Redux: The Southeast’s Piece

Redux: The Southeast’s Piece

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So a National finally showed up in the Southeast, and fans that were begging for it finally had their chance to put up or shut up. So they did the best thing they could do: they showed up.

I’ve been traveling to races as a full-time gig for a dozen years or so now, and one quick look of the AMA calendar shows you that travel pattern is pretty spread out. I pretty much don’t even have a home spot of my own. The track I grew up going to, Raceway Park in Englishtown, New Jersey? Haven’t been there since 2001. My current home state of North Carolina? Haven’t actually gone to a real motocross racetrack in this state yet. But I’ve been all over California (of course) and Florida and the Pacific Northwest and the Northeast and Midwest and everywhere in between, and I’ve met a lot of great people along the way. Plenty of people from the Southeast, especially, and I was wondering if they were amped up for this one.

I had a good feeling they were the week before, when some of my old buddies from South Carolina texted me trying to set up a reunion meeting for Friday night dinner. I first met this South Carolina crew, oddly, in California back in 2002, when Racer X sent me to cover the Motocross Vacation, a company that specializes in taking Easterners (or foreigners) to the famous Southern California tracks. These boys were the vacationers and I was the reporter following their adventure, and we had a heck of a time that week so long ago. In the time since, I’d run into the boys here and there—standing along the fence at Loretta’s, in the amateur pits at High Point and Steel City, and maybe the Las Vegas Supercross during a particularly fun year. But they were extra amped up for Muddy Creek, so they packed up their bikes and gear and some sunscreen and motoed down during Friday’s amateur day.

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Fans showed up in droves for the first National at Muddy Creek.
Andrew Fredrickson photo

I was wondering if Muddy Creek, which is actually slightly north of my home in North Carolina, let alone South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi, Florida and the rest, was actually far south enough to really count. Seems like it was.

“I used to come to Muddy Creek all the time,” said Harvey, from South Carolina. “Haven’t been up here as much lately, though.” Harvey, like so many riders nowadays, spends more time riding than actually racing, and there are plenty of places to ride closer to his home in Greenville, South Carolina (best downtown in the U.S., by the way. If you’re ever cruising through, make a stop, it won’t let you down). But with Muddy Creek hosting a National, Harvey was ready to race on Friday.

Heck, one member of the group, Rob, wanted to race, too, but he didn’t actually have a bike. He was in between rides and didn’t have anything to race at the moment. But he wanted to be a part of it, so he spotted a 2009 YZ125 on Craigslist, crossed his fingers, and made a trip off the beaten path to go find it. YZ barn finds in the woods of South Carolina on Craigslist is pretty dicey, but luckily for Rob, the guy selling it had made a bet that he could sell his bike before his buddy could sell his truck (ah, Craigslist), so Rob was able to buy the bike at a substantially reduced cost. Then he headed straight to Muddy Creek. The first time he actually rode the bike, literally and absolutely, was heading to staging for Friday morning practice. And yes he rode an age class on his YZ125, which meant he was racing 450s. No matter, he was getting the full experience.

After their Friday motos (and after my Friday meetings, yeah, I might as well have worn a suit a tie compared to what they were doing) we met up for dinner and caught up on the last, oh, dozen years. The Outback was packed so we hung in the bar for a bit waiting for a table, which allowed me to stumble into another conversation with a father and son from Eastern North Carolina who couldn’t wait for Saturday’s race. They had grown up watching Cooper Webb throw it down and were pumped to see him make such early progress as a pro.

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Zach Osborne had the locals on their feet when he battled for the lead early in moto one.
Simon Cudby photo

Then our table was ready and the bench racing ramped up. The ringleader of the South Carolina group is Michelin’s (hilarious) Randy Richardson (Michelin is based just outside of Greenville) and then JT$ joined us so we had a good crew. We all played can-you-top-this with our stories, which, fittingly, seemed to always center on Mike Brown. Apparently, you cannot enter Muddy Creek country if you’re not armed with a few Mike Brown stories. Then the Carolina boys headed back to the track to stay in their various camping spots. I give full credit to my man David Scott for tenting it all weekend just to soak it all up.

On Saturday, a huge crowd was already on hand hours before racing began. Ace video man Wes Williams and I ventured deep into that crowd Saturday morning to shoot a video piece for Allisports.com. And we found exactly what we were hoping to see: fans from all over the East—not just the Southeast, but those damned Yankees, too—pressed against the fence, coolers in tow and beers in hand (and yes, it was only 9 a.m.). Deeper into the amateur pits we went, with families sitting around the grill and frying up eggs and bacon. One family explained that they were here to see Zach Osborne, who they’d watch race against their son on this track when they were all of four years old. Also, I found a girl who was Mike Brown’s cousin. Of course!

And wouldn’t you know it? Who battled for the lead during one furious first lap of glory in the 250 Class? It was Osborne and Webb taking their shots at the front, fans cheering riders they had watched here so many times. Eventually, they were overcome by some of the world-class talent around them (Ken Roczen and Marvin Musquin, in this case), but that only solidified this event a little more. Muddy Creek had been hosting the Southeast’s finest since the 1980s—today, finally, they got the best in the world out there to do battle.

There are going to be some growing pains with any new race that joins a circuit that’s been racing for 40-plus years. Quite a few riders said the track was too tight and needs to be opened up a bit. And some of the staffers were clearly in the novice stage of National work. When I asked a parking guy on Friday where I was supposed to park, he just gave up and said, “I have no clue.” Its little stuff, folks, and it should be fixable. A week ago, we raced at Thunder Valley, which is beginning to make a case as one of the best races of the year. The first National there in 2005 was only so-so. Give the Victory Sports people at Muddy Creek some time and they’ll dial it all in.

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Fans lined the fence all day trying to get shots of their favorite rider.
Simon Cudby photo

But for now, let them exhale. At 5:15 p.m. on Saturday, on my way over from the TV compound to the press conference, I spotted none other than the man who runs Muddy Creek, Sam Gammon, sitting on the deck atop the announcer’s tower. Sam was finally able to stop moving and stop working for just a minute, and was just looking out over his track, surveying what had just gone down. The man had waited 25 years to bring a National to this track, and he pretty much nailed the debut effort. “Hey Sam, congrats,” I yelled. “Now go get some sleep.”

“Thanks. I only really slept from about 3 to 5 a.m. last night,” he answered back. There wouldn’t be much time to rest, since the amateurs would be back for motos on Sunday. But bonfires were already starting to sprout up in the distance, in the amateur pits, and you could hear music beginning to crank. Hey, none of those people needed sleep at this point—they had just gotten to see the stuff they had always dreamed about.

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