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“If you build it, they will come": SuperMotocross playoffs highlight trackside camping in inaugural season

The blending of cultures continues as Monster Energy Supercross and Pro Motocross join forces to create the SuperMotocross playoffs. Both sports have aspects that are ideally suited for their fans and creating the mashup between the two has been a subject of interest all season.

There is nothing quite like the camping experience at a racetrack; It doesn’t matter if it’s in a cornfield in New Weston, OH - home of Eldora Speedway - or the infield of Talladega Speedway. The comradery, music and deep conversations that are built when a group of people with a common interests spend a few nights with one another is hard to beat. While Motocross has capitalized on this throughout its history, it has been more difficult for Supercross with their emphasis on stadium racing.

The venues of zMax Dragway at Charlotte Motor Speedway and Chicagoland Speedway, (which hasn’t seen a race since the 2019 NASCAR season), are the perfect places to properly include this aspect of a Motocross weekend into the SuperMotocross Playoffs. It’s also one of the many challenges that brings MX Sports and Feld Motor Sports together to work towards a greater good: an unforgettable experience for fans.

While attending the Ironman National last month, NBC Sports met some of the RV Campers at the race to talk about the importance camping brings to an event. Every camper and camp space has their own identity, one born from the imagination of its inhabitants. One of these was home to a half-dozen motocross fans from Michigan and Ohio where the conversation meandered from breakfast foods, Michigan sports and the importance of camping at these events.

The takeaways were plenty. One camps to have a more controlled and more fun experience. These campers were focused on making sure they could enjoy their experience without having to navigate the roads into the track.

As the conversation progressed, it became clear these campers know they add something to the sport. They are there to cheer for the support classes in addition to the marquee riders - and in doing so have contributed to North American motocross growing to its current level. At Ironman, the roster was maxed out at before being whittled down to the 40 riders who would make the main events.

The mixture of the two disciplines of dirt track motorcycle racing needed to go past track builds and bike suspension. Camping is one of the aspects that feels like ground zero. The question was, what can both groups bring to a situation to create the best outcome?

“This is something that’s going to have to grow,” Tim Cotter, Director of MX Sports told NBC Sports. “Some people are going to have to see it and say, ‘Yeah, I want to do that’. I believe that in future years as we provide this platform (it will continue to grow). In amateur motocross and pro motocross, it’s not unusual to have 700, 800 campers. RedBud I think had over 1,000 campers. Our fan-base is used to staying in RV’s, and I think when they find out that it’s available to them to grow, we have some really, really memorable pre-race events in the campground.

“There’s a number of things that can happen if it starts to grow, and we really feel that it will.”

Cotter produces Ironman, Budds Creek and High Point during the summer and is well versed in the independent cultures that camping can produce.

Each campground grows its own culture.

RedBud has Evan the Deer; a fake deer that loves real beer. Evan has an Instagram following of 3,800. Unique highlights like these grow out of continued support and evolve over several seasons. While the test run of camping at SMX playoffs offers more limited space than the permanent facilities of Pro Motocross, and may never be possible at location like the LA Coliseum, the growth of this culture is attractive to SuperMotocross.

Cotter described some of the features for the coming weeks.

“We’re going to take the video screens, turn them around, and invite the campers to do a movie night,” Cotter said. “Friday afternoon the fan zone is open, and we’re going to have free practice and things. They’ll be programming on the racetrack and in the fan zone that those campers will be able to go to.

“We’ll have a little bit of a party on Friday evening, and then Saturday, I assume, they’ll be tailgating and inviting their friends that may not be camping, but being at the event to come with them and create almost a game-day-like atmosphere.”

Camping at sporting events feels like a once-in-a-lifetime no matter how often you do it. It’s a cultural experience that can’t be easily matched.

“I’m a huge college football fan and a big part of that experience is tailgating,” Prater, VP of Supercross told NBC Sports. “Motocross has enjoyed that over the years but Supercross, outside of a few venues, hasn’t been able to give that experience to the fan.”

The two venues of zMax and Chicagoland face different challenges. zMax has the competition of camping right outside the gate since it’s stationed on a property that supports two other racetracks and offers yearlong camping provided by Camping World. While there’s no competition around Chicagoland, the track and its infield hasn’t been used since 2019, a blessing and a curse as the sanctioning bodies have come in to prepare and customize the location.

Pro Motocross fans are die-hard fans that want to support every aspect of moto racing. They are proving what Kevin Costner learned in “Field of Dreams": If you build it, they will come.

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