Since not everybody listens to podcasts (c’mon people, get with it), we’ve opted to transcribe this week’s episode of Off Track With Carruthers And Bice so those with questions about the 2023 MotoAmerica calendar can hear the reasons for the changes straight from the horse’s mouth. In this case, the horse is MotoAmerica COO Chuck Aksland.
The following is the transcription from the podcast, sans intro.
PC: Fortunately today we have Chuck Aksland with us as our guest. He’s the COO of MotoAmerica and one of four partners. Chuck’s the guy that puts this schedule together. He has to negotiate with all the tracks. He has to get the dates. It’s hard to not take it personally sometimes when people do have a little problem with something that we’re doing, and that’s just human nature. But I think it’s important for people to know that there’s not two hats, and we don’t throw a bunch of dates in one hat and a bunch of racetracks in the other and pull dates and pull tracks out and match them together and go, that’s when we’re going to be there. We’re not the only racing body in the country that relies on these same – and it’s not a very big group of tracks. So, everybody is trying to make their schedules as well, including the tracks. They have track days. They have different events. So, it’s a difficult process. I think it’s important for us, and I’m happy to have Chuck on the show today because he can actually tell us what is involved in that, because it’s probably more than even you and I know.
PC: So, let’s bring Chuck in. Chuck, first of all, welcome and thanks for joining us. Let’s start off with how the schedule comes about, and talk about some of the things that make things difficult, and then we’ll get into different aspects of what we’ve got going for next year.
CA: First off, thanks for having me on, guys. For me, and we’ve worked together long enough, getting a schedule out early is one of my top priorities. Unfortunately, this year it seemed to be the latest I think that we’ve ever released it, but that was due to some circumstances that ultimately end up beyond our control. It kind of kicked off with not being able to get a date at VIR, and then having the standalone race at Circuit of the Americas. The agreement with Circuit of the Americas to a little longer than anticipated. They had a little race in-between called Formula 1, which kind of disrupted our program. But, we got it all together and finally got it announced. It’s got a few changes to it, but happy to go over that with you guys.
PC: Let’s start with VIR. I think of the complaints that we did get yesterday, and I haven’t looked this morning yet, but there’s a lot of people that aren’t happy that we aren’t going to VIR. Like everything in life, there’s always a “why” behind a decision. So, let’s tell everybody exactly why was VIR not on the schedule?
CA: Well, ultimately it came down to the dates. We have traditionally had our May date, and they had some complications with another event that is their event called Hyperfest. So, they decided to put the Hyperfest on our traditional date, and they offered us Mother’s Day weekend, which we’ve tried that before out there and attendance was very low. I think Father’s Day, sons and dads like to go to the races, but Mother’s Day is a different story. Obviously, families like to hang out at home with their mom. So that date wouldn’t work for us. We knew if we tried that, it wouldn’t be very well-attended and basically it would be a hardship financially. So, that really started the process with VIR. We like going to VIR. Connie and Kerrigan are great people. I consider them friends. But it’s one of the complications of the schedule. First is what dates are available with the racetracks. So, that sort of set the tone for putting the rest of it into motion.
SB: Chuck, on that subject, it’s funny how people speculate. I won’t mention who the rider was, but we all know that one rider was kind of not happy after that one round last year. So, the speculation was everything from, “Well, we’re not going back there because of him, because of what he said,” or “We’re not going back there because the track didn’t like what he said.” It had nothing to do with that at all. Did it?
CA: No, not really. I read a lot of the comments and so forth, too. I don’t know if all the people that are disappointed that they’re not going to VIR actually came to VIR to start with. I’d like to think the good majority of them did, but Danilo’s issue at VIR had nothing to do with the decision. I don’t think in my conversations with Kerrigan, who runs VIR, he’s very supportive of MotoAmerica and motorcycle racing. I’ve heard stories that they don’t like bikes, but I’ve never got that vibe from them. It just came down to a conflict of dates.
SB: Yeah, that’s the clear factor there, is just the date that we had, we didn’t have anymore. I want to ask you in general a little bit about the process. One of the things I always remember with MotoGP and especially it seems like when it’s with regard to Indy when they were going there, I know that when they would have a round, and it probably happened at COTA too and I can’t just remember exactly, but when MotoGP had a round in the US, it seemed like at that round there was some kind of PR that is put out about whether they were going to come back and race there next year. I’m not saying that we should do that with our tracks, but what I’m asking is in the process, does the plan for the next year’s schedule, do the discussions start when we’re at each of the rounds about the following year? Is that as early as it does kind of get talked about?
