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By Johnny Lewis
We are officially here. Flat track is in the largest extreme sports event in the world! It’s not my first X Games experience – I was lucky enough to be invited to compete in the 2008 Moto X Games Supermoto event in San Diego- but it’s still mind blowing to see how this whole event takes shape. Pulling into the facility (COTA) for the first time I was already amazed. Add an 85ft big air ramp and a full-on skate park in the middle of the road race course, it is mind blowing! What also stood out to me; when driving to get my athlete passes, photos, and some goodies, was the massive amount of video production equipment for live coverage of the events on ESPN. X Games is a live show. I was once told in the past that it’s really not about the number of fans that show up to the event, it’s about the number of people that watch the event. So you could imagine the equipment I’m talking about: lights, lifts, signage, camera, wires galore, stages, and much more.
Once I was able to find the newly built/still being built 3/8th mile flat track, which is actually about a half mile drive outside the road course on the only flat spot of the facility, it all sort of hit me. Here was a track being constructed specifically for a Pro Flat Track race, completely embodying the “X Games style”. Today, Tuesday and 2 days until race day, the track looked like a construction site. Bulldozers, rollers, cranes, water trucks, backhoes all over the place, walls being placed, grandstands being built, hay bails being dropped, a jumbo-tron tv being hoisted up – all to prepare us a race track where 24 of the top AMA Pro Flat Track riders will compete for X Games Gold.
The track is unique. It’s a flat 3/8th mile with long straights and tight turns, turns 1 & 2 looking tighter than 3 & 4. From first look, my first thought was “will we have to shift the twins?” Some of the twins can shift if need be, like my Ducati and the Kawasaki’s, but I’m not sure a Harley could if they needed to. I looked at the drop gate that is placed in the infield (basically inside turn 4) and my next thought was, “where would you even want to start in the 12 rider drop gate?” Far inside starting spot is the shortest distance to turn one, yes, but it will have you making a sharper turn before getting into the front straight. Then you would have to decide if you were to start on the far outside. I have a few other thoughts running through my head of course, but I can’t give away all my strategies just yet!
Since the massive flooding last week that hit this area these guys have really had, and still have, their hands full to get the track race-ready. Clay was brought in from Waco, Texas to build this brand new track. Usually it takes weeks for dirt to settle and become a solid base, but because of the rain the X Games crew has only had a few days to work this dirt into the soft-based track. I’ve heard they brought in a crew this week that manages a race car track, not far from Austin, to finish and maintain the track from now until Thursday night’s live action on ESPN. Luckily all 24 riders invited get to test the track out on Wednesday in a mock race day schedule. This will allow us all to feel out the track and also allow the X Games crew to be prepared for race day format and keep the event running smoothly for TV. I can’t wait for tomorrow afternoon and then race day Thursday. This is huge for the sport and riders in so many ways.
I believe X Games hired the right guy for the job: former AMA Pro Flat Track race director Dan Johnson.
My race day track thoughts are:
– Will the track lay a consistent groove with such a soft base in spots?
– With such a tight race day schedule and live TV, will they do much track prep in between practice, heats, and before the main?
– Where exactly is the best starting spot going to be for the drop gate start?
– Will riders be shifting their twins?