these amateur events will be televised, and that number is expected to grow in the coming years. Look at the attention amateur national MX events are getting these days: last year, Loretta’s garnered a larger television viewership than the X Games! These amateur events are going to get a lot of press, and WMX is going to be a part of that.

The decision to hold WMX races alongside amateur events was merely a financial one, one that was necessary in order to give female athletes the opportunity to race this year. Now, it’s up to us to decide what the future of WMX holds. As for me, I’ll be at the track with a front row seat when the women take the gate.

-Rachel Witt

Sixteen Thousand Miles

16,000 miles driven; 2,130 gallons of fuel; 313 hours of driving; 298 cups of coffee consumed; 105 days living in a trailer; 45 truck stops slept in; 30 races worked; 8 National Parks visited; 5 tires blown out; 3 people (and a dog); 1 cross-country adventure.


Fifteen weeks later we rounded the corner of a familiar street, and we arrived: Home.

People ask, “How was your trip?” and you might try to convey in a word or a sentence the experience, but it is near impossible to do so…


On the northernmost outskirts of the United States, we felt the impact of 2,800 tonnes of water per second as it plummeted over Niagra Falls.  In Butte, Montana, we placed a toy motorcycle on Evel Knievel’s grave.  In Lancaster, Pennsylvania, we helped an Amish man push a downed tree out of the road after being ambushed by a flash flood.  In Morgantown, West Virginia, we ate baguettes and aged Provolone in the Racer X boat on Lake Cheat.  In Omaha, Nebraska, we caught bullfrogs and trout that we threw back into a little stream.  


In New York City, we gaped at the magnitude of man’s creations—giant sky scrapers reaching to the clouds. In Ottawa, Illinois, we spent hours sipping Yuengling watching fireflies dance around a cornfield. In Park City, Utah, we wandered through a street fair, eating crepes and buying necessities, like a hand-made wooden crossbow. In Hurricane Mills, Tennessee, we ate steaming bowls of spicy jambalaya at a campsite, surrounded by strangers who treated us like family.  And between all of these experiences, we drove and drove and drove.

Every week we arrived at a new destination—a world class track—where the best motocross racers in the world would duel it out for our entertainment.


We came to know most members of the track crew by name, and they laughed with us as we regaled stories of the latest breakdowns and blow-outs encountered on the drive there. We backed in, set up, cleaned up, as we moved a million moving parts, to create our booth.  We slogged through rain and mud, persisted through sweat and muggy heat, buckled down as thunder shook the earth, and squinted through wind and dust storms.  


Each Saturday, we addressed crowds of 20,000 plus, hearing our words ring out over the loudspeakers.  We reminisced with fans, listening to stories about Hangtown in the 70’s, about 40 years of racing at Southwick, about meeting Bob “Hurricane” Hannah and the GOAT.  We trekked around the track taking photographs, cursing our cable providers as we tried to post some epic shot of the day to Instagram.  We pushed our way through crowds to the podium, to be there for that brief moment when the champagne would fly.


Then, after the gladiators had battled and crashed and triumphed—Villopoto, Tomac, Dungey, Barcia, Stewart, Canard, Roczen, Musquin—after they had spoken their thank you’s on the podium and returned to their hotels, we lounged around in the mess, high fiving and sharing beers with the show masters, procrastinating cleanup, so that by the time we trudged toward bed, we were exhausted, but content.

Each week we left the track, having learned at least a dozen new things. And then? More road. More truck stops.


Now that we’re here, at the end, we ask ourselves what was gained. We stumble with words because how does one express the experience as a whole, when it is made up of so many tiny moments?  We can only say that we ventured, that we discovered the soul of motocross, and along the way, we felt life pulsing through the veins of America.


When Rain Came to Loretta’s

We had heard many stories about Loretta’s, but they varied mostly by degrees of heat. August in Tennessee: one could only imagine it as a smoldering place. And since my good moods are sometimes held hostage by humidity, I thought only of heat as the event approached.

So when I pulled into the Hurricane Mills Wal-Mart parking lot in Tennessee at 2:00am and jumped out of the truck and shuddered with cold, well naturally I was incredulous.


The day after our arrival, it rained. And rained. And rained some more. Some people vaguely remembered a year here or there when it had rained. But in 32 years, they had never seen the likes of a storm such as this.

By day two the races were postponed due to rain. Golf carts teeming with teenagers hydroplaned through the backwoods. Flooded camps produced inflatable boats captained by tenacious moms. All manner of mud-fights between crews of rascally kids ensued.


When the racing resumed, we watched as bikes piled up in the mud on the holeshot; otherwise experienced riders sought speed hopelessly in the slop; tiny kids on 50’s came off the track with hot tears streaming down their faces; vet riders peeled steaming gear from their bodies and dumped buckets of cool water over their exhausted, muddy faces. Miraculously, rarely a complaint was heard.


By Thursday the rain stopped and the sun returned to bake the track. Friday brought blue skies. But the storm was scheduled to return on Saturday—the day of the first ever live broadcast of the AMA Amateur National Championship on NBC.

The rain arrived once more in a steady drizzle, followed by the rumble of engines on the starting line. Between the morning races, tractors resumed their tasks of plowing and scraping the track, searching for a dry layer beneath the puddles. More scraping. More plowing. When they discovered a crushed drainage pipe that would have served to drain the track, when they had scraped so low that they were almost to the water table, when they saw the clock counting down what little time remained, the situation appeared truly hopeless.


It was then that the heavens stopped their crying. Forklifts were enlisted to bust open the blocked drainage pipe. The track received its final grooming. Cameramen assumed their positions. The best amateur racers in the world took their places at the gate. Hearts pounded as the long-awaited moment approached, when the Loretta Lynn’s AMA National Champion would be crowned.


Watching, I remembered something that I had heard once, that though today might bring rain—it might bring grief or pain, challenges, or even death—

Tomorrow, we race.



At any track we witness the natural progression: empty space becomes structured, camping lots emerge and fill up, and with them, pro pits, vendor rows, media centers, and VIP zones appear.


But Redbud takes it to a whole new level.  Their campsites have campsites.  There’s even an 18 and older lot, where the real debauchery unfolds.  Take a morning stroll past Lot B, and you will see more than a few people face down in the grass next to mountains of beer cans, music still blaring.


But don’t get me wrong, there’s more substance to the extravaganza than can be found in a can of Bud Light.  I’m not sure if it’s because of the Fourth of July holiday or the incessant back-to-back race events (five events in three days!) or perhaps it’s simply the frantic excitement generated by the resounding, guttural cheers of, “Redbuuuuuuuuuuuuuuud” that make it such an extravaganza.  Whatever it may be, it is an event that can only be learned through experience.


Working the podium at all four amateur events, we got to talk with the many people who come to Redbud to race.  We greeted the champions who returned to winner’s circle again and again.  We high-fived tiny kids who had just finished their first races.


We celebrated with proud moms and dads who we knew put in all the behind-the-scenes work to make it possible for their children to compete.  We reminisced with vet riders, who were pleased that they ‘still had it’ after a good run on the track.


Watching the fireworks exploding, showering comets of red, white, and blue over the ruts and jumps of Redbud MX Park, I decide that if Redbud owes its reputation to any one thing, it’s tradition.  Each year, the Ritchies and the rest of the Redbud staff put on the biggest, most impressive weekend of racing on the series.  And each year, fans, competitors, friends, and families return to celebrate Independence Day together, creating the memories and traditions that shape our lives.


This year, I finally got to experience Redbud, and I must admit, it was worth the hype.