BLOUNTVILLE — The long wait is finally over for motocross fans in the Southeast.
Muddy Creek Raceway hosts the Build Ford Tough Tennessee National today, which is round 3 of the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship.
It is the first AMA national event in the Southeast in 15 years and the first in Tennessee since a race in Nashville in 1977.
Sam Gammon, the promoter of Victory Sports which runs Muddy Creek, explained it’s been non-stop preparation since receiving the news they would be hosting a national event.
“For the last few years, we never thought we would see one here,” Gammon said. “Then things turned around, we got the phone call and opportunity, and we’ve been working hard ever since.”
Prior to today’s race, Muddy Creek has been best known for hosting the Suzuki Top Gun Showdown, a top amateur event. Gammon explained when you’re talking about an AMA national event, it’s a completely different level.
“This is in a different league,” Gammon said. “Our first call for tickets was from Australia. It’s the first time for me, the first time for a race in the Southeast in so many years, so asking me how big the crowd is going to be is like asking how the weather is going to be.”
Broc Tickle, a North Carolina native who first came to Muddy Creek at age five, is thrilled to see an event in this part of the country. The Suzuki rider believes Muddy Creek will quickly become one of the bigger stops on the AMA outdoor tour.
“I think there will be a lot of people here,” Tickle said. “I don’t want to say it will be the biggest event of the year, but I believe it’s going to be one of the bigger ones. It’s definitely not going to be on the end of the totem pole. I remember the crowds this place had for the Top Gun Showdown, and I know there will be even more riders here than that.”
Although the track itself is drastically changed, Tickle hopes the familiar surroundings will be to his advantage. With Muddy Creek just six hours away from his home outside Raleigh, Tickle was a frequent visitor to the track growing up.
“I was here for the Top Gun Showdown every year from 1999 except for 2002 until I turned pro,” Tickle said. “I think the main thing where I grew up racing here, I have such a good attitude towards it. You’re looking forward to doing good in front of the people you used to race against.”
The track has been revamped and fitted with a bunch of new jumps to host the national event. Gammon said very little is the same since Muddy Creek’s last race in April.
“Easter has been the only day I’ve taken off this year,” Gammon said. “We’ve been working a lot of long hours with a lot of serious earth-moving equipment. Fans won’t recognize very much. There is only one jump on the track, the same as it was in April. It’s been transformed into a place to host a national event.”
Justin “Bam Bam” Barcia, runner-up of the AMA Pro Motocross 250 Class last season, hadn’t raced at Muddy Creek since he was 10 years old. The Florida rider was amazed at the transformation which had taken place.
“I was here during my amateur days and I loved it,” Barcia said. “But you can’t even compare it to now. I was like, ‘Is this the same place?’ They’ve definitely put a lot of effort into the track and I’m very excited.”
Now comes the test of whether all the hard work pays off. Gammon is optimistic, believing both today’s national event and an amateur event scheduled for Sunday will bring big participation and large crowds.
“We expect a real strong turnout,” Gammon said. “We have a strong grassroots rider base and feeders into the programs like this. It being the first event in the South in 15 years, we expect the field to be full of Southern boys and a big crowd here to watch them.”