CA: Well, we’re entering our ninth season and we try and keep as much data equity as possible. So, that’s been fixed at the majority of the tracks that we go to. Obviously, this year there has been a bit of flip-flopping that had to happen with the schedule. I wouldn’t say it’s so much at the event, especially in the beginning. The process really starts around May, June, where I start contacting the tracks and getting a feel for what dates could be available or are we able to keep the date that we’re on. Just kind of solidify that our intention would be to come back and make sure they’re looking out for us in that respect. So, really it all starts with the dates, what’s available. We also take into consideration the travel, the logistics of everything. This year for instance, we finish up… We go to Pittsburgh, Texas, New Jersey. Ideally, my goal was to finish up in Texas, but because of the date and what they had going on after, it just didn’t work out. So, you could put an ultimate, pie in the sky, dream schedule together, but a lot of times you’re at the mercy of other outside parties.
PC: So, Chuck, when the VIR thing went away, is that what ultimately led to the switch with Jersey and Barber as far as who was going to be earlier in the season and who was going to be late?
CA: Yeah, exactly. That was the first issue to deal with, was how do you fill that spot in May? We reached out to Barber Motorsports Park and they had a date open, which was May 19th to 21st. They actually thought that that would be a better time with us. Weather-wise, they thought it might suit better. There’s no conflicts with football, college football, which obviously is a huge ordeal around the Birmingham area that time in the later part of the year. Also, their big vintage moto fest, or whatever you call it, is within a few weeks of our traditional September date. So, all in all, I thought that this probably would be a benefit, having the Barber event in May.
PC: Based on the weather we’ve had there later in the year… we could never do worse. Right?
CA: Exactly. Right. Then obviously, it was how do you fill that at the back end? Our events have grown tremendously over the last couple of years. I think it’s starting to warrant bigger facilities. Going to the Circuit of the Americas has always been a goal of mine to have a standalone race there. That September time is not so bad in Texas. A little bit warm sometimes, but it’s generally good weather. So, doing the flip with Circuit of the Americas and Barber seemed appropriate.
PC: Now, as far as COTA goes, don’t get me wrong – I love being with MotoGP. The atmosphere is incredible. You get to see a bunch of people that you haven’t seen in a while, because like you, I was involved in that championship as well. But I do think it’s cool that way back, our Supersport guys used to race there as well. It’s always been mostly just a superbike event for us, and it doesn’t give our other guys a chance to race on what is really a cool track and a cool atmosphere and a cool city. Are you kind of looking at it that way, too? I think there’s going to be guys that are really going to be happy to get the chance to race there that they wouldn’t ordinarily get the chance to in past years.
CA: Yeah, I would agree with that, Paul, in part. The track is a pretty awesome racetrack. It’s one of the best in the United States. The facility, most of us have been there and seen it. I think being able to showcase other classes there will draw people. There’s a huge area, Dallas and Houston and Austin obviously, and with Ritchie Escalante and some of our South American riders, drawing fans from Mexico is not out of the question. So, I think we have a shot to provide a lot of entertainment through our racing at a great facility. There’s people to draw from in that area. I think it’s going to be a win-win.
SB: Let’s stay on the subject of Circuit of The Americas for right now, Chuck. So, when we go there for a standalone… We are always treated well when we are there with MotoGP. We have our own paddock off to the side, which is terrific, but obviously when we go there for a standalone, we’re going to have access to the garages. We’re not going to have issues going in and out of the media center. Not that we did, but we always had to be scanned in or out for riders or something like that. It’s going to be our event. We’re going to have full access to those facilities that are normally a little bit tougher to get to with MotoGP. Is that correct?
CA: That’s exactly right. It’s our event. It will be our classes there. Some of the areas, because they will be starting to build out for Formula 1, there will be designated areas that our fans will be able to attend to. But I think it will be appropriate for the space and the crowd that we’ll have. Obviously, we got an arrangement to have camping. I think again, bringing our paddock, it will just be our paddock there. It will be a lot different than the MotoGP experience, for sure.
PC: They won’t be running back and forth with their Easy Ups.
CA: They’ll be able to keep their Easy Ups on pit lane.
SB: That’s right. The cool thing is there’s nothing like having those garages there, man. When you go right out of that garage and you’re right there next to the start/finish and turn one is up on the hill. It’s just fantastic to have that experience right from the garage. So, that’s going to be cool. That’s going to be an awesome situation. Especially like you said, we’re going to have baggers there. We’re going to have Supersport there. It’s going to be cool to see some different motorcycles go around that track than what we’ve had before. It will be really enjoyable. The other question I want to ask you about Circuit of the Americas, and I haven’t asked you this ahead of time. I’m sure you saw the same thing I did. There was a quote during Formula 1 saying, “Gee, I wish they had motorcycles during that event.” I got to thinking to myself. I’m not talking about… Well, let me tell you what my thought was. I was thinking, wouldn’t that be cool to do a one-off race? I know it’s a little bit after our season, but if we did some kind of one-off invitational or something. Did you see that article, and did you consider any of that or anything for the future maybe that we could go there and be part of the Formula 1 show?
