by Tony Marx
Another AMA Superbike weekend has come and gone at Brainerd International Raceway. If you are into superbikes then you already know that Duhamel and his Honda battled with Matt Mladin’s Suzuki for most of the race and eventually won. It was a great finish as Mladin nearly threw it away on the last turn trying to get within striking distance of Duhamel.
One doesn’t go to Brainerd exclusively to watch the races though. The best place to watch is still at home on the couch. You will not miss a turn from that vantage point.
The reason you go to Brainerd is to smell the race fuel as you wander through the pits and to marvel at the wall of shredded Dunlops, some with rocks the size of pennies embedded in them after the racer returned through the pit area following a hot lap. You go to watch as hour after hour some guy with a mullet cut and no shirt races his R1 through the bumpy infield at 50mph with a cooler strapped on back, eagerly waiting for him to at least drop a few cans of beer. To sit around a camp fire with your friends recalling stories from the summer’s latest rides. You go experience an AMA race weekend.
Admission to this years event was steep, costing up to 95$ if you procrastinated and bought a ticket and camping pass at the door. Just before the superbike race the colonel announced that there was a record turnout for that years event. I looked around at the half-filled bleachers and all the space left along the fences and thought “No way”. I remembered last year’s event, 2-3 people lining the fence in most places. There were also fewer vendors and no halftime show of any sort. Nothing for fans to do over the lunch break but pack up their things and wait for the races to begin again. Maybe the colonel meant a record take at the till.
Behind the scenes there was plenty of action. Matt Mladin was once again accused of blocking another rider during qualifying. Last year he was docked points after getting in Ben Bostroms way at Pike’s Peak raceway while Ben was on a hot lap. Ben was the only threat to Matt’s championship point lead at the time. This year it was Vance and Hines Ducati rider John Kocinski who complained.
“I don’t know if it was intentional or the guy is just a bonehead, but on the front straight, Matt f%#king pulls out in front of me.”
Kocinski was impressive, qualifying in pole position and setting a new track record, though I don’t know if it lasted through the weekend. Both Ducatis fragged their rear tires during the race. Steve Rapp’s flew apart in super fast turn one, smashing the shock reservoir, flattening one of the exhaust pipes, and holing the bikes tail section.
Kocinski pitted and worked his way back, finishing 11th and then (allegedly) intentionally rammed into Kawasaki rider Eric Bostrom on the pit road after the race, smashing the Kawi’s fairing.
Looking back it was a good weekend even if it was missing a little bit of character compared to years past. A weekend of motorcycle racing at Brainerd International Raceway is still
worth the price as long as you buy your tickets in advance at the discounted price. Despite my earlier comments and even without Gary Rothwell around (I really wanted to see him again) it’s way better than a weekend on the couch.