The surging popularity of motocross and quad racing, and the reasons behind it, were on display on a sun-splashed Saturday afternoon at Twin Cities Raceway.
Saturday and today, the Kenai Peninsula Racing Lions - Motocross Division is hosting the Alaska State Motocross and Quad Races. The races are the ninth and 10th, and last, rounds of state racing this year.
Saturday's races featured 161 individual riders in 25 different classes. The racers ranged in age from 4 to those in their mid-40s. The racers came from pretty much any major population center accessible by road in Alaska. Some even came from Bethel.
Even though the track was packed with people, Mike Hudson, the president of the Motocross Division, said the turnout for the state race was smaller than average. The numbers were cut due to injury and riders who were out of the points and didn't want to make the drive to Kenai.
"It's grown immensely in the three years that I've been involved with it," Hudson said. "Things are going to have to change soon, like we may have to make races shorter, because it's getting so popular."
As it is, each day of racing Saturday and today was expected to take 12 to 14 hours.
The reasons for the upswing in popularity were peppered amongst the field of riders Saturday. There was a racer taking Alaska riding to new levels of achievement as well as a group of quad racers showing what a family sport motocross can be.
Ben LeMay, a 13-year-old originally from Anchorage, is showing just how far an Alaska rider can go.
LeMay is an American Suzuki rider who now trains at Milsaps Training Facility in Cairo, Ga., where some of the country's best riders operate.
LeMay showed he was among the country's best riders at the Amateur National Motocross Championship at Loretta Lynn's Range in Hurricane Mills, Tenn.
In 2001, LeMay was the best 65 cc rider amongst 7- to 9-year-olds, while in 2003, he was the best 85 cc rider amongst 7- to 11-year-olds.
Since this time of the year is an off time for the national circuit, LeMay came to Kenai to make his debut on a 125 cc bike.
"I've been up here for about a month now, racing once in a while," said LeMay, who started riding when he was 4. "I did this last year. It's a good track and it's fun."
Sarah Herrin, a junior at Nikiski Middle-Senior High School, said it was nice having an acclaimed rider like LeMay show up in Kenai.
Dane Tudor clears a jump during a Pro Class race Saturday.
Photo by M. Scott Moon
"I used to race against him in the 60 class and I even beat him a few times before he kept practicing and got really good," Herrin said. "It's cool looking through the magazines and seeing Alaska people that you have raced against."
Although Herrin is no longer beating LeMay, she is no racing slouch. Heading into Saturday, she had not been beaten in the last two years in the Women's Pro class. She also was ranked second in the 125 cc intermediate class. Herrin is the only girl in that class.
Herrin is interested to see how her riding would play in the Lower 48. She has already attended a motocross school in Washougal, Wash., and would like to do some racing Outside before taking to the basketball court this winter for the Bulldogs.
Herrin had two brothers racing Saturday and got into the sport at age 3 because her father used to race, but all the families at the event Saturday would have to go a long way to match the Sindorfs of Hatcher Pass.
Paul Sindorf, 41, and his wife, Lisa, 39, both race quads. So do their children: Jonathan, 7; Kristofer, 11; Melanie, 14; and Heather, 16.
Paul used to race quads 10 to 15 years ago and even won a state championship in 1991. Those memories were mostly buried in a scrapbook of pictures before his kids saw those photos and decided they would like to try racing.
Paul was skeptical about the money involved to get four kids into quads but decided it was worth it to keep his children out of trouble and in shape.
"Like one of my buddies put it, you can pay the money now for motocross or pay the money later for bail bonds and counseling," Paul said, chuckling.
Once Paul made the commitment to get his four kids into quad racing last year, he decided he would not let them have all the fun and got a quad himself. This year, after hanging out in the pits last year, Lisa also decided to give it a try.
Racing so far has been an enormous success for the family, which has now been to over 50 races and goes to a race pretty much every weekend in the summer. Kristofer even won a quad novice city title last year in Anchorage.
"We're going to keep on going because it's a great family thing," Paul said in his family's pit area, where the predominant look was smiling. "Just as long as everybody's still having fun and staying safe."
Racing was expected to go late Saturday, so results of the state races were not available as the Clarion went to press.
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