CA: Well, I did see the article from, I think Bobby Epstein, the CEO of the circuit, was quoted in AutoSport about having a motorcycle races event for the Formula 1 race. What that stemmed from was an inquiry that they did have about having a support race from us. Really, it came from one of the other support races that was scheduled for the Formula 1 weekend. I think it’s called Formula W. It’s a women’s open-wheel series. At the last-minute kind of backed out. So, I had been in negotiation with COTA for a standalone event, and then the question came up about, what about bringing one of your classes to Formula 1? Which I said we could make it happen. What the process was, they ended up going back and it was a week and a half, or two weeks out. Basically, for the timing schedules for Formula 1 and all that, it didn’t pan out. But certainly, there was an inquiry there. I think anytime we can get in front of a crowd of 400,000 plus, we need to definitely grab that opportunity.
PC: I second that. Apart from the schedule, which we’ve covered and if we think of anything else we can come back to it, but one of the other changes that I think drew a lot of interest and it kind of stood out to me a little bit, as well. That’s the fact that we’re going to have two Supersport rounds, in addition to Daytona which is a separate entity entirely. But we’re going to have two Supersport races that will feature pit stops. I think that’s kind of cool. That’s the kind of thing that I think every once in a while we need to shake it up and do something like that and see if it works or see if it doesn’t. How did that come about, Chuck?
CA: I think it really started with Daytona. Last year, we did Daytona for the first time. To me, having the team involved in part of the race through the pit stop process is just another area that of interest. There’s a lot of things that could happen, a lot of things that could go right, a lot of things that could go wrong. To me, it was intriguing. The 200 was a cool event, so that was part of the consideration. A lot of the Supersport teams have the equipment already, which is why we picked Supersport class to do this in. Also, if you remember during the season, we have a lot of our competitors throughout different classes that do participate in endurance races. Actually, Danilo and Josh Herrin did an endurance race at Pitt Race. So, we decided that let’s give it a try. We talked to a lot of teams about it. 99% of them thought it was a cool idea to try. Will it bring more entertainment value? We’ll see. Something different. We’re not afraid to try different things. To make a little bit loner television program, for teams that don’t always have the opportunity to get on TV, there’s always that opportunity to follow down pit lane and see how well they accomplished their pit stop. So, we’ll see how it works out. There’s a lot of excitement about it, from the tire companies to, like I said, teams and our staff. So, we thought, let’s give it a go.
SB: Chuck, while we’re on this Supersport subject, this was a big one for me. When I saw this, I was like, “Wow, that’s pretty cool.” Because I used to love when they had endurance GTU and GTO back in the day and AMA and a lot of the guys racing that, and that’s an excellent point that you said. Since these guys do compete in other series that have endurance, it’s a great chance for us to be able to do it. So, I’ve got a few questions about this Supersport thing and particularly it’s the pit stop thing. So, do you know yet how many… I guess we don’t have to get super specific, but it’s going to be at Barber and it’s going to be at Laguna Seca. So, at those two rounds, it’s going to be one race. Is it literally a double distance race from what a normal Supersport sprint race is at those tracks?
CA: No, the plan is to make it just long enough that would warrant a tire change and a little bit of fuel. So, to make the pit stop legitimate, we’re thinking there will probably be about a 50-minute race, where now the Supersport sprint races are about 26. So, it will just be a little bit longer.
SB: Would it be like a situation where you run it for an amount of time and then two laps after that, or would you actually be the exact number of laps?
CA: There will be a number of laps determined.
SB: Okay. And then, I actually asked you this a couple weeks ago. So, obviously pit stops, it’s going to be exactly like pit stop at Daytona in that the bike can have dry brake. There will be quick change equipment and quick fill cans, whatever is needed. Is that correct for those two rounds?
SB: So, here’s what you and I talked about the other day, Chuck. Shout out to any of these Supersport riders that didn’t race at Daytona and think, “Well, I’ll just do the sprint races the rest of the year.” I’m talking about, well, I’m going to mention Benjamin Smith. Hey, Benjamin and your team, you may want to rethink Daytona so you can get a pit stop under your belt so when those other two come later in the year they’re going to want to do it. This I would encourage the entire field to probably go to Daytona and not consider it a one-off race. Right, Chuck?
