I’ll go out on a limb here and predict that Daytona is and will be the best SX race of the year. Mostly for all the reasons that make it the least Supercross-like of all the races — longer track, no 180-degree bowl turns, multiple soil types, varied obstacles, really rough.

What a wild get-off by Austin Stroupe in the 250 main. What carnage in the 450 first turn. What a T-bone by Milsaps on Mike Alessi. What a ride by Stewart to get back to 7th with a busted bike and probably a bang-up headache.

Great coverage on SPEED — the best all year. The ground-level shots were great. The real-time whoops coverage was very cool. Even the SPEED commentary team is getting better. Or maybe I’m softening up. But Shaheen seems to be learning something about the sport and is less reliant on overblown platitudes. Erin Bates’ malapropisms are much less frequent, and less noticeable.

This says they’re trying, and take their work seriously. I can respect that. Let’s hope they keep pushing to improve — just like the racers they cover.

The racing was good. Lots of action. Rough, long track actually made fitness an issue, not something that happens in any other SX race, really. Stewart took a beating in the first-turn crash that looked, to me, like he initiated it with a little too much front stopper. Front wheel went right out from under him mid-pack and created carnage.

Reed got held up but stayed upright, and made a good charge through the pack to catch a pooped-out Jason Lawrence in the last couple laps for the win. Milsaps rammed the crap out of Mike Alessi on the last lap to take third. Stewart managed to work his way back to 7th.

All in all, it was a great race. The best SX I’ve seen in a long, long time. Congrats to SPEED for really doing the show right. Michael Byrne did not rejoin the race after taking a pretty brutal hit in the first-turn melee. And Tim Ferry dropped out a lap or so in with some sort of ankle problem, also after the big crash. Here’s hoping both are ok.

The Boston Globe Online today is reporting that a new, indoor MX facility has been approved in Bellingham, southwest of Boston. R. J. Cobb Land Clearing Inc. of Bellingham has received approval to construct a 68,400 sq. ft. enclosed facility near I-495.

To date, Supercross has remained the domain of professional racers because there are very few places for grass roots amateurs to ride true SX, or Arenacross, tracks. But there is a growing trend to build enclosed, indoor facilities — especially in the northern parts of the US where the outdoor riding season is only a few months each year.

This trend has important implications for outdoor motocross. New riders almost universally come to the sport today through riding and racing on outdoor tracks and trails. This serves to keep them connected, at some level, to the history and meaning of the sport. But as land use and noise concerns grow, it’s inevitable that indoor facilities will grow in popularity.

A well-designed indoor facility can contain the noise normally associated with dirt bikes. They give riders a place to practice regardless of the weather or temperature. More importantly, they give young riders a place to practice the timing and jumping skills that are unique to SX- and AX-style racing.

The growing popularity of SX, the rock concert, pyrotechnic atmosphere of the events, the short yet furious style of racing, and the high-flying, extreme-sports nature of the competition all combine to create a powerful allure for attention-addled, video-game-addicted youth. As indoor facilities become more available it’s possible that we will see riders in future generations who have never, or rarely, ridden an outdoor track at all.

What we are seeing are the early stages of a complete, cradle-to-grave SX environment against which outdoor MX will have to compete for its survival. Like any significant evolution, this one will have its ups and downs. Many of the early facilities will fail from financial or management issues, but others will take their place. Owners will learn the lessons needed to keep the facilities profitable. It wouldn’t surprise me at all to see the AX series begin moving to some of the better permanent facilities as they emerge.

All of this means that grass roots outdoor MX will have to change in order to survive and grow. It will have to become more professional and focused. While this is happening already in some parts of the country (particularly SoCal), outdoor MX is still the domain of good ole boys with some land and a bulldozer in most places. Local tracks will have to improves facilities, increase their marketing, and learn to work more closely with local businesses and governments to show how they benefit local communities.

The days of (relatively) inexpensive practice tracks for budding riders may be numbered. The political, social, and economic environment is changing rapidly, and track owners will have to become more sophisticated and savvy to compete and survive. If you’re a current or former track owner I’d love to hear your perspective on this. I’d love to know if you see this as a significant challenge in the future and what you’d do to compete in the emerging environment.

No surprise here as Live Nation has sold off its entire motorsports division to Feld Entertainment in a deal valued at $205 million. The sale is the latest step in Live Nation’s current corporate gin rummy hand — the predictable, cyclical business of first acquiring unrelated businesses to “leverage synergy for increased profits and growth” and then, a few years later, selling them off to “release pent up value for increased profits and growth.” Funny, that.

We have stated here before our position that Live Nation had very little, if any, corporate commitment to Supercross and that believing otherwise was naive. At best there is only marginal synergy between motor sports events and music concerts. Live Nation have known this since their inception as a spin-off from media conglomerate Clear Channel at the end of 2005. In 2006 they began selling off everything that was not “core” to the music concert business — including theatrical shows, sports representation, and real estate. The company has now sold off more than $460 million in non-core businesses.

