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Between the Motos: Gatorback's Wyn Kern

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One of the largest and most prestigious amateur motocross events is scheduled to kick off next week as 2008 marks the 37th Annual running of the Winter National Olympics at Gatorback Cycle Park in Gainesville, Florida. Over three thousand amateur racers and their families will be migrating to Florida to spend their Thanksgiving holiday racing motocross, with the goal to perhaps win a national championship or two. Whether they win or lose, the riders are guaranteed to have a great facility to compete on, largely in part to the hard work of the Unlimited Sports MX crew and track owner Wyn Kern. To get caught up with how their preparation has been, we called up Wyn today for this Suzuki Between the Motos.

Racer X: I logged on to www.unlimitedsportsmx.com and saw that the online registration is officially closed for this year’s Winter National Olympics. Am I too late?
Wyn Kern: [Laughs] No, it’s not too late to sign up! We’ve got post-entry at the track.

  • Racers can expect full gates at the Annual Winter National Olympics
  • Racers can also expect full parking lots!
Actually, I’m out of vacation days for this year, so it looks like I won’t be racing this year. Anyway, next week is a big one for you and your crew. How are things coming together, Wyn?
Everything is coming together really well. We’ve got all of our tracks done up and John Dains and the Trackside Software crew are putting in the transponder system right now, and we’re getting all of our venders parked right now and getting everything rolling.

How long in advance do you start preparing for an event of this magnitude?
After we get done with our Gold Cup in the middle of October, we start then.

I noticed the pre-entry lists are posted. I have to ask, how are the entries this year compared to year’s past?
Well, we’ve got about 3,100 entries so far, and we normally get about 2,000 or 2,200. This year Racer Connect did online entries and people could do it online and use their credit card, so the entries are way up compared to pre-entries in the past. I think it’ll be a pretty good turnout.

When does the event officially kick-off?
We open the gates and park everyone on Saturday morning. That takes about two days to get everyone parked. We’ll do registration on Sunday and start supercross practice on Monday morning.

Give us some background about how you got involved with Gatorback Cycle Park.
I got started here in about 2002. Jerry and Linda West were running it then, and they were ready to retire and get out of the business. I’ve known them for a long time and they approached me and asked if I was interested in it, and of course I was. So we put a deal together and I’ve been doing it ever since then.

You’re a former racer, too, right?
Yeah, I’ve raced since I was nine years old. I actually won Loretta Lynn’s in ’94 in the Vet B class. But I’ve raced down here at Gatorback for years. I grew up racing in Mississippi and Texas, and then I moved down here in 1988 or so and raced here quite awhile. I quit racing in 1994, after I won Loretta Lynn’s! I needed to focus on working and not playing as much.

Back then did you ever think you’d be promoting not only a track like Gatorback, but an event like the Winter National Olympics?
You know, I really didn’t. At that time, I started Performance Engineering and was doing that. Back then, I wasn’t really settled in and didn’t have a family or anything, so it really didn’t matter – I was just playing and having fun. It’s amazing how things change when you have a family and you have mouths to feed. I ended up with a couple of Honda dealerships and I still have Performance Engineering, so I have a few things going on right now.

  • Team Green's Adam Cianciarulo will be in contention for some championships.
[Laughs] Wow, yeah, I’d say. How is Performance Engineering doing these days?
It’s doing good. We’ve changed our focus from making parts for motorcycles to doing stuff for NASA projects and things like that. It’s a full-blown machine shop that makes high-tech parts. I have a guy who runs it and manages it and he has about seven employees. For the most part, they see me about once a year.

Gatorback used to host AMA nationals back in the day. Do you think we’ll ever see the AMA Toyota Motocross Championship returning to your facility?
You know, that’s a good question. I’d really love to have one. It looks like some things are changing for the nationals, so hopefully something opens up and we’ll get a chance to have another national here.

I’m sure you’ve got a ton of work left to do, so I’ll let you get going, but before that, do you have any tips for a rider or family heading to Gatorback for the Mini Os?
The earlier you get here, the closer you’ll be to the track. If you get here late, you’ll be in the back. And make sure you fill up your propane tanks because it’s a little cool this morning.

Have you checked the weather for next week?
I checked the 10-day forecast yesterday and I think it said a chance of some showers on Tuesday, but that’s the only thing I’ve really seen. Hopefully we don’t get a flood like we usually do!

I’m sure you guys have a big Thanksgiving feast planned for Thursday, right?
Oh yeah. Thursday night we do the Thor Thanksgiving feast, and that’ll be a big deal there. We have a lot of night-time activities lined up, too. We’re doing a welcome party on Sunday night – we’ve got a band playing then. And Tim Eggers is actually helping out with all the night-time activities stuff this year, so he got a lot of good stuff in the works.

Good luck, Wyn.
Thanks a lot, Billy.
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