On July 17-23 in Du Quoin, Ill., the AMA Racing Dirt Track Grand Championships will celebrate 35 years of crowning the best amateur racers in short-track, TT, half-mile and Mile amateur dirt-track competition.
Attending as this year’s event honoree will be AMA Pro Racing Grand National Championship contender Bryan Smith, who races for the Monster Energy Kawasaki Werner Springsteen Racing Team. Joining Smith as a special guest will be AMA Hall of Famer Bill Werner, one of the most successful tuners in AMA Grand National Championship history.
Director of AMA Racing Joe Bromley said that, as honoree, Smith will connect with today’s young up-and-coming riders.
"Bryan cut his teeth racing the AMA Racing Dirt Track Grand Championships," Bromley said. "It’s where he learned the professional-grade speed that has taken him so far in his career. The advice he’ll have for today’s young riders will be invaluable."
Werner-built bikes have logged more than 130 wins and 13 Grand National titles, and his presence offers a link to the long and storied history of dirt-track racing. Today, the dirt-track legend tunes the Kawasaki KFX450 single and EX650 twin that Smith races on the pro circuit.
"With the legendary Bill Werner on hand," said Bromley, "as well as the cutting-edge Monster Energy Kawasaki racebikes, this summer’s Grand Championships are going to be a major treat for our amateur racers battling for national titles in Du Quoin."
The event honoree is a highlight for competitors, who get to shake hands, take pictures, ask questions and just hang out with one of their heroes. Smith, who joins riders such as Chris Carr, Kenny Coolbeth and JR Schnabel as recipients of the honor, said that he’s looking forward to returning to the AMA Racing Dirt Track Grand Championships.
"I remember growing up, going down there a week every summer," Smith said. "You get to see the racers that you’ll be competing against for the rest of your life. The best in the country show up there. For the kids, you never know who you are racing, where they will be. One could be the world champion someday.
"The whole facility is nice," Smith continued. "I can’t think of a better place to have the Grand Championships. The indoor short track is real nice, and the Mile, the way they prep it and the shape of it, is really special. It’s one of the few places in the country where I could hold my Kawasaki 650 wide open all the way around. There are not many tracks where you can do that.
"For me, the Grand Championships were really special," Smith added. "The competition was good, but the most important things now are the lifelong friends I have around the country that I met there. Jared Mees and I are best friends now, and that’s where we met. Roger Lee (Hayden) and I had a real rivalry going, and I’ll always remember that."
Werner, whose Monster Energy Kawasaki Werner Springsteen Racing Team also includes AMA Motorcycle Hall of Famer Jay Springsteen as test rider and mentor, said he appreciates the importance of the amateur championships to the sport’s heritage.
"The event provides the groundwork for the future pros of the sport — it’s where Bryan got his start," Werner said. "It represents the youth of America getting involved in motorcycling, getting involved in racing. For amateur dirt-track racers in America, it’s the highlight of every summer, and being involved in the event is an honor. I remember doing a presentation in Peoria years ago, and in the audience were the Hayden brothers. On the blackboard, I’m diagramming rake and trail and explaining how a bike handles and I look out at these kids. Look where they are now. All three are AMA Champions, and one is a MotoGP World Champion. In the group this year may be the next ‘Hayden brothers.’"
The AMA Racing Dirt Track Grand Championships crown Grand National champions based on their accumulated points in all four dirt-track disciplines. The top riders compete for the AMA Dirt Track Horizon Award, which honors the amateur racer poised for success on the pro level.
Racers field traditional dirt-trackers, all-terrain vehicles and the latest DTX-machinery. DTX bikes are a fast-growing segment of dirt-track racing. They begin as showroom-fresh motocross bikes that are then fitted with dirt-track tires, suspension and other modifications.
Sponsorship and online registration details will be announced shortly. A tentative schedule and additional event information can be found online at AMARacing.com.