The Monster Energy World Speedway Invitational is just days away as 16 of the world's best riders prepare to do battle over the course of 23 heats this Saturday night, December 28, from The Grand Arena in the City of Industy, Calif.
Kelly Inman, Track Director at Industry Racing, has pulled out all the stops to ensure that the overwhelming success of last year's inaugural event carries over into 2014. Inman and his crew have put in countless hours to make improvements to the facility and ensure that things will be bigger and better in the event's second year.
What's new for the Monster Energy World Speedway Invitational in 2014?
"As a whole our emphasis was to make for a better all around fan experience. Last year was an overwhelming success with 5,700 people in attendance, but we are prepared for an even larger audience and have taken the necessary action to accommodate that. This is the marquee speedway event in the U.S. and we have done everything we can on our end to ensure every single fan has the opportunity to see this special group of riders compete against one another and will have the time of their life in doing so.
"We also have an immensely talented group of riders this season that features a great mix of young and old, but with one overwhelmingly common trait – they all want to win and will do whatever it takes to do so."
Share your thoughts on the talented group of international riders you have coming to the states this season.
"We have some guys coming back this year, like Eddie Kennett, Scott Nicholls, and Hans Andersen, each of whom really enjoyed the experience. But I’m excited to welcome some new faces like Darcy Ward and Patryk Dudek. These are two young up-and-comers who have no problem taking risks. Ward is a two-time U-21 World Champion while Dudek is the defending U-21 World Champ. Both riders have unbelievable talent and would probably be successful on any motorcycle in any discipline.
"As a whole, our international contingent is full of hungry riders who are considered to be hot commodities right now. Just like last year, it will be interesting to see how quickly they are able to adapt to the smaller tracks against our fierce U.S. riders."
With the overwhelming success of last year's event, what improvements have you made to The Grand Arena for this year?
"Like I mentioned, essentially everything we’ve done this year is to increase the fan experience and accommodate an even bigger crowd. Perhaps our biggest step towards that was ensuring that the Invitational is the only event taking place on the grounds Saturday night. That will make the ease of access to the Expo much better, but we also took the initiative to open more gates so fans have more entry points to get to The Grand Arena.
"Once inside, fans will see we’ve added more seats than last year and we’ve bumped up the amount of virtually every amenity, whether it’s concessions, souvenirs, or bathrooms. We have more staff to accommodate the larger audience as well so I’m confident that the entire event will run smoother than it did last year when we were somewhat surprised by the incredible turn out. It’s been a great problem to have.
"We’ve also tried to push presale this year so the walk up crowd isn’t as heavy as it was at the inaugural event. We’ve already seen a tremendous response from that so it’s exciting to see we’re well on our way to another successful event."
What new features of the event can fans expect to see this season?
"In terms of the competition itself, there are going to be some minor changes. We will be doing the event in the GP format like last year, but we took that a step further by adding helmet colors so that its easier to identify which riders are which in each race. It’s a small addition that really goes a long way to aligning with the way the GP’s operate.
"We also added another junior speedway class, bringing our total to three. We had such a strong turnout at the inaugural Silver Cup here in August and the youth scene is starting to take off. We have some of the top kids from England making the trip as well so I think all these future stars are going to put on a show for the fans and be a great complement to the pros.
"Last year we did a small webstream of the event, but we’re able to make it bigger and better this year and I’m proud to say it will be available worldwide for free. It’s hard for everyone who might be a fan of speedway to make it out for this, but now we’re giving them all a chance to watch the action unfold. It’s huge for us and it’s huge for the future of the Invitational.
"Being a Monster event and a truly global event, we’re also going to have some special guests throughout the evening doing interviews and hanging out with the fans. You never know who might show up."
The event was a major moment for U.S. Speedway racing last year. How much excitement and support have you received on a global scale since then and heading into this year's event?
"Well Monster really pushed the promotion of this event hard overseas in order to generate some more excitement and possibly even more international fans who want to see these guys go at it. Now that this event has an identity, it’s quickly become an integral part of the speedway scene. There was a bit of feeling things out a year ago, but now everyone wants to be a part of it.
"We have FIM recognition, which only further legitimizes the event, and we run everything in GP format. I’ve had riders from all over the world calling me to be a part of this year’s event and to be honest, the single-hardest part is deciding who’s invited and who isn’t.
"Given that the sole intention of this event is to be a global celebration of the sport of speedway, I want to make sure that I’m compiling the best group of riders to put on an exciting and competitive show for the fans. What we are doing with the Invitational is unprecedented so having the right mix of riders is critical to the continued success of the event. There are also a lot of internal desires from the riders themselves as they each have someone out there they are dying to go head-to-head with, and that will no doubt show out on the track."
We know speedway is incredibly unpredictable, but who will likely be the riders to watch this year?
"That’s the toughest question to answer in all of this. To see Billy Janniro emerge victorious last year was probably a surprise for some, but not for others. The level of talent is so diverse that you have to just be willing to lay it all on the line to win.
"From top to bottom I think we have a level playing field with this group and every one of them are the kind of risk takers we’re looking for. Ward and Dudek are going to turn some heads, but the veteran guys like Hancock, Janniro, and Hamill want to show them up.
"Even though it’s just our second year, I think we have our strongest group of international and U.S. competitors. I ultimately think every single point is going to count when it comes to determining who makes the final, so you can bet these guys are going to be going at it every lap all night long. I’m excited to see how it all plays out."
Monster Energy World Speedway Invitational tickets are available for purchase at www.IndustryRacing.com from now through December 26. Tickets are priced at $25 and $15 for Juniors and Seniors. Tickets purchased at the box office in advance will be an additional $5 and tickets purchased the day of the event will be an additional $10. All kids under 12 are free with adult admission. Grand Arena Parking is $10; remote parking will be $5 and motorcycle parking free of charge. The event will run rain or shine as The Grand Arena has a roof. The box office will open at 3:00 pm on Saturday, December 28.
Industry Racing at The Grand Arena
16200 Temple Ave.
City of Industry, CA 91744
Contact Track/Racing Director Kelly Inman at Kelly@IndustryRacing.com
To get a rundown on the most recent FIM Speedway Grand Prix season, log onto www.SpeedwayGP.com.