|Steel City MX National, Sept 1, 2012|
Labor Day weekend, and that means the Steel City MX National on Saturday. A nice ride up, enjoy the races, ride home the same day. It's all part of the plan.
Due to WVU Football game traffic, I avoid Morgantown and pick up WV Route 857 at Exit 10 off I-68. That puts me north into PA, and then I get US119 at Uniontown. From there I pick up PA51, a divided highway that leads me to PA48. I've never been on that road before but it's nice and windy, great riding for my MZ Baghira.
Around McKeesport, where I cross the Youghiogheny river, there's this neat bright blue truss bridge.
The central median here is the perfect place to park and get a good posing shot of my bike.
Now McKeesport is a Tiger town, so you can be sure if I had passed by the high school, there would be more pictures here.
Nevertheless a short while later, I come across some advertising. Hit the brakes!
There's some tiger content in that ad! Is it slavery or is it like being on the National circuit? I believe in freedom for the Tigers.
More ads, this time in a forested section near the end of PA48.
This time, the tiger content is a little more obvious. Avertising a resort featuring an uncertain quality of life.
PA48 empties onto a spaghetti-type intersection of the PA Turnpike and US22. I want US22 east. The traffic is thick in this area but I am on my MZ. US 22 heavy with traffic all the way, takes me to PA66 where I head north to Delmont.
In Delmont, I come across this Fox's Pizza that I remember from before, and I'm hungry.
I order my favorite - a stromboli. As I wait for my order, I couldn't help notice all the boxes they have stacked on their restaurant-grade shelving.
Hunger satisfied, I arrive at the Steel City MX track just before noon. I park my bike near the front entrance (so I don't have to fight traffic when it comes time to leave).
Now it costs $40 to get in, the price has gone up. So, I don't buy a pit pass which is another $20 (and besides, I've gone in the pits in past years, don't need to do it this year). Staring thru the pit fence, I spot Steve Roman #731, a privateer from Apollo PA. I saw him at Pyramid Valley last week.
Speaking of Pyramid Valley, I spot some of the regular dudes from that track. That Caleb, the redhead with his girlfriend.
The qualifying races are in the morning. Then they have a consolation race among those who didn't, with the top four getting into the finals. That gives everbody a second chance if they didn't make it the first time. Here's a nice jump off the tabletop in that consolation race.
Red Bull is the main sponsor of the 2012 National Series and had a number of these canopies set up.
Concession stands. Fried Veggies. Deep Fried Pickles. Wow. Boy, am I glad I filled up at Fox's Pizza before entering the track.
Dude is zonked. And the main races haven't even started yet!
Lots of stickers on this van. Typical on many of the vehicles you see in the parking lot.
Creekside MX pickup.
One of those distinctive Red Bull can cars. Ever wonder why a can of Red Bull costs you 2 bucks? It's because they pay a lot of money to sponsor Motocross and many other extreme sports. All energy drinks are like that. Can you say Monster Kawasaki or Rockstar Suzuki?
Nice tats, dude.
The audience at MX races is typically young. And where there's youth, there's iPhones. So, it's not hard to get a photo of someone using one.
If you get a pit pass, you can get all kinds of free posters, and if you wait in line, you can also get the riders to sign them for you. Barcia's (Team GEICO Honda) here is my favorite. If I got posters like that, they sure wouldn't be that nice after getting them home strapped to the back of my motorcycle.
What I take note of, are T-shirts from other Nationals. I wouldn't comment on Steel City or High Point because they are the most common but anything else gets my attention.
Red Bud in Michigan. July 4th weekend National. I'm told the fans are rowdiest at this track.
Budd's Creek in Maryland outside of DC. That would be the next closest after High Point.
Washougal. One of the furthest away. It's in Washington.
Can't forget Loretta Lynn's Ranch in Tennessee. It's where the Youth Nationals are held each year, in August. That's where the up and coming stars make themselves known. Every rider you see at the nationals had to have done well at Loretta Lynn's, pretty much. Unless they came from outside the country (and there are good riders from Australia, Canada, France, Germany, South Africa and so on). In fact one of the announcers, Grant Langston, he's from South Africa.
This guy, also with a Loretta Lynn's shirt built this specially designed pipe. I think it's for a bike that runs in the WFO class.
I just had to get my photo in this.
My shirt for some reason gets lots of attention. Since I always wear this shirt to this event, people remember the shirt. Some want to get iPhone pics of them standing next to me. I've even been offered free beer. That almost spelled disaster last year so I took it easy this time (helps if you get offered a Coors Light)
A number of shirts support favorite riders. Dungey of course. Villopoto, not racing because of a previous injury (he is one who would make Dungey work harder). G.O.A.T (Greatest of All Time) refers to Ricky Carmichael.
Of course many guys go without shirts (obviously I don't). I guess if your physique is decent, it is okay. Then there's the kid in the neon tie-dyed shirt texting.
