That depends on your definition of “traditional.” If you
think a traditional motocross track has jumps, berms,
off-cambers and challenging terrain, then the Charlotte
USGP track was 9/10ths traditional. If you think a traditional motocross track is supposed to be etched out of a
hillside or valley, with natural terrain formed from shifting
tectonic plates, then the Charlotte track was anything but
There are two basic ways of thinking when it comes
to motocross tracks. The progressive crowd doesn’t mind
man-made tracks as long as they are situated in locales
that offer amenities, such as paved pits, running water,
toilets that flush and other creature comforts. These people would rather sit and watch races than traipse around
for miles trying to set up camp at the biggest jump or
most far-reaching corner of the track. As for the traditional
crowd, they press up against the fences and howl in excitement when getting roosted. They favor historic circuits like
Unadilla and Washougal—tracks ridden by past heroes and
now visited by a new crop of talent.
What do I prefer? Before the Charlotte USGP came
along, I was vehemently against man-made tracks. I was
at the Miller Motorsports Park dust bowl in 2013. Delirium
set in halfway through the 100-plus-degree day at Lake
Elsinore in 2012. I vowed never to return to those man-made debacles. Watching the Qatar, Thailand and Mexico
MXGP rounds made me feel fortunate that I didn’t have to
ride those atrocities Youthstream referred to as motocross
tracks. Simply put, I saw all of the bad in man-made tracks.
Then Charlotte Motor Speedway came along and changed
Billed as a “SuperCourse”—a marketing term if I’ve ever
heard one—the mile-long track was laced with the usual
motocross fare but was also very unique. The start featured a slight drop a few feet out of the gate, heading 90
yards straight towards the Dirt Track grandstands. Then it
made a sharp left, followed by a long banked turn normally reserved for Speedway bikes and buggies. Charlotte’s
SuperCourse was a mixture of Supercross, motocross and
dirt track. It was one flaming hoop short of belonging in
the circus. The riders seemed to like the track for the most
part, and the spectators were into it. Comparing an idea
like the SuperCourse track to the hallowed grounds of, say,
Red Bud is like comparing apples and rutabagas. Is there a
place in motocross for both? Yes, I believe so.
WHAT ABOUT THE LIGHTING?
That was my big concern after seeing the race schedule, given that the second motos weren’t going to kick off
until 8 p.m. Then I thought about how Charlotte Motor
Speedway holds hundreds of events per year, quite a few
of them at night. They have a PhD in course lighting—but
not in lighting a motocross track. Truth be told, the track
wasn’t lit up well enough. It had the brightness of the
Daytona Supercross at the far corners. The overhead lights
were pretty good, but the on-track lighting was rather dismal. I’m not sure how Eli Tomac and friends were able to
go quasar-fast, especially through the whoops and into the
rutted pit before the scrub single, without seeing much.
Maybe their eyes are better than mine. What I do know is
that Charlotte Motor Speedway and Youthstream will need
to up their artificial lighting output should the event come
back again and be held at night.
WHICH CLASS PRODUCED BETTER RACING?
The 250 class, far and away, was the more exciting
bunch. Cooper Webb, Jeffrey Herlings and Austin Forkner
put on a show worthy of prime-time television. You could
have let those three loose on the track and forgotten about