Washougal preps for mania of motocross

National race expected to attract 20,000 visitors to area this weekend

Businesses in downtown Washougal welcome race fans as they head up the Washougal River Road to motocross nirvana. (Wayne Havrelly/Post-Record)

This track will be surrounded by between 20,000 and 30,000 race fans on Saturday, July 27, for the 39th running of the Washougal Nationals. (Post-Record file photo)

Professional racer Tommy Weecks (left) and Washougal Motocross Park track manager Ryan Huffman have the track ready to thrill motocross racers and fans from all over the country. (Post-Record file photo)

Amateur riders compete at the 2018 Washougal Nationals. The professional motocross race scheduled to take place this weekend at the Washougal MX Park has been canceled, but amateur races are still on the schedule. (Post-Record file photo)

Perhaps the biggest dirt-moving project in Clark County during the past few weeks was not for a commercial or residential development, but to make things perfect at the Washougal MX Track.

“We are looking really good up here and have brought in more dirt for the track than it’s seen since I was a little boy,” said former professional motocross rider Tommy Weeck, who helps with the Washougal National motocross event each year and operates a riding school at the track.

This year’s Washougal National, the longest-running motorsports event in the Pacific Northwest, will be held Saturday, July 27.

“This is such a big deal,” said Brandon Short, a spokesperson for the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship. “We have over 500 race entries, and we usually get well over 20,000 spectators each year.”

The weather usually drives the crowds, Weeck said, and he expects this year’s event to be a record-breaker.

“The weather looks like a perfect climate for racing,” he said, “so let’s hope for 30,000.”

The Washougal MX Park has hosted a round of the American Motorcyclist Association’s Pro Motocross Championship every year since 1972 except for 1980 after the eruption of Mount St. Helens. The track has been buzzing with powerful engines ever since, hosting a race that’s considered to be the “granddaddy of them all.”

Amateurs mingle with their idols

Eli Tomac, last year’s Washougal National winner in the 450 Class, will be back to defend his title. He also won the race in 2016 and currently has a comfortable lead in the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship standings.

“He doesn’t really need to win in Washougal to win the championship,” Short said, “but he’s still the favorite to win.”

Pacific Northwest riders include first-year professional Jack Fowler, from Dallas, Oregon, racing in the 250 class, along with Mason Wharton from Brush Prairie.

While the professionals race in front of thousands of people on July 27, the Washougal National also caters to amateur riders, many of whom are local and get a unique opportunity to race on the same track where their professional motocross heroes perform mind-blowing feats of skill.

The amateur races happen on Thursday and Friday, July 25-26, with the professionals starting their practice runs July 26.

“It’s cool the pros sign autographs and everyone can meet them on Friday and Saturday morning,” Weeck said.

A business boom for the community

The massive fields surrounding the track at the Washougal MX Park can handle more than 6,000 vehicles, and there are also camping facilities on the grounds for race teams and fans and a fishing hold stocked with trout for youngsters.

Tickets for the main race are available on site on race day, but organizers recommend people arrive early. Local businesses in Washougal and Camas enjoy the fans that flock to the area each year, but perhaps no business experiences a bigger jump in foot traffic than the Washougal River Mercantile located just a few miles from the track on the Washougal River Road, always the go-to spot for racers and their fans to get food, supplies and ice.

“It’s crazy,” said Chris Fuller, one of the store’s co-owners. “We bring in our siblings, our wives and our husbands to help out during race week to handle the crowds.”

Fuller said that while race week is always a lot of fun, everyone takes a deep breath and sits down for a while when it’s all over.

That rest will have to wait for now, however, as motocross racers and fans from across the United States make their annual pilgrimage to their beloved motocross mecca in Washougal.

Please review our community guidelines