With Live Nation completely out of the Supercross business, who is in charge? Feld Entertainment, the parent company of Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey circus, Disney on Ice, Disney Live, and other live attractions.

What is most interesting about Feld is their description of themselves:

Feld Entertainment is the worldwide leader in producing and presenting live entertainment experiences that lift the human spirit and create indelible memories, with 30 million people in attendance at its shows each year.

This is clearly not Live Nation — the company that promotes Fergie, Rob Zombie, and Madonna among dozens of others. I haven’t seen a self-promo that corny in years. But maybe it’s time we had someone in charge of Supercross that at least has a clue what the term “family entertainment” means.

The entire Clear Channel/Live Nation episode of Supercross history has been a gut-wrenching experience for true motocross fans, who watched as their beloved sport turned into a cartoon-like caricature, a frenzy of near-naked girls and violent crashes feverishly pitched at hormone-addled 18-year-old boys and pro wrestling fans.

Yes, the sport grew. Yes, it brought in more money. Yes, a handful of riders can now make contracts well into the 7-figure range and a good number more can make nice 6-figures. But yes, it also become “sports entertainment”, just like monster truck racing and the WWE. I don’t know that Feld intends anything differently, but I feel no loss for Live Nation.

For now, Feld says they will keep everything intact at the Aurora, IL HQ of the former Live Nation Motor Sports, including all management, schedules, partnerships, and structure. Changes will likely begin late 2009, as Feld gets a feel for what they do and do not like about the new business.

There are many, many possibilities for the future. Far too many to cover here, and at least as many bad as good. But one thing we can be sure of, nothing stays the same in these scenarios.

nopiswimsuit_smallProgress requires compromise. Advancement requires sacrifice. These time-honored platitudes are ingrained in most of us from childhood. To reach any worthwhile goal you often have to give up things you hold dear. Achieving mainstream acceptance is a goal for the motocross community, and the pursuit of that goal has caused us to gradually give up more and more of what we once held to be inherent truths about our sport.

In her latest blog post Sarah Whitmore shares her distaste for the racier side of Supercross.

Speaking of Supercross I am getting a little annoyed at all of the “main event” board and “30 second” board girls. Not to mention every energy drink company is in some huge competition to see who can have the most scantily clad girls on display. Its bad enough when these girls are getting paid to dress like this but then there are fans walking around wearing less than what I wear to the beach.

As a twenty-something woman and one of the top female motocross racers in the country Sarah speaks with some authority on this issue. Unfortunately, she has made one flawed assumption – that Supercross is a family sport. It is not. I wish it were, but Supercross is our (the industry, the racers, the broader MX community) shot at hitting the big time. And because we are all slavishly in pursuit of that magical, mythical pinnacle of fame and fortune we have pretty much sacrificed any tie we had to our past legacy.

The racy aspect of Supercross is much more likely to increase than it is to regress to any family values approach. As I wrote a few weeks back regarding the Leticia Cline incident, hotties are a part of getting mainstreamed. Sex sells. In the 18-34 male demographic for which Supercross has been manufactured sex sells supremely. And selling is what LiveNation is all about.

There may be one, perhaps even two, people inside LiveNation who actually care about motocross and Supercross. They are likely the guys working directly in the sport, managing the ground-level operations. But let’s not make the mistake of thinking that there is any passion at all at the executive or Board levels. It’s about money. Period.

If you want to see one possible future for Supercross watch an episode of NOPI TunerVision, or go to a NOPI Nationals event. They have racing. It’s a backdrop to car shows, jello wrestling, soap suds dance orgies, and nearly-naked bikini contests. Not that I have a problem with any of these things. They just are. And if Sarah wants a glimpse of what her future may hold she can visit bikiniracer.com. Sex is what the 18-34 male demographic wants. Action sports and sex. It sells. Welcome to the mainstream.

I didn’t really start this site to write about specific races or do race reports, but I watched the last two SX races – Anaheim II and San Francisco – and noticed something. Anaheim II was the retro night, with a track modeled after the ’86 track where Bailey and Johnson battled.

The track was far more technical than today’s tracks. The jumps were steeper, causing the riders to slow down, and the result was the riders stayed on the ground more. Amazingly, the racing was actually better with the riders on the track instead of flying through the air for 60% of the lap, seeing who could soar the farthest as if it was a jumping contest.

San Fran was a mud bath and the track deteriorated to the point that almost no one could do the triples. And those who did only cleared one triple per lap. Again, the racing on the ground was much better. The crashes were more frequent but less severe. The racing was actually pretty good, with numerous lead changes and lots of battles.

I’m sure the Powers-That-Be will put the DirtWorks crews back to the normal space-shuttle style tracks for the rest of the season but, for my money, we’d be a lot better off if they’d go back to the technical tracks of the ’80s and let the riders actually race instead of play Evel Knievel all night.