Motocross park is ready to ‘Welcome the world to Washougal’

Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship Series returns this week

Post-Record file photos Pro National events get underway on Saturday at the Washougal Motocross Park.

Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship Series returns this week

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Spectators can have front row seats for all of the action at the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championships at the Washougal MX Park.

Thousands of racing fans will descend on the Washougal Motocross Park this week, for round eight of the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship Series. The local venue is a longtime host of the national event that draws the world’s fastest motorcycle racers.

“We are ready to welcome the world to Washougal,” said Motocross Park spokesman Brian Barnes.

He said staff has been working feverishly to get the track ready for the high-profile, nationally televised event that typically attracts more than 20,000 people to the unique course that is known for its rolling hills and green forests. It is one of only three natural terrain raceways in America.

“Everything we are doing right now is preparing for nationals,” Barnes said. “Every year it gets better and better. This year we are adding more dirt to the track. The crew does an amazing job.”

Gates open Wednesday at 10 a.m., followed by amateur racing on Thursday and Friday. Barnes said he expects about 1,000 amateur riders to take to the track’s hills and vales. It’s an event Washougal motocross has offered since the 1980s.

Washougal Pro Nationals is on Saturday, with the action kicking off at 1 p.m.

450 class points leader Ryan Villopoto will ride into Washougal coming off of his fourth victory of the season at Buchanan’s RedBud National in southwestern Michigan. With 333 points, Villopoto currently has 11 moto victories — the most of the season — after seven rounds of racing.

The Poulsbo, Wash., native has been impressive this season, after being kept out of the competition last year due to a knee injury.

“He has been pretty dominant this year, after not riding last year,” Barnes said. “We are all hoping he will be able to pick up an elusive win here this year in both motos. He’s never been able to do that.”

Following Villopoto in the 450 class points standings are Ryan Dungey of Belle Plaine, Minn., with 291 points, Justin Barcia of Monroe, N.Y., with 249; Trey Canard of Oklahoma City, Okla., 200, and James Stewart of Hanines City, Fla, 184.

In the 250 class, a tight race has been heating up between leaders Ken Roczen of Apolda, Germany with 312 points, and Eli Tomac of Cortez, Colo., with 305 points. They finished 1-2 earlier this month in Michigan, and will likely battle it out again in Washougal.

Barnes said he expects the completion of construction of the Highway 14 safety improvement project and replacement of the Cougar Creek Bridge to make navigating up to the track easier this year, compared to 2012. He advised travelers however, to take 32nd Avenue off of Highway 14, and travel over Mount Norway as an alternate route. Traffic on Washougal River Road can often get congested.

Longtime track owners Ralph and Carolyn Huffman have stepped into retirement this past year, but management remains in the family. Barnes said the Huffman’s son, Ryan, and his wife Tavi are the new track managers.

“They are very passionate about all of our events, whether they are practice days or race days,” he said.

Barnes has been working at the Washougal Motocross track since 1979. He says the national event never fails to be thrilling.

“It’s exciting every year,” he said. “The National Anthem in the morning still gives me goose bumps. It really just gives me chills; the hair stands up on the back of my neck every time. We all do this for the love of the sport and to provide a great family atmosphere every year.”