CA: Well, yeah. I guess if you’re serious about the championship, you certainly want to give it a dry run. Daytona is the perfect place to do that. If they choose not to do that, I would hope that they’d be practicing at their shops.
PC: Yeah. The thing is too, if you pay for that equipment, you might as well use it three times.
CA: Yeah, exactly. But like I said in the beginning, to me involving the team and the pit stop, we saw a couple teams at the Daytona 200 where things kind of went pear shaped during the pit stop, and you could just kind of feel the tension and the pressure these guys have to execute a tire change and a gas stop. it’s just a whole different element and I think it’ll be intriguing. I think it’ll be interesting. Maybe bring some new interest to the to the class.
SB: So, Chuck, here’s my here’s my big question for this podcast. This is the toughest question I’m going to ask you.
PC: Be scared, Chuck. Be scared.
CA: I’m shaking.
SB: It’s not that bad.
PC: I’m scared for you.
CA: I don’t know because I’m shaking because of Sean’s question or because I’m up in Washington State which I’m unfamiliar with and it’s not very warm.
SB: Well, let’s say it’s that because I don’t strike fear in anybody. So, last year I totally got the fact that we had Daytona for the first time. Daytona was a standalone, and by standalone I mean standalone, not like Circuit of the Americas that didn’t count towards the Supersport championship. Now that we have two rounds that have pit stops in it, you know where I’m going with this, why is Daytona not part of the championship this year?
CA: Well, I think when we made the decision to take on Daytona, it traditionally back when Paul and I used to go, it was the biggest preseason race for internationally, right? And so, along with the change of the Supersport rules, I think the opportunity is there to kind of bring that mystique and prestige back to it. Part of that is just a full-on competition. You got the pit stops, but also it’s the opportunity for the tire companies to go to war with each other, like they like they did back in the old days. So, obviously we wouldn’t have done that without consulting Dunlop. Dunlop welcomed the challenge and last year it was a real battle between the tire companies. So, I think it’s the one opportunity to continue to put pressure on the tire companies to push their product a little bit further, and again along with the pit stops and the extended distance, it’s just another element of competition to it.
SB: Yeah, and to your point, Chuck, that’s the 200-mile race. I assume neither of these, the race at Barber, the race at Laguna is not going to be 200-mile races, obviously. Correct?
CA: They’re not going to be 200 miles, but obviously we have a great partner with Dunlop tires as the official sponsor and supplier of the MotoAmerica championship series and having the Daytona 200 outside of the national championship allows for that open competition.
SB: Okay. It’s funny. I just want to make this one more comment before Paul asks another question. And we got through that one, Chuck. That wasn’t so bad but, I know for a fact before we took over the series, man, they used to talk about, and probably back when Kenny raced. They always acted like that Daytona was an anomaly on the season anyway. They would always go, “Well, we got through Daytona.” It’s a different thing because it was obviously a different thing, but it still makes sense that it’s kind of a special sort of one-off thing to the rest of the season. So, that’s just my follow-up comment to that whole thing. So, anyway, go ahead, Paul.
PC: All right. I hate to I hate to say circle back because it’s a stupid phrase, but I’m going to say it anyways. I need to circle back to the schedule, because as difficult as it is to pick the tracks, the dates, to get all that to work, what also amazes me is, and I need you to tell us how that works, but we have eight classes, I guess at some point, all racing throughout the year at different events, blah, blah, blah. That was some big changes there that people have either complained about or latched onto, but how does that work too with deciding where the baggers are going to race, where’s stock 1000 going to race, how many Junior Cup races there are going to be? I know there’s something that there’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes with that. If you could explain how you come to those schedules, as well.
CA: Well, I guess the first point of drafting it the way that we did, we have kind of a good problem. We have eight classes and all of them are very popular. They’re popular with participants and they’re popular with fans, but we get comments year to year about, “Hey, we drive all the way out to Laguna Seca, and we only get to race once. Or, “We’re driving all the way to New Jersey and we race once. So, what we tried to do, and I think it’s extremely important especially with the economic situation that we’re in now with fuel prices and expenses… Expenses are going up for everybody. I don’t know how much they’ll go down by the time we start racing next year, but we took that cost consideration into the schedule as well. So, we tried to keep as many classes having similar amount of races. Stock 1000, yeah, they’re only going to 5 venues but they’re racing two times. Last year they went to 9 venues, and they only raced six times, or something like that. So, part of the economics played into it to help the teams. We tried to keep them out of actual races similar. There’s a few that gained a race or two and some that were effective in in different ways. I think namely the Junior Cup. Junior Cup went from 18 races last year and they’re going to have 12 at six events. But what we thought might help bolster participation in the class is, and again to this goes along the line of trying to help teams save money, is to have them just race on the East Coast rounds and not make the trip out. If Junior Cup teams had to make the trip out west for one event or whatever, it’s significantly expensive to do that. We looked through the entry list last year. We only had one or two teams that were West Coast teams or riders, and so that that was part of the decision there.
