Before the Motos Interview

June 28, 2007 1:51pm

Amy Ritchie of Red Bud
Buchanan, Michigan

Even though we’re 1/3 of the way through the season, we thought we’d come up with a new piece on the site. We’re going to interview each National track owner/promoter the week before their event to get a little history lesson and a heads-up on what to expect that weekend. This week we have Amy Ritchie, second-generation promoter of the famous Red Bud Track-N-Trail in Buchanan, Michigan, as she gets ready for the 34th running of the Monster/Kawasaki Motocross Nationals presented by Concept Haulers.

Racer X: Hi, Amy, how’s the weather forecast for this weekend?
Amy Ricthie: It’s really cloudy and we got some rain overnight, but that’s making the track awesome today. And the forecast looks beautiful—78 degrees all weekend.

Great. Sounds like a good backdrop for the weekend. Can you  start at the beginning with how Red Bud came to be?
You’re gonna make me go way back! My dad, Gene, raced back in the ‘60s, and his dream was to have a track he could have a national on. He and Dave Knutsen were partners in 711 Cycle Shop and also owned K & R Raceway in Indiana. 711 was Mark Barnett’s first sponsor! They split up and dad took the bike shop, and Knutsen took the track. After that, Dad found this property up here and started Red Bud. That was ’73, the first year of racing.

Indiana wasn’t the place? Why?
It was the facility. He knew that facility was never going to host a national, or a Trans-AMA back in the day, and that’s he wanted to host.

How many years did you have to host local races before you got a National?
One. They came right after him. The nationals had only just started in ’72, so they were interested right away. He said he knew nothing when he started and the first person he came upon was Stu Peters at CMC, so we ran their first year as CMC. In ’72 they ran CMC and after that, they kinda realized AMA was the thing on this side of the country, and they’ve sanctioned AMA ever since. 1973 was just amateur racing, ’74 was the first national. I think we’re the oldest running national at one site. This will be our 34th  year.

What is each family member’s duties this weekend?
All roads eventually lead to me or Tim. My brother Tim’s duties are the track and anything related to the track. But parking, the gate, the amateur race—that’s all mine. Vendors and staff are also my responsibility. Tim is kinda more on that inner circle of the track. His crew is doing the pro track, maintenance and watering. His crews do all the things that you see. When people come this year, they’ll see all the changes, the water tanks and the sodded hills and the vending area that’s been redone—all the infrastructure that’s Tim’s doing.

And dad?
Dad is supposed to be retired, but he didn’t really care for retirement, so he gets to do whatever he wants.

Is Mom still involved?
Yeah, she helps out. The gate was always where she hung out. She ran the gate, so she helps out there. She got burned out after 25 years of it, and she doesn’t quite want to be so intimately involved, but she helps out every race.

What was your job at first race?
It was before the first race. I can remember picking rocks and picking trash. But my first real race job was working at the front gate.

What kind of special prep-work do you do for national compared to a local race?
It’s a huge difference for us for the track. For instance, it’s the little things that make people leave here and say “wow, the track looked awesome.” My brother-in-law spent three days putting out those yellow track markers, and they are lined up to perfection! I just hope they aren’t ripped out by the time people get here Sunday to see them [laughs]. They’re perfectly spaced and perfectly in line, and that’s kind of Tim’s vision. He wants it to look like a golf course, and so prep is just insane, really. They try to have it so immaculate.
     Last fall, he leveled the vending area and re-graded it so that it would be level instead of kinda hilly. He re-does the track every year for the national. The back section—the south section—is all new. There are changes on both the north and the south side this year. This is probably the highest percentage of the track that’s been changed probably ever for the nationals.

What specifically has changed?
After the ski-jump, it’s all different. That big off-camber is still there. It just routes around it differently. There’s a big uphill double—the Thor uphill double. Then, when you come up the back half onto the front half, that jump we call "launch-pad," that was totally ripped out and re-built. The tunnel was taken out of it, and he put a new tunnel in past it. You come off launch-pad now and turn directly into the whoops. You route around differently, and go basically from LaRocco’s Leap to the finish, with a little chicane in there. It’s more layout—not new obstacles—except that Thor uphill double.

