‘Close and crazy’: Arenacross returns to Intrust Bank Arena

02/21/2013 1:42 PM

02/21/2013 1:43 PM

Like arena football, indoor motorcycle racing tends to concentrate and speed up the action. Only instead of teams piling up 70 or 80 points each, the motorcyclists race over short dirt tracks with little margin for error or – seemingly – concern for their bodies.

The fact that courses are designed to shoot the cyclists high into the air as much as possible just adds to the spectacle (as do the 170 truckloads of dirt brought in for the event).

Arenacross returns to Intrust Bank Arena this weekend for the first time since 2011.

At this point, there are 10 riders eligible to win the 2013 national championship, and promoters say all are still in the running with only a few stops left on the tour.

“There’s definitely a lot on the line,” Brandon Short of Arenacross said. “Anything can happen because the tracks are so intimate, the guys are so fast. You really can’t afford to lose points. You can’t afford to have mistakes. Everything counts even more than it would on a typical race night.”

Current points leader Zach Ames likes the pressure just fine. Then again, he’s used to it. Ames is originally from Ohio, a hotbed of indoor racing due to its long winters. Now 24, he started racing motorcycles when he was 4, about a year after he first rode a motorcycle.

“I enjoy it because it’s a little bit smaller track. The races are kind of like sprints,” Ames said of Arenacross. “I’m real good with sprints. It takes a different animal to race Arenacross. I feel like I’ve gotten used to it.”

Ames now lives in California, where he trains year-round (when not taking a break to race sprint cars) as part of a professional team sponsored by the makers of Monster energy drink and Kawasaki motorcycles. He noted that his roommate, Tyler Bowers, is just a few points behind him.

Ames said a fast start is the key to winning. Races are 12 laps long, and each lap takes only about 20 to 25 seconds. Sixteen riders compete at a time.

“It’s definitely close and crazy,” Ames said.

The last jump launches riders about 70 feet into the air. Ames knows that fans come partly to see the crashes and has no problem with that.

“Obviously, if you’re a fan, the crashes are going to be exciting. There’s going to be some crashes,” he said.

Tanner Moore is the only Kansan expected to make it into Saturday night’s premier race. Moore, 25, is from Auburn, near Topeka, and has been racing since he was 7 years old.

Although he competes as a professional and has won prize money, he has a full-time job as a landscaper.

“I just like the tight arena (tracks),” Moore said. “I’ve always been more of a technical rider. It’s really fast-paced.”

If Moore can make it past the preliminary rounds and finish in the top 10 of the premier race, he said, “That’s pretty good. I’m pretty happy.”

If fans are looking to see crashes, Moore said, pay attention to action around the “whoops,” as the mounds placed close together are called.

He’s had his share of mishaps, including a few that led to broken bones.

“It happens,” he said. “It’s part of our sport.”

A track party at 5 p.m. Saturday kicks off the event. Admission to the party is $5 or free with a Monster energy drink can and ticket to the race. Professional racing starts at 7:30 p.m. Saturday. Amateur racing starts at noon Sunday.

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