Normally hot temperatures, a nice breeze and a bone dry day are perfect ingredients for an outdoors sporting event, but organizers of motocross races Saturday at the Soldotna Municipal Airport will be the first to admit that there can be too much of those good things.
"What we need is some rain, but I don't think we're going to get any," said Debbie Burman, the incoming president of the Kenai Peninsula Racing Lions, as she looked wistfully at the ocean blue sky Saturday.
The Alaska State Motocross Series came to the Soldotna airport Saturday, and dust ruled the day due to a slight wind, temperatures in the 70s and the lack of rain lately on the Kenai Peninsula.
Burman estimated that by the end of Saturday, organizers, with the immense help of numerous sponsors, will have put about 100,000 gallons of water on the course since Friday night to try and keep the dust down.
"A lot of people have been blowing up their bikes because of the dust," Burman said. "It's just been pistons, though, and you can go in and fix those all day."
The one message that sounded out loud and clear through the haze is that a little dust isn't going to stop the burgeoning sport of motocross on the peninsula.
Burman said motocross started six seasons ago at Twin City Raceway, and moved to the Soldotna airport three seasons ago.
"When we started, it was all we could do to scrape up the 25 members that you need to become a Lions Club," Burman said, explaining the Lions Club encompasses both motocross and drag racing. "This year, we have 65 members."
Last year, when the Racing Lions held motocross races for central peninsula bikers, there were only seven to eight entrants. This year, the number jumped to 20.
And Saturday's racing showed that there is some quality amongst those area riders.
The Alaska State Motocross Series is 10 days of racing, with each class competing in two races per day. Saturday's race was the third day of the series, while today the Soldotna airport will host the fourth day of the series. Soldotna gets to watch another two days of the series on Sept. 1 and 2.
Sarah Herrin, a 13-year-old from North Kenai, was the only local rider to pick up a victory in the first round of races Saturday.
Herrin continued her dominance of the Women's Pro 80-cc division by taking first. She also took first in the first two days of the series in Anchorage.
Riding is just part of being in the Herrin family. She said she has learned a lot from her dad, Kevin, and from older brother, Rocky. Her younger brother, Lucas, is getting started at racing.
"I have a racetrack at home, so that helps," Herrin said. "We'll come out here to practice sometimes, and it's usually like this -- a dust bowl."
Cory Davis, a 13-year-old from Soldotna, said Saturday was the first time all year the course had been watered. He said that led to a few surprises, and also some mud that caused him to crash and finish second in the first 80-cc Expert race of the day.
"It changes the track a lot when it's watered," Davis said. "I didn't know what to expect."
Mike Egholm, a 14-year-old from Soldotna who said he likes motocross racing for "big air," said the track conditions made it imperative that the racer get a good start.
"If you don't, you'll get dusted or mudded," said Egholm, who was in eighth place after the start and ended up finishing fifth in the day's first 125-cc Expert race.
The most noticeable name absent from the list of winners Saturday was Ricky Bailey, a 14-year-old from Soldotna. Bailey will be out of action until June 12 after he was riding and broke his arm after slipping on some wet grass.
Bailey had won the first two days of 80-cc Expert racing in the state series before the accident.
"When I get the cast off, I'm looking at racing down in the Lower 48 and seeing if I can get any factories to notice me," Bailey said.
As the above riders show, the Soldotna airport is proving a fertile ground for motocross to grow. But Burman said she wouldn't mind uprooting soon. She said the next big goal for the Racing Lions is to find a place to establish a permanent motorsports park.
"We know we're not going to stay here forever," Burman said. "This isn't a motocross track or a drag strip, it's an airport."
Editor's note: The Clarion will print results from Saturday's and Sunday's races early next week.
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