November 16, 2022
MANSFIELD — As the lights came on in the grandstand, the loud murmur of anticipation rippled through the crowd.
Behind the scenes, local riders prepared mentally while their pit crews carried out last-minute checks.
Friday was Motocross night at the Richland County Fair, an event that hasn’t happened since 2017.
Motocross got its start at the Richland County Fair 15 to 20 years ago, according to Chandler Durbin, who helped organize the comeback.
“Interest in sponsors and help had waned, so we stopped hosting the event,” Durbin said. “But this year has been different.”
Runners came from Richland and surrounding counties to enjoy the thrill of racing and the prize money that goes to the winners. Checking with the Durbin, he said there were about 200 runners.
There were four racing divisions, small and large quads as well as small bikes and big bikes. The scholarships ranged from $400 to $1,000 for professional runners.
Much of the buzz surrounding the return of motocross was the fact that three well-known former professional riders in the sport of motocross were the ones working behind the scenes to make this event a success: Logan Pfleiderer, Luke Grauer and Derrick Steele.
“These guys are well loved and it was great to have them on board,” Durbin said. “Runners are going to have a blast.”
Logan Pfleiderer, a local motocross rider who made his dream come true and made a living professionally in motocross, supercross, outdoor nationals and a few other motocross divisions, is the one who built the track this year.
Pfleiderer said he sought out the Fair and offered to build the tracks.
“I’ve been building tracks since I was young,” Pfleiderer said, “and when I heard the fair was bringing motocross back, I wanted to help make it a great event for everyone.”
Growing up in Galleon and racing Sunset Ramblers, Pfleiderer said he had plenty of opportunity to learn how to build tracks. He soon discovered that he not only enjoyed building tracks and learning how to form better jumps, but that he was good at it. He said the process always felt natural to him, how he could see and feel the layout of a good track based on the terrain he was working with.
“It takes a lot to build good, safe jumps,” Pfleiderer said. “First of all, you want to be safe with no kickers to send the rider into a jump that will knock them over their handlebars.”
Over the years, he said he’s built a variety of race tracks for other events and even practice facilities between here and the Carolinas. The goal is to have a safe but fun and memorable track for runners. With the motocross event returning to the Fair, Pfleiderer said he hopes interest will remain.
Although he no longer races, Pfleiderer said he hopes to continue working with motocross events locally and building tracks when the opportunity arises.
“I haven’t raced for 6 or 7 years, because of a bad accident I had,” said Pfleiderer. “I left after that and it’s a bit of a shame because that’s what I lived and breathed.”
A few years after his accident, he said he returned to the motocross scene working with kids at training centers and building tracks for them.
Pfleiderer said his passion for dirt bike racing started when he found an old dirt bike in a shed.
He reported it to his father and told him that racing was what he wanted to do. His dad encouraged him, he took control and got really good he says. All told, Pfleiderer said he raced for 16 to 17 years.
“I just hope all the runners have a great experience on Friday night,” he said. “I want this to be the safest, yet funniest fair race they remember.”
A rider who competed at the Pro level (big bikes) on Friday night, local resident Hayden Hoover, spent time with me before the race to share his thoughts and anticipations for the event. Like Pfleiderer, who happens to be someone Hoover admires, Hoover hopes to take his racing career to a professional level.
Hoover also started racing dirt bikes when he was very young and earlier this year made the decision to step up to the Pro level. He said he started noticing his lap times were the same as Pro-level riders and he had already won the majority of all races in his class.
Currently he is striving to earn his Pro points, saying he likes the challenge which is more mental at this stage, but his confidence for success comes from what he says is “knowing what I’m up to”. able”.
Although there were no points up for grabs on Friday night, Hoover said he was very happy to hear the motocross event was returning to the fair. Hoover, who just turned 20, said the last time he ran at the fair he was 11. And he won his class.
“I attend the fair because it’s my hometown. It’s the first year back and well, the race is paying off well,” he said.
Hoover said he expects to see some familiar faces at the event and the majority of runners will be racing in the kids or beginner class. He said he didn’t expect so many riders at the Pro level because fairground tracks are usually smaller and tighter than average motocross tracks.
“When the tracks are like that, there’s less margin for error, which means a lot of people will be wrecked because they’re not used to riding on tracks like the faris,” Hoover said. “But I can’t wait to be there.”
“Basically, since this will be my first time on the track, I’ll take a lap to check it out and then start picking up speed and jumping the jumps as much as I can,” Hoover said.
Hoover said he hoped enough people showed up to keep the fair going to host the motocross event. This too, he said, will help people become more familiar with the sport.
“When I was in school, kids always said motocross wasn’t a sport, but that was because they didn’t understand what was in it,” he said. . “But if you are looking for what is the most physically demanding sport, motocross is always in the top 5 of the list. Studies show that motocross works almost every muscle in your body.
Official stats show that on a typical race day, a pro motocrosser wrestles a bike over 200 pounds for 30 minutes or more at a time.
Hoover said that during his school years he participated in all regular sports, but always returned to dirt bikes. He noted that running feels natural, he never seems to worry or think about anything other than what’s in front of him when he lifts the dirt. And he has nasty jumps!
The other thing Hoover said that nurtured his love of running is that his dad runs too, so they got to spend a lot of time traveling together, practicing and sharing the joys and defeats of this sport. In fact, he says, his father even ran the fair years ago.
“I have to say, all the long drives with my dad became memorable, even the bad drives,” Hoover said. “Travelling with some people can feel like a long time, but traveling with the right people for 16 hours in Florida can feel like six hours.
Currently, Hoover is planning to move to Georgia to live and train at MTF (Millsaps Training Facility), one of the best facilities in the country.
For those of you who are unfamiliar, motocross is a form of off-road motorcycle racing that takes place on closed off-road courses. The sport evolved from the motorcycle trials competitions held in the UK in the early 1900s.
These would become regular off-road events called “scrambles”. The very first official race was held in Camberley, Surrey in 1924.
The sport came to America in the 1960s thanks to Edison Dye, who, not a runner, but a businessman, saw an opportunity. Edison convinced the Husqvarna factory to let him bring in a few bikes with the potential to be the Husqvarna importer for America. Out of his own funds he imported the bikes, organized the races and paid the riders to come here to promote the sport.
In his own words, Edison made this comment about what he has done for the sport of motocross:
“I had the idea; why not bring the best drivers to America after the end of their season. I’d pay them all well, but get little prize money – just enough to make it worthwhile. So I paid for their plane ticket, their good appearance money and a small cash prize. The first year I took Torsten Hallman for a series of nine races and he won all 23 motos.
“The second year, 1967, I brought six riders and the following year we brought 20 riders, including the Husqvarna Racing team. We were on our way.”