SB: Chuck, you touched on Stock 100, and that was a class in an area where I had big questions. So, I’m going to ask you some stuff about that one. Your point is well taken that there are five rounds that they’re going to, but they’re racing two races at each round. So, they’re they’ve got 10 races. So, I can’t figure out… This is why I’m glad you’re on. You can explain this to us. How’s it going to work for Superbike Cup? Is Superbike Cup only available at those five rounds, and can Stock 1000 riders race at these rounds that only have superbike? Can they enter their Stock 1000 bike like they could this year? And if they do that, does that count towards Superbike Cup, or is Superbike Cup only going to be available at the five rounds at which they are racing their own races?
CA: Well, the Superbike Cup is definitely popular It’s a good way to help encourage Stock 1000 teams to participate in superbike. We have the support of Dunlop on the tire side to support that. We have a prize fund at the end of the year that that supports that. We’ve had a lot of teams participate in that, and I think it’s helped to build interest in teams going full-time superbike and riders riding full-time superbike. To answer the question of how that’s going to work this year, Sean, our process really was, let’s get the schedule out. Let’s let everybody understand who’s racing where. Right now, Nicole is preparing a survey with two or three different options that’s going to be probably sent out the next day or two to the participants and we’re going to get some feedback from them. Do they just want to have the Superbike Cup run in conjunction with Stock 1000 races? Do they want it to run in conjunction with non-stock 1000 events? So, we’re going to get some feedback and then decide that. Hopefully we’ll have that out the next week or so.
SB: Okay. So, that’s really cool, actually. That was a question I had, and I was like, “oh man. I don’t know how this is going to work. I can’t fit it in my head.” So, it’s still to be determined. Okay. That makes a lot of sense.
CA: Still to be determined, but I think taking the stock 1000 number of events down to five, the riders that qualify for a superbike license, obviously that’s the fall back. If they want to race at the Ridge and Laguna Seca, they can enter the superbike class. So, they do have the opportunity to still compete on the weekends there are not stock 100 races.
SB: Okay. That’s great, Chuck, because that has been some of the comments. Some of them have been like, “Well, man, it’s only 5 rounds. Well, it’s 10 races and it’s also you’re not precluded or you’re not – I shouldn’t say precluded. That’s the right word. You’re not excluded from racing in superbike. You can do that. And you guys are going to figure out how that is going to go with the Cup and all that kind of stuff. So, that’s really cool. The other one that I think is awesome is the way Twins Cup is going to work. We all know this, and you touched on it in the beginning. When we had one Twins Cup race at Laguna Seca, at Ridge, now they’re going to seven rounds and they’re having two races at each round. So, I think that’s terrific for those guys. I’ve already talked to some of the teams and the teams are really excited about that, because if they’re going to do that travel, they want to get a couple races in there. They’re all kind of spoiled. It’s not like the old days when teams would go out and race one race on a weekend. They want to get their two races in for the money and driving. You mentioned the thing about the economy and all that. So, I think it’s a huge win-win for Twins. I think it is for all these classes, too. Junior Cup is interesting for me. That one I want to touch on really quick and ask you. Are we seeing some kind of an evolution in Junior Cup? We still have good entries, a good amount of entries. We didn’t have a crazy amount of entries. We didn’t last year. I don’t know what it’s going to look like this year. Maybe it was just a lull. A lot of the guys went up to Twins Cup who were racing in Junior Cup. I guess we don’t really have any way of knowing, unless you do, chuck, what Junior Cup is going to look like this year?
CA: Yeah, I don’t know. Until we open entries and start getting people signed up, it’s hard for us to tell. I think last year on average, we had 18-20 Junior Cup riders. It sounds like there’s a good amount of those that are going to be moving on, which is great. Junior Cup is a great starting point. I think the way that we have the whole system built out with ages and eligibility going from Junior Cup to Twins Cup to Supersport, the whole thing kind of works. That has looked like it has worked over the last five or six years or so. So, is the expense of Junior Cup traveling around the country part of why there’s only 20 riders? This is part of the exercise with keeping them more regional, I guess. Maybe we’ll get more participation if the parents and the kids that want to race in this think they have a legitimate shot at a championship, and they don’t have to travel all over the country to try and achieve that. So, we’ll see. I know on the FIM side, the world championship side, there’s a lot of discussion about future of Junior Cup and where it’s going. So, I think next year it’s going to be a telltale year to see where it goes. There are other opportunities for young participants, like with the Talent Cup, for instance. If you look around the world, there’s a lot of one-make series. So, I think the Junior Cup deserves one more year in its current configuration, and then we’ll take a look for the future.
