We’re back racing this weekend, the first of six Lucas Oil Pro Motocross rounds in a row here in America. Round four takes place at High Point, a track located about an hour outside of Pittsburgh. It’s been running nationals since 1977 and is the second longest tenured track on the circuit behind Red Bud.
Myself? I’ve been going there since 1996 and I don’t think I’ve missed a year since. It’s always a treat to head east and see the hardcore moto fans who live and die with this race each and every year. As a former mechanic for many years, I’ve gotten to live (and die) at High Point many years in terms of results. The track has given me many highlights over the years whether it’s wrenching or just watching like I do now.
I thought I’d detail some of my memories from High Point for this week’s column.
1996: I was on my way to being a mechanic at this race and I worked for a privateer rider named Jason McCormick for just this one race. I was trying to do anything I could to latch on with a rider or a team and it was at High Point where I first felt the rush that I could do the job. McCormick went 14-14 that day, but I was rubbing elbows with the best wrenches in the world and it was a good day. Oh, and Steve Lamson on a potent Honda CR125 was amazing as he aired out the uphill triple behind the starting gate lap after lap.
1997: My dream of being a mechanic realized one year later. I was working as a mechanic for privateer rider Ty Birdwell and this race still stands out as the muddiest national I’ve ever been at. It rained all day long with running water down the hills and I lost one shoe after standing in the mechanic’s area for so long. My rider had a DNF in both motos, but I stayed down there for the second moto in the rain to see what happened.
What did go down was Honda’s Damon Bradshaw passing Larry Ward right after going by me. That pass gave The Beast from the East the overall win (the last one of his career) and there was no rider ever that the locals loved more than Bradshaw. An epic day and another bonus was almost getting run down by Bradshaw doing donuts in his rental car afterwards, while I was trying to get my box van unstuck.
2000: A day I’ll never forget as the rains came down once again (not as bad as ‘97 as the second motos I remember being semi-dry) and my rider Kelly Smith went 1-4 for his first career national win. It was amazing really. Smith was always fast in the mud and I remember practice he went right around the outside of some great riders and dropped them. I knew it was going to be a good day if his bike lasted, and it did!
His overall win also gave KTM their first ever professional AMA SX or MX win and was a big deal for us as a team. I still can’t believe that I worked for a rider who won a national, pretty amazing really.
2003: My rider Timmy Ferry finished 4-3 for third overall on the day. I remember his hard pass on teammate Chad Reed near the end of the second moto was not taken too lightly by Reed and may have been the start of the two riders falling out (although both are good friends today).
2007: Having hung up my tools at this point I was there to watch another amazing race between Ricky Carmichael and James Stewart. These two had put on a show at High Point over the years with RC always managing to top Stewart. The year before this Stewart had gone down hard down after clipping the second jump on a double. This was RC’s last year and he was racing selected nationals, but he wasn’t going to go down quietly.
The two rivals went at it at perhaps the fastest anyone has ever gone around High Point pushing each other and crushed the competition. They were really pressing the limits of each other pretty good and, in the end, RC went 1-1, but these two were insane.
2009: Chad Reed made a late decision to race the 450MX nationals, so he and the Suzuki hadn’t really gotten up to speed by the time the series hit High Point. The #22 took the overall win in style that reminded all of us that, oh yeah, he was Chad Reed! Something I’ll never forget is how he was airing out this big double coming back onto the start straight before the finish line. That was cool.
Words: Steve Matthes | Image: Suzuki Racing