Okay Tigerboy, when are you going to talk about the actual races?! First up, the 450s. This was a non eventful race. Dungey got the holeshot and never gave up the lead. In fact he just got further and further ahead. Short was second and Alessi was third and it stayed that way for the whole race.
Here's Dungey. #5, with the red number plate because he's got the points lead so far this year.
Millsaps #18 in that same rut which is the last turn before the finish line
Next, the 250 moto, off the starting gate. Anyone who has watched horse racing notes the similarity here.
Barcia gets the holeshot and maintains the lead but Eli Tomac is fast on this tail the whole way.
Into the moto, the weather looks ominous. Indeed it does rain, but thankfully only for a short while. But enough to make the track slick.
Justin Barcia leads for much of the race.
Here he is, crossing the finish line on one of his laps. But it is Eli Tomac (#17) who takes the win, passing Barcia about 2/3 of the way through.
You may note that my cheap digital camera doesn't get the greatest shots. Those magazine shots are all done by professionals with high end cameras.
Here's Jake Weimer.
Alessi gets the holeshot and leads the second 450 moto for most of the race.
I'm sure Alessi knows Dungey is on his tail.
A few laps later, Ryan soon gets the pass after I take the photo. Now I associate Alessi with KTM and Dungey on a Suzuki so it's weird to see their factory bikes swapped.
Christian Craig, a rider who I think made the top 10 in one of the motos hits a double in the middle of the track. Or is that whoops? Can't remember.
Dungy does pass Alessi to take the win. He gets muddy from the rain that fell earlier.
Here are the overall 450 winners. Ryan Dungey, Mike Alessi and Josh Grant. Andrew Short had mechanical problems from going down in the second moto and didn't finish.
Note the trophies - anvils. In the past the trophies have been sections of I-beam. At Steel City they give out trophies with real weight.
Apparently I'm not the only one who thinks Dungey rides for Rockstar Suzuki. When it comes time to thank his sponsors he catches himself just as he is about to say that.
The second 250 moto (last of the day) gets underway.
Eli Tomac takes the win again with Roczen (rider from Germany) taking second and Barcia third.
Looks like I got a better shot of this guy's camera than Tomac.
The best shot I got of the 250 podium winners. Eli Tomac in first, Ken Roczen in second, and Justin Barcia in third. A rare time when a tie breaking rule is used. Roczen was 3-2 and Barcia was 2-3. When that happens (points are equal) the position of the second moto determines the winner. Too bad for Barcia. The points are set up such that 1-3 or 3-1 will always beat 2-2.
There's no WMX here (Women's MX). They had that at High Point. That makes the overall day shorter because there are only four final motos instead of six.
Now it's time to get back on the road. KTM Adventure. The bike designed to go around the world.
This is why I'm glad to have parked near the front.
All the cars and trucks parked next to me have left.
I take a different way home. I ride to PA819 (Slickville, now that's a name deserving of a MX track!) and head south.
When I get to US22, at the light I catch some tigerrific content on one of those new LED signs. Of course I have to wait for it t cycle back to the tiger, after going thru a myriad of ads featuring bikini clad women and Kermit the Frog.
I also wasn't sure how good a photo of a digital sign, taken with a digital camera, would turn out. Pretty good in this case.
Now that is what I call effective advertising. And it's not the usual ad for prison or slavery either!
PA 819 takes me to Greensburg where I get US119 that leads me down to Connelsville then Uniontown. No rain so far though it was obvious I passed through areas where it had recently rained. I then get on PA857, same road as I came up.
They originally called for a 30% chance of rain. Boy, it sure looks a lot higher than that now. In fact this does NOT look good.
As I snake down PA 857 I wonder how much longer my luck will hold out. It appears the worst of the weather is to the east which will buy me time.
Of course my luck had to run out, so just before a turn-off to the PA 43 Tollroad, I see rain right in front of me, so that's the time to duck under a tree and put my rainpants on. A tree is better than nothing when diving for cover.
When the rain lets up, I get back on the road. I decide to take the toll road rather than deal with the rest of 857.
I'm a bit miffed that I had to pay $0.90 in toll just for a few miles of highway (and NO discount for cycles!), only one exit before getting to W.Va. As a consolation, the automated toll booth spat out a Buffalo Nickel (dated 1936) as change. I've never gotten a Buffalo nickel in my change before. Neat.
When I get to the W.Va line after crossing the bridge over a giant expanse, good news it looks like it's clearing ahead. So far I got wet but not soaked. My leather jacket and rain pants held up.
Looking back over the bridge towards PA, it also looks like it is clearing.
Looks like the worst of the storm has moved east. All of this is remnants of Hurricane Isaac.
By the time I get back on my bike, it definitely looks okay to continue.
I stop to see some friends in Morgantown and finally get home after dark. Definitely a fun-filled day.