“Mean” Gene Ritchie and long time RedBud referee Drex Akin ran the first few editions of what’s now known as the Throttle Jockey RedBud Grass Race (Oct. 18) when Mother Nature threw them a curveball. After a week long spring rain all but washed out a popular contingency race, they decided to layout a course back through the apple orchard on the hillsides of the National track that weren’t covered in pegs-deep mud.
“The pro track wasn’t rideable – we didn’t have a roller or any of the equipment Tim (Ritchie) uses now to deal with rain and mud. So we went out in the hills and fields, layed out a track and went for it”, said Ritchie. While he saw it as a successful emergency mud fix, Azevedo saw the potential for a unique event.
Added Gene Ritchie’s daughter, Amy: “It was a horrible weekend and we had a qualifier race scheduled with OEM contingencies, so we couldn’t really cancel. The surprise was how much the riders enjoyed the makeshift track. Oscar came up with some creative twists to throw in, like costumes and the XR Championship, labeled it the ‘Grass Race’ and pitched it as an annual event to my dad. His Nine One One MX Shop was the first title sponsor. It became an instant classic, and our traditional season-ending event.”
So the RedBud Grass race was born and soon became the stuff of legend as the awe-inspiring transformation of green grass-to-black dirt came at the hands – and knobbies – of some of the local MX icons and founding members of the Michigan Mafia, including Akin, Burleson, Bowen, DeHoop, Feist, Grewe, LaRocco, Smith, Stanton, Wagner,Wey and Witmer.
Also, what’s pretty much recognized as one of the original ‘Pit Bike’ races is the Grass Race’s annual XR Championship. This (supposedly) just-for-fun event on the cusp of Halloween combines XR75 and XR80 mini bike racing with Trick-or-Treat costumes. Names like Stanton, LaRocco, Wagner, Akin-Wagner, Rose, Borcherding, Flickinger and Sodetz have all contested the XR Championship in the past. In fact, one year LaRocco was awarded a custom pumpkin light for his XR Championship podium finish – the weekend after winning $100,000 at the Las Vegas U.S. Open of Supercross!
Bringing competitors back to the roots of the sport, the Grass Race emulates how tracks used to look – natural terrain churned black for a weekend by hundreds of knobby tires. Racing memories laid to rest over the winter months return as new grass in the spring. The final weekend of competition for long-standing rivalries in the region that culminates in a party of sorts, celebrating the great sport of motocross and another successful year of competition in the midwest.
“It’s the perfect old school motocross tribute and a great way to end the season of racing at RedBud,” added Amy Ritchie.
RedBud supports the sport of motocross and has since 1972! The region's most prestigious amateur events and Round Six of the AMA Lucas Oil Motocross Championship are held in the beautiful rolling hills of southwestern Michigan. A state with an affinity for off-road recreational vehicle use, RedBud owns the bragging rights to the highest attended U.S. motocross race year after year. Just the right soil mix, lots of passing and the BIGGEST jump on the circuit (LaRocco’s Leap), the track provides for some terribly exciting motocross racing. Definitely a top motocross destination in a region that loves its motorsports.
Great Lakes MX supports the sport of motocross. With seven of the Midwest's premier motocross facilities on the GLMX team, amateur racers from all over the Great Lakes region stand to benefit now more than ever. Featuring everything from track safety concerns, streamlined organization and registration, more lucrative contingency programs and prizes and a grand scale awards banquet - along with membership fees that are invested back into the events and series - the GLMX team is stepping up to further the great heritage of Michigan and Midwest motocross racing for both bikes and ATVs. On the web at www.greatlakesmx.com.
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