AMA Motocross: The Great Outdoors

AMA Motocross: 2010

For most people, "The Great Outdoors" traditionally conjures up notions of camping and fishing and various summer activities. But for the motocross fan it means the AMA Outdoor Motocross Championship is upon us.

The season kicks off May 22nd the way it has for over thirty years, at the legendary "Hangtown," in Northern California, near the State Capital.

As the opening event in the 12-round/24-moto series, Hangtown ushers in a fresh title chase, giving rise to healthy rumors and all the "what-ifs", questions and speculation as to how the various protagonists are going to do.

As a former race mechanic I can tell you about the incredible optimism and high hopes that permeate the pit at the season opener. It’s a clean slate. Nothing good-or bad-has happened yet.

I love the start of the season because just prior to the first gate drop, everything is possible. Nothing is written. Everyone, for one brief moment, is on equal footing.

So, with the fresh air of possibility, let’s armchair-quarterback a bit. We have Chad Reed coming in to defend his outdoor title. Ryan Dungey, fresh off winning the Supercross title, eases into his first outdoor season aboard the 450 (and into the domain of his mentor and coach, the legendary Roger DeCoster). And of course, there’s James Stewart.

One has to imagine the Floridian, the world’s fastest man on a motocross machine, has a lot of pent up frustration about being taken out of the Supercross title chase early with injuries. Stewart’s time off has certainly put him behind the eight ball.

At this level, any time away from racing can have a serious impact on performance. That said, Stewart-provided he’s healthy-is a hard man to bet against.

Ryan Villopoto will certainly be sidelined with the leg he broke at the tail end of the Supercross season (His factory Kawasaki looks like it will be lent to talented privateer Nick Wey).

There is a slew of real talent, itching to cut loose and prove their metal. Riders like Kevin Windham, Andrew Short, Josh Hill, Ivan Tedesco, Davi Millsaps, and the holeshot master Mike Alessi-to name a few.

This arsenal of capable riders have all shown flashes of brilliance, many earning podiums for the first time during the Supercross season (the result of Stewart and Reed being absent due injuries).

That’s a dangerous elixir; the podium. Once experienced, it’s all a racer can think of. As a result, look for a series of strong performances, a lot of close dicing, and a lot less backing down this season.

Right now it’s anybody’s guess who is going to win the title. There’s the entry list of the usual suspects who have been banging bars for several years. That said, I’m always watching for the next superstar that breaks out of obscurity with a three-digit number and gives the front-runners something to think about.

I saw it with Bob Hannah, Marty Tripes, Darrell Schultz, Mark Barnett, and Tony DiStefano. All were riders that came out of nowhere and firmly entrenched themselves in the motocross lexicon.

Just remember, regardless of whom you’re rooting for, regardless of the great breath of talent out there, there’s always room at the top.

2010 Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship Schedule:

01) May 22 – Hangtown Motocross Classic – Rancho Cordova, Calif.
02) June 5 – Freestone Raceway – Wortham, Texas
03) June 12 – High Point Raceway – Mt. Morris, Pa.
04) June 19 – Budds Creek Motocross – Mechanicsville, Md.
05) June 26 – Thunder Valley Motocross – Lakewood, Colo.
06) July 3 – RedBud – Buchanan, Mich.
07) July 17 – Spring Creek Motocross – Millville, Minn.
08) July 24 – Washougal Motocross – Washougal, Wash.
09) Aug 14 – Unadilla Valley Sports Center – New Berlin, N.Y.
10) Aug 28 – Moto-X 338 – Southwick, Mass.
11) Sept 4 – Steel City Raceway – Delmont, Pa.
12) Sep 11 – TBA – Calif.