American Motorcyclist Association - The Race Is On - Shop Talk

Tech Matters

In March 2008 the AMA announced that it was no longer in the motorcycle racing business. To those of us with a devout interest in racing (either as competitors or spectators) this was largely seen as good news.

Since this isn't a magazine that devotes a lot of ink to racing, I'll forgo a lengthy discussion of why this is so. The bottom line is that at best the AMA was doing a middling to poor job at running the various series, and no one-not the riders, not the factories and most importantly not the few remaining spectators-was thrilled with the way things were going. Plain and simple, mutiny was in the air. To its credit the AMA did the right thing by selling off the whole kit and caboodle to someone who can give pro racing the attention it deserves. So why should this be of interest to the readers of Motorcycle Cruiser?

Because that someone is a company called Daytona Motorsports Group (DMG), an organization headed by Jim France, Vice Chairman/Executive Vice President of NASCAR, and Roger Edmondson, President of Grand-Am, the highly successful automobile roadracing series.

Son of NASCAR's co-founder William "Bill" France, Jim France has been involved in race promotion and management for most of his life. Forbes lists him as the 664th wealthiest man in the world and the third wealthiest figure in American motorsports, so he must be doing something right. By all accounts he's also an avid fan of motorcycle racing.

While Edmondson's resume isn't quite as impressive, it ain't too shabby, either. Some of you may remember that he ran the AMA roadrace program from the late '80s through the early '90s, a time when U.S. roadracing was at its peak. That run ended badly when the AMA unceremoniously dumped him, and Edmondson returned the favor with a lawsuit. The suit was settled out of court when the AMA handed him a check for a cool $3 million.

Now whether you love NASCAR or hate it, you have to admit that it and the other series operating under its umbrella (including the ones handled by Edmondson) are popular, smoothly run and profitable. In my opinion-and yeah, I consider myself a NASCAR fan-the series are also able to evolve from year to year, which helps keep the racing both competitive and interesting.

So the bottom line is that I think the takeover is a good thing, especially since it puts Edmondson, a guy whose motorcycle chops are second to none, at the helm.

But again, the question is "Why is this good news in Cruiserville?"

Because one of the proposed changes is the potential introduction of a "cruiser class." How this might be structured is anyone's guess. Edmondson has stated that he sees entertainment potential in such a class, although he's not sure (yet) which direction it might take. One proposed scenario, tentatively titled the Cruiser Olympics, has definite monster-truck overtones. The bikes would participate in a dragrace, followed by a short roadrace, ending with a burnout contest (or something similar). I don't know how hard-core race fans or motorcycling in general would react to such a spectacle, but I'm damn sure the nonriding public would eat it right up, especially if it followed American Chopper or WrestleMania.

Obviously I'm not too crazy about that idea, but what I would like to see is a NASCAR-type format on paved ovals with modified power cruisers playing the principal role. Imagine, if you would, a Harley V-Rod drafting a Suzuki M109 with a Honda VTX 1800 or Yamaha Warrior in close pursuit on a half-mile or, better yet, one-mile paved oval.

I'd keep the rules simple. The bikes would be required to maintain a mostly stock appearance, meaning no fairings unless they were factory original or a listed option, and I'd want them to at least look like cruisers, so they'd have to carry front and rear fenders and side panels. Engine mods would be permitted so long as the stock bore, stroke and cylinder-head castings were used. Suspension, brake and wheel modifications would be allowed, but changes in the frame geometry would be prohibited, and that would include relocating the rear shocks. However, I would permit the relocation of things like the bars (no clip-ons, though), pegs and controls both for safety reasons and to improve comfort and control. The bikes would also have to meet a minimum weight limit.

Because a sprint race makes it hard for one rider to clear off and run away, it's more exciting to watch, so I'd keep the main event short, maybe 20 miles. Short events are also easier on the tires, and the riders wouldn't have to make a fuel stop. And a 20-mile race should be just long enough to test the riders' endurance. Muscling a heavy cruiser around for 25 or 50 laps takes something out of you, no matter how easy it might look from the cheap seats.

Whether cruiser racing as I envision it will ever become part of racing is debatable. At this point it's all conjecture, but at least it's being discussed. Stay tuned for further developments.