WORCESTER — The AMSOIL Arenacross 2018 season is off and running, or maybe that should be up and running.
Motorcyclists in AMSOIL Arenacross races can be truly high flying as hilly bumps propel riders 30 feet in height.
The second stop of the season for the premier professional 250 AX class is upcoming at 7 p.m. Saturday as AMSOIL Arenacross comes to the DCU Center Jan. 13-14 with a "nonstop" program of motorcycle races that also includes regional professional, youth and amateur categories. AMSOIL Arenacross Amateur Day will be at noon on Sunday.
The 2018 schedule got underway last weekend in Dayton, Ohio, with two-time 250 AX defending champion Gavin Faith looking for a third title. There are 12 AMSOIL Arenacross 250 AX nights of racing altogether, with riders seeking to accumulate points culminating with the series championships in May at Orleans Arena, Las Vegas.
This weekend will be the first time AMSOIL Arenacross has been at the DCU Center since 2014, and Worcester is also the only New England visit on the 2018 schedule.
"It will bring some hot action into the cold city," said AMSOIL Arenacross spokesperson Lindsey Alkire during a telephone interview on Jan. 5, mindful of Worcester's plunging temperatures.
Gavin Faith might feel like he's sitting in the hot seat. "There's a huge target on his back," Alkire said of how competing riders will view him. "They want to be the next champion. It is going to be an incredible season."
AMSOIL Arenacross, a form of motocross, which can be defined as dirt bike racing on an off-road circuit, is motorcycle racing on a man-made, custom-designed track with an arena audience up close.
"The sport is growing every year," both in terms of family participation in Arenacross and audiences, Alkire said. There is a development platform for amateurs, while AMSOIL Arenacross will be broadcast on FS1 for the fifth straight year (the DCU Center races will be broadcast on FS1 at 2 p.m. Jan. 21).
There will be four classes of racing on Saturday: 250 AX Class; AX Lites East Class, for up-and-coming regional professionals who hope to gain points to take them to the next professional level (there is also an AX Lites West class); Ultracross, which sees children 4 to 8 racing on minicylces; and the AMSOIL Dominator Supermini for riders 9-15. Amateur Day on Sunday has 27 classes for all ages and skill levels, Alkire said. On Saturday from 5 to 6 p.m. ticket holders get the chance to meet the riders before the racing at 7 p.m.
In the 250 AX Class, there could be as many as 80 to 90 hopeful professional riders coming to coming to Worcester, Alkire said. They will go through time trials, with the fastest 30 making it to the races. Two heat races with 15 riders in each race will narrow the field further. The top seven from each heat, 14 in all, will go on to the Main Event races, with a Last Chance race heat providing an opportunity for two more motorcyclists. The final 16 will then ride two Main Event races and aim for the best places and points.
It will be quick - 15 laps per race, with riders averaging a lap in 20 to 25 seconds, Alkire said. It's a tight track, however, and with 16 riders hurling around it you need technical skills as well as speed. "There's minimal room for error," she said.
In Dayton last weekend, it turned out that Gavin Faith is still the rider to catch as he kicked off the season with two Main Event wins.
AMSOIL Arenacross is a sport that's not afraid to get its hands dirty. About 170 truckloads of dirt will be imported to the DCU Center. It takes about a day to build the dirt track. "We have our own professional track-building crew," Alkire said. But they don't travel with 170 dirt trucks. "The dirt is stored local. We own the dirt," Alkire said. AMSOIL Arenacross is under the umbrella of Feld Entertainment, which also puts on Monster Jam shows that have been seen at the DCU Center and similarly use a dirt track. Monster Jam returns Feb. 16-18.
Here's the dirt on Worcester.
"In Worcester the dirt is soft, which plays a huge factor," Alkire said. Specifically, the soft dirt forms ruts - "it's gonna be challenging for riders."
Alkire is a former motocross rider. Arenacross is a "male-dominated sport," she acknowledged, by about 98 percent. But in 2018 two women riders will be participating in the AX Lites East Class, Hannah Hodges and Jordan Jarvis. If they do well, Hodges and Jarvis will be in the running to climb further in the AMSOIL Arenacross ranks.
"For me seeing them is like a dream come true. I'm really excited to see them," Alkire said.
Contact Richard Duckett at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @TGRDuckett