Making way for Motocross

Staff at Washougal track prepare for an estimated 20,000 fans

Peterson Cats delivers a huge dozer to help prepare the Washougal Motocross Park for the popular Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Nationals, which is expected to attract 20,000 fans to the Washougal track on Saturday, July 28.

The Washougal Motocross Park has a fishing hole for children. Track manager Ryan Huffman (pictured here) makes sure it's well stocked with fish.

Braden Devlin helps mow the grounds at the Washougal Motocross Park in preparation for the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Nationals, which are expected to attract more than 20,000 race fans to Washougal on Saturday, July 28.

A track employee hoses down one of the turns at Washougal Motocross Park. Dry conditions have created extra work to prepare for the upcoming national motocross races on Saturday, July 28.

Washougal Motocross Park manager Ryan Huffman takes an ATV down the park's biggest jump as he checks out the track conditions.

Washougal Motocross Park is known around the world for its scenic beauty, which is showcased every summer on national television when the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Nationals, sanctioned by American Motocross Association Pro Racing, come to town.

This year, NBC Sports will cover the national motocross championships, which take place July 26-28, and are expected to attract more than 20,000 race fans to the legendary 1.2-mile Washougal track.

To prepare for the popular race, Washougal track manager Ryan Huffman and his crew have been busy staving off the effects of the recent dry, hot weather, watering not only the track, but the entire park grounds with massive cannon sprinklers.

“We keep it as green as we can. This drier weather has been a hindrance to that, but our employees and volunteers are doing a great job,” Huffman said.

Adding to the challenge this year, is the fact that track workers are preparing for the national event without the assistance of track caretaker Mike Bell, who was seriously injured, breaking his femur and hip, while racing at the park a few weeks ago. Those who ride motocross, understand the risks and when someone is hurt, the racing community rallies to help.

“Nobody is going to replace him. I told Mike he can just bark orders and when I have any questions about the grounds, he always has the right answers,” Huffman said.

Huffman has managed the track since 2011, but he’s been a household name to Northwest motocross fans since the early 1990s, when he started his career as a motocross racer after learning to ride motorcycles at the age of 5. His father, Ralph Huffman, funded the very first national race at the Washougal Motocross Park in 1980 and has owned the facility, which covers nearly 280 acres, since the late ’80s. Ryan Huffman says the love and passion for motocross drives everyone who works and volunteers at the Washougal park.

Among the team of people helping water, weed-eat, mow and move dirt in preparation for the national motocross race is 27-year-old Tommy Weecks, a professional rider who grew up in Bellevue, Washington, and has raced all over the world.

Weecks, who now calls Washougal home after purchasing property directly across the street from the track, says the Washougal Motocross Park is like no other, not only because of its Northwest beauty, but because it’s amazingly fan friendly.

“We have a fence line around this track that allows you to walk as a fan around the entire park. There is no other track in the world like it at this level of competition,” Weecks, who will be racing in the 250 class at the pro motocross championships, said.

The massive fields surrounding the track can handle parking for about 6,000 vehicles. There are camping facilities on the grounds for race teams and fans and even a fishing hole stocked with trout for young fans.

In addition to hosting local motocross races nearly every weekend, the park also features off-road ATV racing events that take advantage of wooded trails north of the motocross track on the property. In recent years, the track has also hosted a huge event where athletes use their bodies instead of motorcycles. The Spartan Race, which takes place on a huge, muddy obstacle course, attracts thousands to the track and happens just two weeks after the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship.

When more than 20,000 race fans come to town, the economic impact to local motels, restaurants and other local businesses is significant.

“I love trying to make sure all our local businesses do well,” Huffman said.

Traffic is always a challenge on race day, so it pays to pack some patience. Huffman recommends hanging out at the track after the big race on Saturday while the roads clear. Local fans can save time traveling to the track on race days by driving over Mount Norway and merging onto the Washougal River Road near the track, instead of joining the slow crawl to the track from Washougal’s city center.