Were you there the first time Larocco cleared the leap?
I was here that day. They were working on it all day. Mike would try it and Tim would work on it some more. Then Mike would try it a few more times and they would talk some more. They were just out here the two of them playing with it.

Was the goal to make it the biggest, nastiest thing on the circuit?
No, this is how Tim works. He starts to focus on something that he doesn’t like, and he thinks and thinks on how can he fix it. He just thought it was a boring uphill double that didn’t really add anything to the track and he wanted to make something meaningful out of it.

Red Bud is a 4th of July tradition

What’s your favorite part of the track or the facility overall?
I really like the whoops. As for the facility in general, I don’t think I have a favorite. The big flag—I really like that flag. When it’s quiet out here, you can actually hear it flapping. The first time I heard it, it freaked me out—I couldn’t figure out what I was hearing!

Do you enjoy having your race coincide with 4th of July and being part of families yearly activities? Not to mention the killer Saturday night fireworks...
The fireworks? That’s fairly recent. Maybe eight years now. I had never really looked into it. I didn’t know if it was anything even remotely affordable. I was surprised to find out that it was, and we found a guy who’s a moto fan that is a licensed pyrotechnician. He does cool stuff, stuff he calls lance work. He’ll come out here and get logos from us, and he cuts things. He sets things up on the Leap every year. He’s taken a 4x8 sheet of plywood and he’s cut something out of—like a Monster logo—and he’ll make a Monster can and then the whole logo blazes in and it shoots sparklers out the spout, and it tips over. It doesn’t shoot off or anything, it’s just visual.

Are there changes around the track, too?
The two big water tanks that were on the vending area are gone. He wanted to enhance that whole vending and hospitality area. That’s a nice track viewing area that was kind of wasted with big ugly water tanks. He replaced those two with three water tanks. There’s a big Monster wrap on one and a big Kawasaki wrap on the other, and a Concept Haulers on the other. He’s got two new big tanks on the starting line, and one’s FMF and one’s Scott. So all the tanks look pretty!

What’s your take on Ricky’s comments about Budds Creek?
You’re really going to ask me that, huh? [laughs] I just thought it was kind of uncharacteristic of Ricky. I don’t blame anybody ever for expressing their opinion. But I felt bad for Jonathan [Beasley] because I know he put his heart and soul into that track, and he really gave it everything he had, and I didn’t really think he deserved that.

What do you do the second week after national, assuming that clean-up is week one?
Actually we go to Illinois for a quad national. Two weeks after is a quad national at Sunset Ridge in Illinois. It’s a track that we basically rent. We found a promoter we really got along with, and we liked his track and it was really quad friendly.

Three weeks?
Then we’ll have another amateur race, and after that I get to go to Washougal! I’m going to take my girls and take them sightseeing, so that’s going to be a vacation.

Anything else we should know?
There’s a lot new this year. I was pretty frazzled yesterday opening because we made so many changes at once. We added 4.3 acres on the north side of the night track to make another family camping area, and we started our amateur practice on the pro track. We haven’t done that in about 15 years. They get to race on the pro track, and then they’re back on the night track Saturday night. The facility got bigger, I think people will see a lot of improvements, and I hope they’ll enjoy them. We work really well with our sponsors; Monster, Kawasaki, and Concept Haulers. We kind of have made them part of the event and it’s really nice to work with all of them.

Thanks very much for taking time out of your busy day.
Thanks. See you this weekend.

2006 top-five finishers:

Motocross class
1. Ricky Carmichael (Suz) 1-1
2. James Stewart (Kaw) 2-2
3. Chad Reed (Yam) 3-3
4. Kevin Windham (Hon) 4-4
5. Davi Millsaps (Hon) 5-6

Motocross Lites
1. Ryan Villopoto (Kaw) 1-2
2. Mike Alessi (KTM) 3-1
3. Andrew McFarlane (Yam) 2-4
4. Josh Grant (Hon) 4-5
5. Ben Townley (Kaw) 8-3