What does it take to turn the Sprint Center into an indoor motorcycle racing mecca?
The bare-bones requirements are plastic sheeting (to cover the ice on the arena floor), about 500 sheets of 0.75-inch plywood and approximately 120 truckloads of dirt.
Converting all that raw material into an Amsoil Arenacross track is the responsibility of Pete Henderson and the rest of the track construction crew.
Henderson has been turning arenas into high-flying dirt canvases for 20 years now.
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“It gets easier over the years and with the team we have, it’s like one big family that’s been together for years,” Henderson said. “It’s like a well-oiled machine. That’s what kind of makes it easy. Everyone knows what’s going on.”
Henderson and his crew were allowed to get creative this week. Once the track was properly laid out, nine truckloads of sand were brought in to finish the main straightaway.
“This is probably the first time we’ve done a whole straightaway out of sand in Arenacross. Normally, we do it in a corner. We try to mix things up,” he said. “We go to multiple venues, which are 85 feet wide inside dashers. You can only do so much. It’s good to see a change, and the sand is going to make for great racing and passing. It changes every lap. It’s not going to be consistent, and these guys drive for consistency. Just from watching practice, it took a few guys out of the main program.”
The sand adds an element of the unknown to a sport that thrives on it. The serpentine layout guarantees multiple levels of airborne motorcycles throughout the course of a race.
Then there’s the start.
“My biggest thing is, if you want to realize how crowded it is, imagine a 22-second track with 16 people on it,” Kyle Regal said.
Regal entered Saturday night third in the points standings.
“It does get chaotic. Everyone starts at the same time, so 16 people going into one turn, obviously it’s going to be a lot of stuff happening.”
There is bumping and banging. Riders jockey for position, with their bodies and their bikes. Everyone knows where they need to be on the track, and nobody is shy about doing what it takes to get there.
“It’s my second year racing Arenacross,” current points leader Jacob Hayes said. “Last year, I didn’t know what to expect coming in. I raced Arenacrosses, but nothing this intense.”
Main event races cover 15 laps in approximately eight minutes, and there is no time to take a breather once the starting gate drops.
“You’re going up in the air. There’s ruts. There’s stuff throwing you all around while you’re trying to handle a 250-pound machine. I would never say it’s easy at all,” Regal said.
Henderson and the track crew don’t want to make it easy. Safe? Absolutely. But easy tracks are boring tracks.
“We put all of our thought and love into this. I don’t think any of us are here for the money versus the love of the sport,” Henderson said. “When we see the track working, having great racing, we take great pride in that.”