PC: I also think it’s kind of cool to see. This year is going to be the perfect example of that. I think you’re going to have the top three or four from that class move up to Twins Cup. Then if you’re a kid, suddenly our podium will be different. I think it will be exciting to be a kid now moving into that class. Because you’re like, “The really good guys have moved on. I’ve got an opportunity to actually be champion, or close to it.” So, I think that’s kind of cool. I really like the races that have three superbike races. Is that a difficult sell with the teams, or is that something that’s pretty easy because the expense is already there, so having an extra race isn’t the end of the world?
CA: Well, Paul, if you guys remember, it’s not our first time of doing that. In COVID years, we tried it before. We didn’t really ever get any complaints. I think if you ask teams and racers, they’d rather race than practice, ultimately. They get paid the extra purse and it saves them the expense of going to an extra round to achieve that. So again, that was part of the reasoning behind forgoing the MotoGP race. With the superbikes, part of it was expense towards the teams and part of it was the expense towards us and putting those resources in a different place to build the standalone race. So, I think the three races on the superbike weekend, obviously World Superbike do it. Our races are a little bit different because there will be three, full-length races, but it’s another bonus for the fans that attend those rounds.
PC: Yeah, that’s a lot going on for those for people that are showing up and getting to see three Superbike races in one weekend is pretty damn cool.
CA: Yeah, for sure.
PC: Now earlier in the year, it was no secret, and you were totally fine with it and MotoAmerica is totally fine with it, but some superbike team owners got together, and they started to have discussions about how they would like to see things or what things they would like to see change, et cetera. Which I think is a wonderful idea because it allows them to come to you and to MotoAmerica with one voice instead of six or seven people telling you different things. I know you embrace that. You’re happy that that’s happening, right? It helps us.
CA: It does help us. It doesn’t stop the process that Wayne and myself and Nicole and Teague, we still talk to a lot of the teams, but I think for us it’s a valuable resource that the teams are talking to each other. They’re getting to know each other better. They’re trying to get to understand the goals that each team has, because obviously those are a lot different at times. What they offer to us is they collectively meet at every race, every other race and they give us some feedback from those meetings. Some of the ideas they come up with we agree with. Some we don’t. To date, there haven’t been any demands. There’s just been suggestions. I think when it’s a group together like that and they have a consensus, then it’s definitely something that we should consider. As smart as we all think we are sometimes, we don’t have all the answers and it’s good to get the feedback from an outside group.
PC: Sean and I have all the answers.
CA: Well, I know you normally do, Paul. Sean speaks them for himself, normally.
SB: Speaking of all the answers, Chuck, you surprised me early on when you mentioned about that the plan was for us to end up at COTA because when the schedule came out and I saw it and I looked at New Jersey being the final round – it’s funny. I immediately thought, and I’m going to give some people, the fans and listeners, a little insight on this. I immediately thought of our CFO, Richard Varner, because he was absolutely delighted with New Jersey this year. We had great attendance and he said it’s a growth area for us, and I’m thinking, “Oh, sure. We went to have the crescendo at New Jersey.” And I think it’s still going to be that. There’s no doubt about it. It just surprised me when you said that you were wanting to finish up at COTA, Circuit of the Americas, and I understand that but talking about New Jersey, I really love the fact that we are wrapping up baggers at that New Jersey round. So, the way it looks like and the way our classes go, a lot of it’s going to be decided at that last round, which is of course what we want to see. So, I’m pretty delighted to have New Jersey on the schedule. Did it work out like you said about COTA being the last one? But not so bad to end up in New Jersey, I’m sure.
CA: It’s not a bad thing, but logistically going from Pennsylvania to Texas to New Jersey, that adds a little bit more expense on the logistics side probably for most teams. To me, New Jersey, September 11th weekend, which is our traditional date, I think that adds a bit of atmosphere. It’s a special time, especially at that that track. We normally try and do something to honor the 9/11 situation. So, I think we’d like to move back to New Jersey being on that weekend and eventually get COTA as a final one. But I think overall, I’m happy with the spread of the dates and the schedule overall. There wasn’t there wasn’t many things more nail-biting than certainly that King of the Baggers final in Jersey in the rain. I know we could have a great Superbike finale there, too.
