There’s an old adage in motocross: when in doubt, grab more throttle. It might have been easy for the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross series to have done that in the pandemic, but instead the racing series has been more methodical than wild; focusing on safety and working with health authorities to get a limited schedule under their belt.
When the racing league released the 2020 schedule ahead of the pandemic, the plan was to run a 12-race schedule that would traverse 11 states. That was in September of 2019. By March, the historic Hangtown Classic race in Rancho Cordova, California had been canceled due to COVID-19 concerns, and the season was put on hold. It wasn’t until mid-July that MX Sports Pro Racing, the group responsible announced a shortened AMA-sanctioned season.
“While we continue to navigate through these challenging and continuously evolving times of the coronavirus pandemic, we are confident that we’ve developed the framework for a high-caliber championship schedule that can be successfully implemented,” said Roy Janson, MX Sports Pro Racing competition director at the time.
Even then, plans have had to be altered. Just before the August 22nd Washougal National event in Washington state, the plug was pulled. Lucas Oil Pro Motocross was asked about the specifics that led to the cancellation of the Washougal event but would only say that last-minute restrictions by Washington state officials based on COVID-19 infections led their race leadership team and the manufacturers that provide for the race teams to back out. That found the series mirroring what other racing leagues have had to do: double-headers. For Lucas Oil Pro Motocross, the cancellation of the Washougal event meant racing on back-to-back weekends at the Lorretta Lynn’s National location in Hurricane Mills, Tennessee. Another doubleheader location was on September 4th and 7th at the RedBud National track in Buchanan, Michigan.
“In my professional life, I’ve never dealt with anything this difficult,” said 40-year motocross industry veteran and MX Sports event organizer Tim Cotter. “The only constant is change. And it changes so many times…. It’s just been really challenging.”
Since then the series has largely settled in. With just three races left (WW Ranch, Thunder Valley, and Fox Raceway), the series will be completed and champions crowed (currently Zach Osborne on the Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing team leads the 450cc class, while Dylan Ferrandis on Monster Energy/Star Yamaha Racing team leads the 250cc class).
Still, the pains of the limited schedule have affected the entire ecosystem of the series.
“People don’t realize how dynamic the series is to the livelihood of all those that race,” Cotter said. “For the fans, they see it as entertainment. But even big manufacturers see large staff affected. The event staff. The broadcast staff. The local staff that helps with things like parking, etc. We’re not like major sports leagues. When we don’t race, there’s no revenue that comes in.”