It never rains, it pours or so the old saying goes. While new unit sales have cast a damper on the spring, things seem to be getting better. Bike Week attendance in Daytona was up, the Supercross race was a mudder of epic proportions and Mat Mladin made things tough on teammate and defending AMA Superbike champ Ben Spies by winning on the high banks. There was also the usual controversy clouding the "biggest" motorcycle race in America at the Daytona 200 to officially kick off the 2008 season.
Speaking of Daytona and the AMA, some of the biggest news to ever hit the industry broke during Bike Week as the Daytona Motorsports Group bought the sanctioning, promotional and management rights for its AMA Pro Racing properties. We’re talking every pro racing series even ATVs has been acquired lock, stock and oil barrel, with the notable exception of the aforementioned Supercross. And if you believe the rumors on the Internet, Live Nation has been looking to sell SX to somebody as well. While this may appear to be race-based on the surface, there are deeper ramifications.
In a word, NASCAR. Just look at the players in the DMG deal: Jim France, vice chairman/executive vice president of NASCAR has partnered with Roger Edmondson, the founder of the CCS motorcycle racing series and currently the president of the Grand American Road Race Series. The vision shared by these gentlemen would seem to far eclipse anything ever concocted by such legendary motorcycle promoters like Mickey Thompson, Mike Goodwin or even Ascot impresario J.C. Agajanian.
Not that the purists want to see motorcycle racing become the mainstream spectacle that NASCAR has become, but even a myopic magazine hack like me can see some industry upside to having big money sponsorships like the car guys enjoy, and there is certainly no question that the France family knows how to put butts in seats.
Prior CCS/AMA lawsuit notwithstanding, Roger Edmondson has an equally impressive track record for knowing how to run a motorcycle racing series. Hopefully he can temper the inflated NASCAR numbers with something the racing purists will still be able to back.
While this process is still very early in the due diligence phase, France has been saying the right things so far. "For as long as I can remember, the AMA name has been synonymous with professional motorcycle racing in America," he said at the Daytona press conference. Edmondson was equally quick to add, "Our goal is to guide the sport into the mainstream of American culture and showcase the extraordinary abilities of the competitors and their teams."
While some of the heavy-handed tactics taken by AMA CEO Rob Dingman have incurred industry ire, there is no question he has been an instrument of change as well. He prefaced his comments to the DMG deal by publicly apologizing to Edmondson for the ill-fated lawsuit and past shabby treatment at the hands of AMA. "Today is a great day for professional motorcycle racing and for the AMA," Dingman said at the press conference. "By placing AMA Pro Racing in the hands of people with a proven record of excellence in motorsports organization and promotion in a fashion similar to our successful partnership with Live Nation, the AMA will be able to focus its resources on its core mission to be a member advocacy organization."
Sounds right, and given the bashing AMA management has been getting for the past decade from the racing community, it is a true statement that AMA Pro Racing belongs in someone else’s hands. Of course the conspiracy theorists have already come out with accusations and suppositions of whose fingers will really be in the till. Even before the DMG deal was announced European-based Youthstream promoter Guisseppe Luongo was looking to take over the motocross and Supermoto events, and closer to home, the National Promoters Group has always had a vested interest in the outdoor Motocross Nationals.
NPG and Youthstream were also the very first to share their support of DMG’s winning proposal. "We feel strongly about our direction and future success for our series, its riders, teams and sponsors," was the first statement from NPG. "In time we will learn of the inner workings of the business arrangements made by AMA Pro Racing with DMG and how our two organizations can capitalize on each other’s strengths. This was a positive announcement for motocross in the U.S., and we’re looking forward to another great summer of racing."
After all the off-season doom and gloom, I’ll second that motion. Here’s to hoping April showers will bring May success for all of us.
Doing my best Rainman impression since it never rains in Southern California. Poor Amanda had to work the Anaheim pits in the rain all weekend for her gig at www.supercross.com, only to show up for our Monday night photo shoot to have me turn the hose on her! Dealers may remember Amanda organized the Supercross Cheerleaders in 2005, and she was Miss Boo Koo Supercross in 2006 and traveled the entire series.