SB: Yeah. I think so. I want to talk about a little bit about super hooligans from the point of view of specifically the Laguna Seca around that we had last year. It was the fact that, something that surprised me about that round that I’m sure you were aware about a lot a lot sooner than I was, and it was the fact that we had a couple of electric bikes there. It seems like this electric bike situation it is a wave of the future. Can you tip your hat at all and say in the next coming few years, are we looking at a possible electric class in our series?
CA: There’s been discussion around it. So, obviously with the whole electric, EV movement, we can’t really rule anything out. I think what’s unique about having them race in the Hooligans, it’s one of the only, maybe the only gas motor versus electric motor going head-to-head in the same race. I think that’s going to show us the evolution of electric bikes probably in a clearer way than having 20 electric bikes lined up on a grid and race each other. So, I think there’s something very unique about the electric bikes in the Hooligans, but like I said, the way that everything is evolving, we can’t ignore the fact that electric bikes are becoming more and more popular, that someday there may be a standalone electric class.
PC: Okay. I’m going to circle back again. I love that word now. I guess is it’s two words.
CA: Sound like the dirt trackers, circling back.
PC: Yeah, circling back and hoping it’s not raining so you don’t get to circle back at all. Okay. So, look a lot of these people, a lot of the fans – they might be racers. Who knows? But, a lot of the fans are like, there’s less of this because those god damn baggers, and the baggers thing, from what I can tell, it’s a love hate thing. I think some people just kind of think it’s cool to hate on it, even though they’d probably enjoy the hell out of watching it. But, expanding the baggers, okay, yeah, it’s track time, it’s races or whatever, but that doesn’t necessarily take away from the other classes. I always tell people, it’s like if you don’t want to watch it, don’t watch it, but we’re not taking away something else so that you can watch it. I kind of think that’s an important point. Obviously, the baggers is extremely popular and we’d be stupid not to expand it whenever we have the opportunity because people want to see it. The majority of people want to see it. Is that always a touchy thing when you’re trying to do this, is the whole bagger thing?
CA: Well, part of the consideration for what’s racing where, it’s what do the fans want to see? Now they’re buying tickets to watch superbike racing and bagger racing, and although the other classes are great competition, I don’t know if you just had a stock 1000 weekend people would come into thousands to watch stock 1000. So, increasing the overall number of events for baggers from 7, what they had last year, to 14, really, we added one more venue but ultimately adding one more race is what’s probably half an hour of overall track time. So, getting back to everybody making an effort to get to each racetrack to only race… not making sense. This kind of followed along with that philosophy to race twice. The baggers have brought a lot of new fans, and I think for those new fans part of the confusion was when they come out on a Saturday and the bagger race was Sunday, they they’d see him run around for qualifying for 20 minutes or 40 minutes or whatever, and then it’s like, okay, what do we do? We weren’t coming on Sunday. So, I think it’ll be better for new fans that are coming out and watching. They’ll get to watch the baggers race twice and be more engaged with the overall atmosphere at our races, whether they’re coming for one or two days. They’ll get a good feel of the overall racing program. It’ll be consistent from Saturday to Sunday. So, all that again is part of the consideration for the schedule.
SB: Chuck, we’re going to get ready to wrap up here, but I have another question for you. It’s a little bit of a broad one. It’s something that I’m kind of amazed about. When we’ve had you on before, we’ve talked a little bit about Twins Cup, but with the constant evolution of motorcycles and how it affects our series, or how our series affects the evolution of motorcycles, that’s part of my question. So, we came out with Twins Cup and lo and behold, suddenly Aprilia comes out with an RS660. Then Yamaha has got the R7, which was an evolution of the MT07. The class is hugely popular. We’ve got seven rounds for them next year, fourteen races. That class has just been going nuts, as many of our classes are. Another one is Supersport. I was writing a few stories, is this the middle-weight motorcycle, the 600 motorcycle? And lo and behold, our Supersport Generation has led to a damn good Daytona 200, and a great season last year with a 955 up against a 750 against the 600. I did a story earlier this week speculating that Yamaha might have an 890 and we’ll have to see how that fits into the equation. It seems like our classes dovetail very well with what the OEM’s are doing, or are the OEM’s driving that? I don’t think they are. I don’t know if it’s just coincidence. How is it that all this stuff seems to mesh and work out really well? You must be pretty delighted about that. Is that a planned thing?
