Brando and the Black Rebels. Pink Lady Stephanie Zinone and her "Cool Rider." Pee-wee Herman and his big, brave adventure. The bike kicks up such romantic images of speed, adventure and freedom . . . is it any wonder the public is stoked for spokes? Thanks to an ever-revving enthusiasm – particularly among the young and the reckless – for all things fast, dirty and dangerous, Supercross continues to gain momentum as the world's fastest-growing motor sport.
THQ World Supercross GP, today's most prestigious off-road motorcycle racing competition, tears into Bank One Ballpark on Saturday, January 11, for round four of its 17-stop series. The roster boasts all of racing's big names – this is the "Winston Cup of Supercross," after all – including series defending champion Ricky Carmichael, Supercross stalwart Jeremy McGrath, and 16-year-old James Stewart, who last year sped into the limelight as the first black competitor to win a Supercross main event.
As the original extreme sport approaches its 29th year, the race gets bigger, better and bloodier. Riders rocket across the course at 60 mph and, after shooting off the triple jump, soar as far as 75 feet and as high as three stories. And while many motor sports adhere to a static format, Supercross, by design, mixes things up. Each round takes place on a new, specially constructed track, and no venue sees the same track design two years in a row. This freshness factor is at least partly responsible for the sport's surging popularity – fans always witness a new race, and riders tackle a track they've never seen. And when a rider bites the dirt, he gets a mouthful. More than 500 truckloads of dirt – 1.5 million pounds – will be dumped inside the ballpark and sculpted into an obstacle-laden track.
Naturally, Supercross breeds superfans: Spectator attendance has increased by 205 percent in the last decade and a half. Valley attorney Chuck Franklin, presenting sponsor of this weekend's event, anticipates a sell-out crowd, which, even at the enormous BOB, is par for the racing course. (In fact, Supercross won't even grace venues with fewer than 35,000 seats.)
"There's no reason it won't sell out," Franklin says. "It's a huge event, a huge family thing." For Franklin, it's also a passion: Four riders will be representing Chuck Franklin and Associates and the Racers Edge. Franklin sponsors and owns the team, which, in addition to the racers, comprises four mechanics, a team manager and – because even the fast and furious must attend to practicality – an 18-wheeler.