Supercross executive explains how the 2020 schedule might unfold
It’s unclear exactly when, and no one yet knows exactly how it will look, but the 2020 Monster Energy Supercross season will continue. And it will almost certainly end with 17 rounds in the books.
And everything is on the table: From outdoor venues to midweek events to the possibility that the Supercross season, which generally ends in early May, will conclude after motocross in the fall.
But for now, it’s the waiting game for venue availability as other professional sports rejigger their schedules in response to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
“The current plan is to wait this thing out as far as Supercross goes,” Dave Prater, the senior director of operations, two wheel, at Feld Entertainment Inc. told NBCSports.com. “Our plan is to finish the season and do our best to get Rounds 11 through 17 in.”
No one knows when stay-at-home orders and the practices of social distancing will end, or when the word will feel that it’s safe to gather in numbers greater than 100.
Everyone involved in professional sports is waiting for new information before plans can be implemented (and often made and remade). Multiple scenarios are being considered.
Supercross has an edge on other sports in that it already had completed most of its 2020 season before being halted. The most recent race -- March 7 at Daytona International Speedway -- was the 10th event this year with seven remaining.
In a statement on Twitter last month, Supercross said it intends to complete the final seven events (which had been scheduled at Indianapolis, Detroit, Seattle, Denver, Foxboro, Las Vegas and Salt Lake City) at “dates and locations to be finalized.”
But the limitations for Supercross are complicated beyond those faced by NASCAR, IndyCar or even motocross.
Those series have permanent tracks dedicated to racing. Supercross is reliant on the availability of multiuse venues. The pieces that need to fall into place are simply not there. Yet.
Formulating plans for the remainder of the Supercross season is a lot like trying to put a jigsaw puzzle together when someone keeps shaking the table. Or worse still, -- as the precocious elementary school child being forced to homeschool during this lockdown -- keeps stealing pieces.
“We are all in a holding pattern,” Prater said. “The first shoe to drop will be the NFL schedule and unless they change it, I believe it’s April 16 or 17 they plan to announce that. Once the NFL schedule is announced, we will all start moving forward with starting to get a clearer picture of venue availability and when we’re going to be able to fit some things in.”
One thing is certain: The schedule will look different.
Major League Baseball never quite got started in 2020. And depending on Opening Day, it is reasonable to expect the season to go long.
The NFL’s starting date still sits outside of the most distant stay-at-home orders, but the lockdown shifts daily and by region.
Then there are conventions, shows, rodeos and any number of events that already have been scheduled in September, October and November. Currently, the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross season is set to end Sept. 5 at Fox Raceway in Pala, California.
But of course, that, too, could change.
“We will definitely have to change some venues around simply because of availability,” Prater said. “If this does push off until late summer or fall timeframe, not only does Major League Baseball potentially have to get their games in but college football and the NFL will be starting up. So the venues we planned on racing in might not be available. At least not in the succession we had planned.
“So, we are looking at every venue option in the States. … A more realistic goal is to find venues that don’t necessarily have a home tenant and start with those.”
And that is where the 2020 season has the greatest opportunity to be unlike any before.
If a piece goes missing, the table is large and the jigsaw puzzle complex enough that it can be replaced.
Supercross tracks can be built and deconstructed in less than a week on venues with concrete floors. Natural grass stadiums require a little more time.
New markets could be considered, especially those with a stadium that does not have a primary tenant. Through Supercross, Monster Jam and their entertainment divisions, Feld has relationships with every major venue in the country. It doesn’t have to be a stadium; any large arena will do.
Round 10 of the 2020 season was contested outdoors in the infield of Daytona International Speedway. Moving into the fresh air opens a myriad of opportunities.
But at its core, Supercross is a stadium series. And the series intends to stay true to its values. It differs from Motocross primarily because of the limitations imposed by fenced-in real estate.
“First and foremost the goal is to put Supercross in a stadium,” Prater said. “That’s what Supercross is; that’s what people have come to know and love about it. That’s our goal. If it comes to that, we would consider taking it outside. But that would be one of the last things we’d want to consider.”
Limitations are good. Supercross is a sonnet. It is a well-crafted short story.
Motocross is an epic poem. Or a novel.
The shorter form forces one to be creative in order to provide inside-the-box entertainment. But in both the short and long form, forging new ground is critical to achieve the goal. Adapt or perish.
NASCAR was already considering midweek races for future schedules, but adjustments to 2020 to fit their 36 races into an acceptable timeframe probably will accelerate that.
The same is true for Supercross.
The length of the calendar is not of primary concern. There are 15 weeks between the scheduled end of Motocross and Christmas, which is more than ample to squeeze in seven rounds. But the battle for sports fans’ attention on the weekends will be immense.
“You have to be flexible in this situation, obviously,” Prater said. “If we do end up racing in that fall timeframe, we’re going to have to be flexible because college football and the NFL have Saturdays and Sundays on lockdown. You could definitely see a Supercross midweek eventually.”