I don’t think I’ll ever understand the American motorcycle racing fan. I recently rambled on how American race fans can’t hold a candle to the throngs of Euro bike race devotees. They may be a little crazy, but they routinely come out by the tens of thousands, and they’re rabid about the sport of roadracing.
Granted, there’s far more world-level roadracing and motocross taking place in Europe than here in the U.S. You could also argue that we in the States have plenty more organized sports (most of them involving a ball of some kind) than can be found elsewhere. Maybe the rest of the world just doesn’t have much other than motorsports to occupy all that government-mandated vacation time. No one has bothered to do a study.
Yet, there’s a form of motorcycle racing that’s almost the exclusive domain of the American fan, but I’m willing to bet most bike lovers haven’t heard of it. Flat track, or dirt track as it’s often called, has been around for decades. Some of the best American roadracers cut their teeth on the dirt oval: Kenny Roberts, all the Hayden boys, Doug Chandler, the Brothers Bostrom, to name only a few.
Flat track racing is relatively simple, and is one of the most raw, pure forms of racing. It takes place on a dirt oval, the racers only ever turning left in each corner, and going like hell down the front and back straights. The qualifying heats are relatively short, usually only a few laps, and the main races, depending on the event, are rarely ever more than 20 laps. The bikes have only a rear brake, and to get the things turned at near full boogie, the racer pitches the bike sideways, seemingly perpendicular to the direction he or she is trying to travel, all while struggling for traction as they “steer with the throttle.”
Action is often tight as racers go through the turns with elbows wide for steering leverage, their left foot dragging along the track to help turn the bike with other racers only inches away. And quite often, due to the slippery race surface, it looks as though a crash will happen at any moment on any given lap.
It’s just the kind of racing I would think the average American motorsports fan would love. With the short attention span most folk have, this action-packed form of racing should be huge, especially with a format so similar to stockcar racing.
Someone once contended that bikes, by virtue of what they are, don’t offer the opportunity for advertisers to slather easily-seen brand names all over the vehicle or racer. True enough, I suppose, but this seems a small hurdle. Budweiser has been around bike racing for a long time; why not try a little harder?