Blame the Gregorian calendar and the shifting holidays for the scheduling conflict that no local motor sports fan, and especially the promoters, wanted this Saturday.
For the first time in memory, the Hangtown Motocross Classic will be run on the same day as the recently resurrected Sacramento Mile. The conflict poses an interesting quandary for hardcore, two-wheeled racing fans. Do you spend the money and time watching the world’s best motocross riders at Prairie City State Vehicular Recreation Area or the world’s best flat-track motorcycle riders at Cal Expo?
Husqvarnas or Harleys? Or pull off the rare double?
It may be possible to attend both, as the final 450cc Moto at Hangtown is scheduled to finish at 6 p.m. With a great parking space that gets you out to Highway 50 quickly after the final race at Prairie City, getting to the opening ceremonies of the Sacramento Mile by 6:30 p.m. would take an act of the traffic gods, but arrival is doable by the first heat race at 7 p.m.
“Memorial Day moves on the calendar all the time, and we got stuck,” said Sacramento Mile promoter Steve McLaughlin. “It’s no one’s fault. For us, the two dates we were looking at were May 7 and May 21, and the horse racing guys snatched up May 7. They have more horsepower with the State Fair folks then we do. Pun intended.”
McLaughlin said he couldn’t move the race to Memorial Day weekend because that’s when the Springfield Mile is run in Illinois, and has been for more than 50 years. June and July then were booked for harness racing and other events such as concerts, he said.
The Sacramento Mile was held May 30 last year after four years on the annual State Fair schedule of attractions and special events. The Springfield Mile was held May 24, 2015, the day before Memorial Day.
McLaughlin said the State Fair Board asked him soon after the 2014 Mile to move the race off the State Fair schedule so it could add a third weekend of horse racing.
McLaughlin also said the Dirt Diggers North Motorcycle Club, who set the track up and help sell tickets each year, have been most helpful and understand the predicament.
“They’ve been great, and I think they realize that we have two different audiences,” McLaughlin said. “Maybe in the 1970s we could have had a (flat track) race one weekend in San Jose and then the Mile the next. But the market’s not there anymore. I could have moved (the Mile) to the fall, but then that puts pressure on the Santa Rosa race in September. May 21 was my only choice.”
Hangtown Motocross director Dave Harvey agrees that the two events have different demographics, and therefore any frustration about the scheduling conflict may be limited.
“We took (the conflict) in stride, and scheduling big events is always based on venue availability, whether there’s (a) holiday weekend, and there are so many factors that go into a big event, and sometime events get stacked on top of each other,” Harvey said. “It’s motorcycle racing, which to a fan that doesn’t really know both very well they might think that it’s exactly the same fan base, and one is going to take from the other. But I see it as a positive, a kind of complementary situation, and we talked with (the) promoter and decided to co-brand the two events on the same weekend.”
The two races have some intriguing story lines. Kawasaki rider Bryan Smith is trying for a record sixth consecutive Sacramento Mile victory. His five wins already put him third all-time behind and Scott Parker (13) and Stockton native Chris Carr (nine). Parker returns to the Sacramento Mile for a special one-on-one match race against fellow flat-track legend and retiree Jay Springsteen. It will be Parker’s first ride in Sacramento since 1999.
Defending Pro Motorcross champs Ryan Dungey (450cc) and Jeremy Martin (250cc) return to Hangtown for the opening round of the Pro Motorcross Championships. Dungey is coming off his second 450cc Supercross title. He now has three 450cc outdoor titles to go with two 450cc Supercross titles. But he’s never won at Hangtown.
Mark Billingsley covers local motor sports for The Bee. Reach him at email@example.com or @editorwriter001.
Hangtown Motocross Classic
Where: Prairie City SVRA, 13300 White Rock Rd., Rancho Cordova
Schedule: 1:35 p.m., opening ceremonies; 5:12 p.m., final race (450cc)
Where: Cal Expo Fairgrounds Racetrack, 1600 Exposition Blvd., Sacramento
Schedule: 6:30 p.m., opening ceremonies; 9:20 p.m., final face (GNC1)