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Common Tread

The disaster of having NASCAR guys run U.S. motorcycle roadracing has mercifully ended

Sep 04, 2014

The long and disastrous experiment with having stock car guys run the United States' premier motorcycle roadracing series has finally come to an end. Since the news broke yesterday that the series will be managed next year by a group led by former World Champion Wayne Rainey, among others (read the AMA news release here), I have seen many comments on social media and other web sites, and not one person said he was going to miss the Daytona Motorsports Group.

What's to miss? In six years of running the series, DMG ran it into the ground, then shrugged and left it there. This year, when DMG unveiled a race schedule of just five rounds (later upped to six), you could slather that pig with all the lipstick Estee Lauder ever produced and it wouldn't be enough to cover up the failure. Even the AMA leadership that hand-picked the DMG NASCAR guys to run AMA Superbike back in 2008 had to recognize the facts, especially under pressure from the FIM and Dorna, the MotoGP rights holder, to do something about the fiasco.

It's useful to remember how different things seemed back then. When AMA President Rob Dingman announced the transfer of the AMA Superbike series to DMG, with Roger Edmondson running the show, expectations were high that France family money from the NASCAR empire would flow in. NASCAR influence would get the series even greater television exposure. The sport would blossom.

Instead, in 2014 we have an abbreviated series with no television package at all, fewer fans at the tracks, and fewer sponsors willing to pay to put their logos on racebikes that hardly anyone sees.

It all started going horribly wrong that first year, when Edmondson, who had formerly been embroiled in a long lawsuit with the AMA, swaggered back in to take charge and, over the course of a year, alienated just about everyone. There was an idea that AMA Superbike could be more like NASCAR. Ford and Chevy are just nameplates on the front of otherwise identical cars in NASCAR. Independent teams are the main players. In motorcycle roadracing, factory teams backed by the likes of Honda and Suzuki dominated. Edmondson and DMG chased off the manufacturers, but then had no way to replace the manufacturers' dollars.

Edmondson was ousted after a year, but while the atmosphere in the paddock improved with his absence, the bottom line didn't. NASCAR had its own problems, following the Great Recession. Motorcycle racing appeared to be an afterthought in Daytona.

Now, hallelujah, we will actually have motorcycle people in charge of trying to rebuild what once was the world's best national roadracing series. In addition to Rainey, partners in the KRAVE Group include Chuck Aksland, an experienced race team manager and former racer, Terry Karges, formerly with Roush Performance and the Petersen Museum, and Richard Varner, an entreprenuer and businessman with motorcycle knowledge. (KRAVE is a combination of their last initials.)

There's no lack of roadracing talent in this country, but without a sturdy ladder to climb, promising young riders will never make it to the top. It's not coincidence that the top eight riders in the MotoGP world championship are all from Spain or Italy. It's not just about talent. It's also about opportunity.

I'm hopeful KRAVE can rebuild the series and give talented young riders here a chance to move up. But even if KRAVE struggles, it's hard to imagine they could do any worse than Daytona's finest have done over the past six years.