With the changes to Raceway Park upon us, this years opener was the last time anyone would ride the original track. I’m not one to get emotional about stuff like that, however I knew I would be disappointed if I missed it. Why you might ask? The first race I ever raced was at Englishtown. So it’s safe to say, it played a big role in starting off this whole crazy Moto related career there in 1993.
The first Supercross I ever saw was Dallas 1989. Jeff Stanton and Jeff Ward battled back and forth the whole second half of the main. Stanton had finally worn Wardy down and was pulling a gap, when he threw it away. (literally he shot his bike off the track into a Toyota that was on display) After that I was hooked! Anyone that watched Moto back then, knows it was frustrating finding the races on TV to say the least. So over the next 3 years I never saw an outdoor national, not sure I knew they existed. When I finally got a race bike, a 1987 KX 80, I practiced and practiced with no real track to ride or any real idea of what I was getting into.
On opening day in 1993, we pack up the van and head to the track. In practice it was deep and wet, which was completely new to me. I had never ridden over jumps like that in the time I practiced and to make it worse the Elevator is 2 corners in… If you have never been there the elevator is a 35ft tall man made step up table top. The actual jump face is 17 feet tall, then it flats off a little. From what I remember, I got stuck the first lap and had to go back down and around it. Meanwhile the regular 80 kids were flying over it and everything other jump at the track. What makes my first experience worse, my parents decided to take our VHS camcorder to document the occasion. What a horrible video that is to watch, jumping like 3 feet off everything, both feet down in the corners. It didn’t help that every time I rode that P.O.S. 80 something broke. You can blame that bike for me never owning another Kawasaki.
Englishtown was never my best track, I loved it because it was rough and had big jumps. However, there was always a handful of really fast locals that you just couldn’t beat there. Well at least I couldn’t, and that was at every level. While I had much better results at other tracks there was always something about going to E-Town.
Every October was the Kawasaki Race of Champions, where over the years I got to see Jeff Emig and Ryno race. Ryno was on a 500 getting ready for the Des Nations. I got to watch, meet and even hangout a little with a Team Green rider that had just turned pro with the number 510. In his first national he led Doug Henry for most of the first moto, his name is Kevin Windham. In 1994, I was too tall to ride my 80 so I was on a 125. At the Race of Champions that year, I saw a young phenom I would have been racing if I was on an 80, but I was glad I got to watch him instead. You might have heard of him too, Rickey Carmichael. Holy shit was he fast, not only jumping things I couldn’t on my 125 but doing whips and Nac Nacs. I had never heard anyone keep an 80 wound that tight. Later in my career riding the A class at the Race of Champions, I would get lapped twice by the GOAT while inside the top ten. Last lap of the last moto of the day he went around me about 10 mph faster than I was going and jumped a triple in the back sand section I tried 3 times to make in practice.
In 2000, Englishtown held the first ever Amateur FMX contest. I not only competed in it, but I met a lot of guys I would go on to actually do FMX shows with and become good friends.
Last week when I scrolled across the @NJMotocross post on Instagram saying tomorrow was the last race on E-Towns main track, I knew I couldn’t miss it. Keep in mind that was the day before the race at about 2:00 pm. I hadn’t ridden my bike sense November, about 5 months prior. I immediately text Chad Smith to see if he was going. He said yes and asked if I was, I told him I hadn’t ridden, but I really wanted to ride the last one. He told me to come it would be fun, I think I told him I was unsure but would let him know. His exact reply was “see you there” Pretty sure he knew I’d make it happen before I did.
That afternoon (after Race Day Live of course) I aired up the tires, lubed the chain, and loaded my bike. Early Sunday morning, we got up and took the vary familiar trip to the track, it was pretty cold that morning (about 30). When I rolled up to the gate for practice I happily recognized a lot of faces and numbers. Little Jay Irwin, Joel Dengler, Richie Zupko, Jimmy Mcilvaine, Chad Smith, and of course Barry Carsten. Just like the old days, everyone was going fast, just for a shorter period of time, haha. Except for Barry, Chad and Jimmy who went fast all day. Chad was right, it was fun and I’m glad I went. I am a notoriously bad starter, and I never got a hole shot there until that day. Although I didn’t come out of the first corner with the lead it felt awesome to get to that corner first.
The heavy equipment was ready to ready to go for Monday morning when they would start moving the dirt to the other side of the property and building the new track. I’m sure the new track will be good with some upgrades and big events. Englishtown isn’t going away its just changing and I know more riders will have there first races there and maybe get lapped by the greatest of their generation, maybe twice.