THE UTVS OF AMA MONSTER ENERGY SUPERCROSS

When I auditioned for this dream job at the 1985 Rose Bowl Supercross, Kawasaki was three years away from introducing its first Mule (Multi-Use Light-Equipment) UTV (Utility Vehicle). Now, 37 years later, UTVs are an integral part of AMA Monster Energy Supercross, from arriving at a venue and building the track to staking down the Tuffblocks and covering them with signage for the television show. Factory teams use UTVs to shuttle parts, supplies, EZ-UPs, crew, and VIPs from the parking lot to factory haulers in the pits. During the Lucas Oil AMA National Motocross series, teams carry spare wheels, parts, work stands and tools to the Hot Pits.

THE UTVS OF AMA MONSTER ENERGY SUPERCROSS

Many teams remove the ROPS cage so the UTV will fit inside the hauler, while manufacturers bring UTVs to SoCal rounds for extra seats and beds.

During both professional dirt-bike racing series, the Alpinestars Medical Crew use Kawasaki Mules specially outfitted with stretchers to quickly whisk downed riders off of the track and into the Mobile Medical Unit for onsite medical diagnosis, X-Rays, and urgent care. Promotors use UTVs over the entire operation at each weekend’s races, and sponsors use UTVs to shuttle VIPs to and from the Parts Unlimited, Moose Racing, and Monster Energy VIP areas. Various vendors also include UTVs in their displays, with Monster Energy regularly displaying the Monster Mavericks of Matt Borroughs, Marc Burnett, and others.

KTM uses a wrapped Polaris Ranger XP 1000 for shuttling parts and VIPs. In the Ranger is “The Man” Roger DeCoster. 

And the NBC television crew use UTVs to put on the television-show coverage at each round, especially the Daytona and Atlanta Motor Speedway rounds. DIR has its camera UTV rip alongside the SX track on the apron of the tri-oval and in front of the fans, while AMS had its Teryx KRX1000 camera UTV ripping down NASCAR’s pit road and catching the gladiators ripping through the long rhythm section. I’d love to be behind the wheel of that T-Rex K-Rex and blasting down pit road going faster than the NASCAR guys get to during a race.

Team HRC Honda totes power washers with its CRF-themed Pioneer 1000, and the hauler now includes the Talon 1000R/X/X4 on its liftgate.

I’ve been a Supercross fan from the first races in the ’70s, and that 1985 Rose Bowl race made me a bigger fan. Hi-Torque Chief Roland Hinz gave me a ticket and 10 rolls of film along with the assignment of writing the race report in the Dirt Bike Magazine style. Back then, the Dunlop Tire Roll was an intermission spectacle with fans rolling Dunlops over a section of track, and the winner got a free set of tires for their car or truck. I snuck onto the track with the tire-roll contestants and shot on the floor the rest of the night, with an empty credential holder pinned to my shirt. I was hooked, and shooting SX/MX was my favorite part of the job for 30+ years. Jeff Ward rode backwards on the track after a fall, and eight different racers won that season, a record that still stands. I got the job and was assigned to then-3&4 Wheel ATV Action, but I shot the 1986 Anaheim SX for Dirt Bike. The Ricky Johnson-David Bailey battle was one of the all-time great races, and the energy from the fans was contagious.

Several teams have Monster sponsorship including Factory Kawasaki, Star Racing Yamaha and Pro Circuit Kawasaki.

The start of this SX season had me wanting that 1985 record to be broken, and the first four races had different winners in the premiere 450 class. But then Jason Anderson and then Eli Tomac went on their streaks. Eli won five in a row, but Anderson fought back to win Atlanta. Kawasaki also had success in the 250 heats, with Austin Forkner getting off the couch to put on a heroic heat-race and pass St. Louis 250 winner RJ Hampshire within sight of the checkers to win his first heat of 2022. Christian Craig had to chase down Heat Two leader Jo Shimoda to win the 250-West heat, his seventh of the year. And the Lawrence brothers also shined bright in Georgia. Jett rode from dead last after a first-turn take-down to qualify then lost his front end after a whoop section on the first lap of the first East-West main of ’22. Hunter led and won that main while Jett sliced through the field to third from 15th!

Most pit vehicles are Kawasaki Mules with custom wheels and wraps…

For almost every round, my riding buddies gather in Tanner Buddies’ man cave, and we watch the night’s races and marvel at the skills and speed of today’s athletes. The NBC coverage has been awesome, and UTVs even have a part in the commercial breaks between races. Monster Energy has several ads, but my favorite is the Women of Monster Energy with Hailie Deegan, who has risen from Trophy Karts to UTVs to Camping World Trucks, and Sarah Price ripping dunes in her Polaris. Kawasaki’s T-Rex K-Rex ads are great, and so are Yamaha’s Wolverine RMAX 1000 spots. But Honda’s new commercial high-lighting its history of motorsports, from its first motorcycles to the Talon 1000R, is most memorable. To me, Supercross is the Big Show, better than NASCAR!

…while a partnership between Yamaha and military contractor Prowler led to the civilian Yamaha Rhino (see top photo), which started the sport UTV revolution.

And the three Triple Crown races – Phoenix, Arlington, and St. Louis – were all epic. My brother and I were at the Arizona triple crown and witnessed great racing with Craig fighting back from being “Friese’d” in the second of three 250 mains. When I started racing MX in the ’70s, every race day had three motos per class with low-score winning, as the Triple Crowns do today. Tomac won the Arizona and Texas Triple Crowns, but Marvin Musquin gave KTM its first win of 2022 in Missouri, with Eli fighting to third and taking the series within the series. Great stuff.

The Alpinestars medic unit at Supercross uses a Kawasaki Mule to haul the injured riders.

Also unique to Daytona and Atlanta, fans get a track-side standing-room-only vantage point on the NASCAR tri-oval. Supercross was born to bring Motocross to the masses in stick-and-ball stadiums, with comfortable seats, shade and concessions, and it’s cool to return to my MX roots. Each weekend’s race makes me want to spend Sunday riding epic single-track on my Yamaha YZ400F or Kawasaki KLX450R or wheeling a Teryx KRX1000 or RZR on mountain two-track. After every rain, I take the next day off and lay some chocolate stripes on wet sand. Livin’ the dream!

The factory Star Racing Yamaha team hauls around the parts and pit crew with this Yamaha UTV.

 

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