Powder Mountain Motocross Preview

August 20, 2009 9:30am | by:
Back in 1968 – four years before there was any such thing as the AMA National Motocross Championship – a man named Don Rake and some colleagues decided to get the shovels out and create a world class motocross track 8,000 feet up in the Sierra Nevada Mountain range. Dave McCoy and his Mammoth Mountain Ski Area got involved and backed the event and the Mammoth Motocross was born. Over 40 years later, it’s still with us, the longest and oldest continuing motocross race in the United States of America. A few weeks ago, a video featuring Jeremy McGrath racing around a motocross track etched out of a mountain was posted up on YouTube. The track, the dirt, and the scenery displayed in the video were simply breath taking. A few days later, I received a call from longtime friend Lawrence Lewis. As I quickly learned, Lew (as he is known) and Jeremy McGrath were working together to create an all-new motocross event that will take place at the Powder Mountain Ski Resort in Utah from August 27-30, 2009. Located 19 miles northeast of Ogden, Utah and only 55 miles north of Salt Lake International Airport, Lawrence and McGrath hope to make the inaugural Monster Energy Powder Mountain Motocross the next great race in U.S. motocross. To find out more, we contacted Lewis to get the lowdown on his rapidly approaching event.

  • Lawrence Lewis and Jeremy McGrath hope to put their event in the same class as Mammouth Mountain's annual race
Lew, we’ve known you for 15 or 16 years and know you’ve done a hell of a lot in the sport, but for those who may not know you, can you tell us a little about yourself and your background in motocross?
Well, I’ve been involved in motocross most of my life. I grew up ski racing in the mountains of Big Bear and moved down to Southern California in the area of Temecula and met Jeremy [McGrath] when we were fresh out of high school. I really got into riding with him and kid of put the skiing on the back burner. The relationship I had with Jeremy progressed into a business relationship where we had Clutch Films and we did about 15 motocross movies over the years. We also started the freestyle motocross movement and put on several of the first freestyle motocross events. We also started with the mini bikes. We did quite a few mini bike races as well, so we’re no strangers to putting on events and coming up with some unique ideas and turning them into reality.

Since you’ve known one another so long, can you tell us a little bit more about your relationship with Jeremy?
Well, we when we met, he was a Team Green rider at the time. I didn’t know a whole lot about racing. Like I said, I was a ski racer from Big Bear. He was kind of into skiing and we ended up just riding in the same areas and becoming friends. I gave him some pointers on how to snow ski and he did the same for me with motocross. I jumped right into racing with him and it hasn’t stopped yet.

You guys always struck me as soul brothers…
(Laughter) Yeah, we have a good friendship. It’s just lasted over time and the reason is that Jeremy never changed. He’s been the same guy to me as he was when he was an 18 year-old kid. We talk regularly now that we have families and try to get our kids together. We’re still doing the same things we love. We’re racing motorcycles. He’s retired now, but, and we always laugh about it, he says that since he’s retired from motorcycles he’s gotten busier. And he doesn’t quit. He’s still into riding. I’m still into putting on events and riding and filming and am heavily involved in motocross. So as soon as I came up with this concept, I pitched it to him and he was on board from the moment he heard about it.

  • Natural elevation like this is a dream come true for motocross racers
Lew, how did you end up in Utah and how did you come up with the idea for the Monster Energy Powder Mountain Motocross?
I was in Southern California and did quite a bit of traveling while I was filming and found this cool little town up in Liberty in Utah and it reminded me of where I grew up. There are three amazing ski resorts within 10 minutes of my house. There’s a lake for water skiing and wakeboarding and all that, and there a couple of motocross tracks. So I’ve noticed that there is a pretty large group of riders and racers up here and not a lot of races put on. There’s a great local season and on any given weekend you have 500 or 600 riders on a Saturday or Sunday. With that, I don’t know, I was looking to do something different. There’s a ski resort close to my house called Powder Mountain. Jeremy and I have done some snowboarding and skiing up here and over the winter we kind of thought, “Wouldn’t it be amazing to put on an event like a ski resort.” We thought about utilizing the resort, the lodges and the restaurants. It hasn’t really been done before so we kind of just went the idea and talked with a few resorts and Powder Mountain happened to be the one that was really excited about and thought it would be a great venue and we went from there.