CA: I would like to think so, but it’s kind of like a planned thing when you say was Ross Chastain watching Anthony Mazziotto ride the wall at Daytona, and that’s what gave him the idea to do it in a NASCAR race. It just happened. I think we have a very good group of people that pay attention to evolution within the motorcycle industry. The Twins Cup, I think it’s well documented James Morris had one of these bikes in the back of his truck. We got to talking about it. From the first race at Atlanta when we had six or seven entries to what did we have at Barber last year, like 55? It’s pretty incredible. The Supersport, as much credit as we’d like to take for that, we’re really just following along with what the FIM decided to do to bolster the participation of the world championship. So, we do talk to the FIM guys quite a lot. Teague probably talks to Scott Smart over there a couple times a week. I think it’s just keeping our ear to the ground and listening to people and watching what bikes are developed by manufacturers. We do get some feedback time to time from the manufacturers about what they do have in the pipeline. So, I think we’ve been fortunate to be able to create this mix. Like I said, it has created some problems for us in that we have eight classes and all of them are popular. They’re popular in participation. Again, another thing to circle back for your term, Paul, on the side of the schedule, you guys saw many places this year trying to run six, seven, eight classes. The paddock was completely full. I think by going to this method of controlling the amount of races per weekend, eliminating the classes, it’s just going to take a little bit of pressure off of everybody, staff included. Our staff when we have seven or eight classes on a weekend are putting in 12- or 14-hour days, and it’s with no lunches, no breaks. So, I think overall this philosophy, this strategy is going to give everybody a little bit of breathing space and create a better show and let us continue to develop our program to be even better and better in the future.
SB: I said I was going to one question and wrap, but I want to just touch on one thing you brought up about baggers, and I want to mention that as far as that development. So, that whole thing, that whole concept, led to what Harley has done with developing parts internally through their Screaming Eagle program, and obviously two factory riders with Kyle Wyman and Travis. Indian has done a lot of their own development. A lot of the aftermarket, that’s in that cycle. They developed parts. People are buying parts. I know when we’ve had fans and we do the Q&A in track walk, a lot of them are very interested. These cruiser riders and baggers riders are very interested in what we’re doing there. It has helped the industry from that point of view, too, domestically. My question, and I think I’ve seen a lot of interest from across the pond – have you gotten inquiries from Stuart Higgs and BSB? Do other countries want to run baggers in their series?
CA: We’ve had a few inquiries, for sure, not only from England, but Italy, Czech Republic. There’s been a few racing groups inquire about it. As you can see, this year we have 14 bagger races. Tige and myself have worked a lot with the cooperation of both factories, Harley-Davidson and Indian, to try and create a new rules package that will bring more reliability, bring more accessibility to people that want to build and race baggers. What we don’t want, that class three years ago or even last year, the amount of engine changes that the baggers were doing was pretty significant. Obviously, if we’re doubling the amount of races, we can’t do that. So, both factories recognize that. So, hopefully what you’ll see next year is a lot less work for the people that are actually racing them and better competition. I think once that good place is established, then we can start looking at where they go from there. Obviously doing an international series is quite a bit of an undertaking, so we just wanted to get a handle on it and build a good series for here to start with, then we can look beyond if opportunities come up.
SB: This is a perfect example of Yankee ingenuity repeating itself. You guys both know and remember when the superbike class was invented in the United States. We’re the ones that developed it. Maybe people that aren’t aware of that think that world superbike was on a world level. Well, it wasn’t. It was an American series that we started and spread around the world. So, who knows? Maybe some day there will be a world baggers championship or something. It’s kind of cool that we create these things and they proliferate around the globe. I guess we’ll wrap here. Chuck, you were awesome to have on. Great to explain these things to not only Paul and I, but obviously there’s a lot of questions by the fans. I think you answered a lot of questions. Huge props to you on the amount of work that it takes to put that stuff together and figure out the logistics with the tracks but also the travel and making sure that all the teams are happy, the fans are happy. I think we’ve got something to be very proud of this year and it’s going to be some really fun racing. Again, thanks for being on with us, Chuck. We appreciate it.
CA: Thanks for giving me the opportunity to answer the questions and hopefully clear up some of the reason behind what we ultimately came out with. I read every comment. I probably shouldn’t. I saw one guy called me a moron this morning. Hopefully this will give him some background into why we’re doing what we ultimately came out with. We’re trying to help the teams. Trying to keep a good show going and trying to progress MotoAmerica. This is where we’re at. Hopefully the fans will like it.
PC: I just have one last question, Sean. Chuck, do we get to keep our job for another week?
CA: I don’t know. Let me listen to it as we play it back.
PC: All right. Have a good rest of your week and a nice weekend, and we’ll obviously chat again soon.
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