When writing about a sanctioning body or the officials involved, journalist types like me often tend to point out when things are going wrong, or not being run the way they should. It’s just the nature of journalism. It’s not news when everyone drives safely to work; it only becomes news when someone tries to text at the wheel and plows into a fellow commuter.
The same goes for a racing sanctioning body and its officials. We expect those who run our racing series to do at least a decent job. We don’t say much when things go smoothly and we’re quick to point out shortcomings.
I’ve been on both sides of the fence, both as a journalist and as a racing official in my former capacity as AMA Pro Racing’s media manager. The fact is, putting on a national-level race is a big undertaking with a lot of moving parts. I would say it’s damn near impossible for all those moving parts to work flawlessly over an entire race day, much less race weekend. The best thing a sanctioning body can hope for is the little mistakes that are inevitably made during a race are minor and don’t have a major impact on rider safety or competitive fairness.
I say all that as a preamble to my main point, which is the DMG is being very well served in its Grand National division by Mike Kidd, Director of Flat Track for AMA Pro Racing. Kidd, in my opinion, is flat out doing a killer job of trying to revive a sport – one that when he inherited it was on the ropes. Kidd is the ideal person for the job. As a former Grand National Champion he relates to the concerns of the racers and as a former race promoter he understands the importance of putting butts in the seats and bringing in sponsors.
There are still major challenges. This past week’s Grand National in Gas City is a prime example. The race had maybe 1500 people on hand to watch, and that’s a generous estimate. I still maintain that outside of established events like Daytona and Peoria, the slightly modified motocross bikes used on short tracks and TTs have not yet proven to be able to pull a crowd. I submit Billings, Montana, in 2008 and Gas City as evidence. On the other hand races like Springfield, Indy and Peoria attract substantial crowds, so there’s a good base to build on.
Yet in spite of these challenges Kidd moves forward with fierce determination and optimism. Talk with him for about five minutes and you too will start believing that the Grand Nationals will soon return to its former glory of the 1970s.
Kidd is bringing in sponsors, albeit on a small scale. The TV contract with MavTV is a start. I remember when SPEED TV was a small network that hardly anyone had on their box. I’ve already sent an email to my cable company asking about getting Mav so I can watch the races. If enough people do that someone at the cable companies will listen and before you know it Mav will be part of basic cable.
Regardless of what I think about Kidd’s performance, the most important indicator is what the racers themselves think. I can say that all the racers I’ve talked to on the subject think Kidd is doing a good job too, and believe me they’re a tough audience.
So if you haven’t been to a Grand National lately do yourself a favor and come check out what Kidd and his crew are doing. In fact, if you’re free this weekend you really couldn’t pick a better race to attend than the cushion half-mile at Lima, Ohio. It’s about as American as mom’s apple pie and watching the riders flog their big Twins on the tricky limestone cushion is a spectacle not to be missed.
Thanks to Mike Kidd the AMA Grand National Championship is definitely a series on the upswing.