When I first saw the Powder Mountain YouTube link you posted with McGrath riding. I was blown away. The track and the scenery were just beautiful. How did you put that track together?
A big part of it is Monster Energy. They are putting a lot back into the grass roots of sports. Whether it’s snowboarding, skiing, motocross, skateboarding. And that’s kind of what my position is up here. I’m supporting the culture – the local culture of mountains and athletes and events. Before I got to into it, I took the idea back to Monster corporate and they thought it was a great idea, as well. Jeremy’s involvement was a no brainer, and the resort, when we were talking about this, it was covered in snow. We were a little skeptical of what was going to happen when the snow melted. We hadn’t seen the dirt. So as soon as the snow melted, we went up there and started looking at the design and carved a few lanes and were surprised by rich soil with very few rocks. We also found out that the way the parking lot and staging is situated is all above the track and you can look down into this valley and see about 90% of the track. So the viewing is going to be amazing. And when you’re on the track, it’s unreal. You’re hitting step-ups and you’re going through Pine trees and you’re going through Aspens. We just used the natural terrain and let the mountain lend itself to the design. It wasn’t real difficult to lay out. Like you said, as soon as you see the pictures, it is unreal. After I showed Jeremy our initial layouts, he said, “That’s what every kid’s dream is right there: To be able to go ride a track like this.” He’s still a kid at heart, I guess.

  • Jeremy McGrath had a blast on the numerous step-ups
What did Jeremy think once he rode upon the track?
He came up the second week of July and his initial reaction was, “There’s nothing like this in the United States. There’s not a track that’s going to have this kind of background.” He took a walk around it and was like, “I can’t wait to get on my bike. I’m going to jump every one of those jumps, the step-ups, everything on the first lap. I already know it looks perfect. That’s kind of what the video is. That’s really his first lap on the track. He jumped up on his bike, did the hillclimb and got up to speed in one lap. He jumped everything with a big grin. He couldn’t believe we have a track at 8,000 feet high and is 30 feet wide and is as pretty close to a National track as you can get.

What can you tell us about the race approaching?
Everybody in Utah has been dying for something like this. We’ve had a lot of volunteer help and people donating their time and equipment to be able to bring everything up there and make it possible. I think people are going to be surprised. There’s a huge Utah rider base up here. There are 20 fast pros up here who are dying to get on that track and race with Jeremy. We’re prepared and ready for a large crowd and hopefully that’s what we get.

The race is a week away. What sort of turnout are you expecting? Have you been receiving a large number of entries?
Yeah, we have a pretty solid turnout right now. We probably have 400 racers entered per day right now, and with the results of the Salt Lake Supercross and its huge turnout and that there hasn’t been a race here in five or six year and that the Utah fans supported it 100%,  I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw 4,000 or 5,000 spectators up there on Saturday.

Lew, let’s say I’m a guy from Orange County or Riverside who races the Mammoth Mountain Motocross every spring. Is this new Powder Mountain event the type of race that will be a cool, end of summer Mammoth kind of deal?
Absolutely. Mammoth is kind of a guideline. It’s been an amazing race and Jeremy has always participated in it. We’ve been up there dozens of years as a big group. The reason being is that it’s a week-long race. It’s more than just the riding. It’s the family, it’s the friends, its camaraderie. I think this even lends itself to that same family atmosphere. We have on-site camping, we have pits that will remain be open. This first year, we’ll have most of the people showing up on a Wednesday and leaving on a Sunday or a Monday. So it’s a five day event and there are plenty of vendors and activities to do, whether it’s hiking or fishing or biking. I think this is definitely a race people should put on their annual schedule. We want to keep people entertained. We’ll have campfires at night. When people leave here, we want them to think it’s unlike any race they’ve been to. It’s not just motocross. We want to send everyone home with a smile and a very memorable moment.

  • Lewis says very little work was needed to carve out the track's layout
Lew, what’s the racing format of the event?
The race format is that Thursday and Friday will be practice from 10 A.M. to 3 P.M. That way everyone can jet their bike and change their suspension to accommodate the track. And on Saturday and Sunday we’ll get started with practice at 7. Racing will be at 9 O’clock sharp. There will be a qualifier for every class. There’s a heat race, a last chance and then we’ll have our opening ceremonies at 2 O’clock. And it will be just be main events from 2 O’clock on each day. And each day will be a separate day.

If people want to obtain more information on the race, where can they go?
They can go to our Monster Energy Powder Mountain Motocross website. Just go to: www.powdermountainmotocross.com

Okay, Lew. This whole thing sounds fantastic. Best of luck and we’ll see you up there…
Excellent. Thanks a lot, EJ.