Ask Ping!

March 23, 2007 5:49am | by:

Hey Ping, do you follow amateur racing? If so, what do you think of the top riders across the nation compared to your era? Today you see 65cc riders doing 90-foot jumps. Is the talent pool getting deeper these days?
Thanks, Dion
Covina, CA

Dear Dion,

RC doing the Bubba scrub on a mini

photo: Racer X Archives

I have been trying to follow amateur racing a little more closely the last year or two. It’s fun to watch kids come through the amateur ranks and see which ones excel and which ones just don’t make it through. And I think that riders just keep getting better and better. Just like James Stewart is a better rider than the top riders of 15 years ago, the kids have elevated their game, too. I remember Ezra Lusk doing some ridiculous jumps on his DMC KX60 back in the mid 1980s, but what was once the exception has now become the rule. There are kids in the KTM Jr. SX Challenge that double the triple jump! And KTM and Cobra have made better products that allow the kids to go faster and jump farther at a younger age. And, there are simply more people racing motocross which always improves competition. I’m just glad that I don’t have a boy racing motocross because I couldn’t take that kind of stress. Get your water-wings, Dion, because the talent pool just keeps getting deeper and deeper.


Ping, please tell me how Speed TC chooses its color commentators. Jeff Emig was chosen to replace YOU? Yes, Jeff was a champion racer, but color commentator? Come on! If this sport is going to continue to elevate we need a “real” color commentator (like yourself). They can even be from outside the sport but they need to be entertaining. They can learn the sport. Just think how boring the next few years are going to be in the 450 class without RC. Until JBS decides to move on, chances are great that it will be a race for second place for several years to come. The lack of witty commentating will certainly be a step back during the “race for second” that is soon to follow. Oh, did I mention outdoors that will be a race to stay on the same lap! RC may have been the first to lap the whole field in current times but JBS may be able to pull off a similar record. The good news- the 250 class is stacked!
Bradenton, Florida

Dear Mr. 55 (or do I call you by your Christian name “Motoman”?),
With a big company such as Speed, it’s difficult to get your foot in the door. They like to continue to work with people that they have established relationships with, such as Ralph Shaheen. In the case of Fro, he was initially hired in part by Live Nation for SX, because they produce the events, and they wanted a well-known racing talent for the television broadcast. Jeff is a former four-time champion and he has genuine racing title credentials in supercross and motocross. It looks like the supercross broadcast team will probably end up doing the nationals this summer as well, with Erin Bates in the pits. I am sure they will do a great job, as I think the SX broadcasts have been pretty good.

Fro has experience behind a microphone

photo: Simon Cudby

As far as your personal dislike for Emig, I don’t know what to tell you, except that there isn’t a perfect person for that job or any job (well, except for me and my job, with it’s one-column-a-month grind and then constant riding around Southern California).  No matter whom you put in the booth there will be somebody, somewhere, talking crap about him on an internet message board—even David Bailey used to get razzed! That’s just the way it is. I do think that the shows need to focus on being more entertaining because there certainly could be a lull in the action when RC bows out of competition for good. But I think the live internet broadcast that Racer X has planned for this summers races just might fill that void. Stay tuned for more on that.


What are the typical pro purse payouts for the riders in the 250 & 450 classes? Do the factory riders get contingency money from the factories or is it all based off contract terms? Are all riders paid that make it to the main? How do the payouts differ from Supercross to Motocross?
Tracy Honea

Dear Tracy,

Racing for a living? Maybe you should try working here.

The pro payout in Supercross is decent. The guy that finishes last in the main event still gets over $1000. Each of the factories post a contingency for privateers that is respectable. Factory and support riders negotiate their own bonus plans that usually pay more for the top spots but only pay for the top three of five positions. The nationals are not so lucrative. The guy in 20th position at a national is lucky to make a few hundred bucks. His race fuel for the weekend might cost him more than that. Again, manufacturer bonuses help but there is little chance that a privateer will see much of it because the competition is so fierce. If you are just doing it for the money, you’d be better off getting a job at Hot Dog On-A-Stick at your local mall. Sure, the hats and uniforms are ridiculous, but at least you get free meals and the best tasting lemonade in the world. What about just selling your blood or doing some clinical trials that pay cash? Racing dirt bikes is a hard way to make a living.