SYRACUSE MILE TO HOST 41ST AMA NATIONAL THIS SUMMER PICKERINGTON, Ohio (May 4, 2006) -- The New York State Fairgrounds mile dirt track, better known to racing fans as the Syracuse Mile, will host its 41st AMA national on Saturday, June 17, when...
SYRACUSE MILE TO HOST 41ST AMA NATIONAL THIS SUMMER
PICKERINGTON, Ohio (May 4, 2006) -- The New York State Fairgrounds mile dirt track, better known to racing fans as the Syracuse Mile, will host its 41st AMA national on Saturday, June 17, when it plays host to the 2006 AMA Ford Quality Checked Flat Track Championship.
The Syracuse Mile is a track that links past greats of the Class A era of motorcycle racing in the 1920s to the stars of today and in its heyday was one of the tradition-rich venues in all of motorcycle racing. David Sedlack, owner of Performance Harley-Davidson in Syracuse, is reviving that tradition by bringing back the Syracuse Mile. Sedlack is unwavering in his dedication to restoring the prestige of the event.
AMA racing archives show that some of the all-time greats of the Class A racing era competed for national championships on the Syracuse Mile dating back to the 1920s. Fred Ludlow was part of Harley-Davidson's talent-laden 'Wrecking Crew' when in 1921 he dominated on a September weekend, winning all five nationals held on the Syracuse Mile averaging 75 mph on what was little more than a bicycle frame with a motor. In those days a track might host a 5-mile national, followed by a 10-mile national and so on. Ludlow swept the boards on his Harley racer winning the 1, 5, 10, 25 and 50-mile nationals during the weekend's events. Ludlow bested other future Motorcycle Hall of Famers that year such as Jim Davis and Ralph Hepburn. Throughout the 1920s Harley-Davidson and Indian riders vied to take top honors at Syracuse.
Sedlack has seen photos of even earlier races on the classic old Mile and they show massive crowds attending the Syracuse races.
"There are even photos of motorcycle races dated 1912," Sedlack says. "You can see the fairgrounds and the lake in the background. The lakefront was a lot different back then before industry changed it. It looked like a beautiful racetrack even then."
Racing continued unbroken in Syracuse through the rest of the '20s and survived the lean Depression years of the 1930s. Joe Petrali and Fred Toscani were the dominant riders of the 1930s, with Petrali riding Harleys and Toscani often on the British-made JAP. By the mid-1930s the ultra expensive Class A factory-backed racing was giving way to the production-based Class C racing, which opened up competition to hundreds of new riders. Syracuse clung to tradition and stuck with the withering Class A bikes until 1939 when the bigger, heavier but more popular Class C bikes finally got a chance to turn a wheel on the Mile. The Class C production-based formula that first raced Syracuse is basically the same rules structure of the bikes raced today.
World War II brought an end to racing not only at Syracuse, but the rest of the country as well. Factory Indian rider Bobby Hill won the Syracuse Mile when it finally fired back up after the War in 1952, but the event wasn't able to produce the crowd it had decades before and AMA national racing at Syracuse ended in 1953, not to return for over 20 years.
In 1974 Don Brymer, who also promoted the popular road races in Loudon, N.H., revived the race. Rookie Hank Scott won the Syracuse Mile that year over fellow Harley rider Rex Beauchamp and Canadian Dirt Track champ Doug Sehl. Sedlack remembers those races as very well attended events.
"The stands were packed in the 1970s," Sedlack said. "A lot of Canadians came down to watch riders like Jay Springsteen and Kenny Roberts. The race was going really strong before they had a couple of years of bad weather."
With a few breaks the race continued through 1993. That year the late great Ricky Graham won the Syracuse Doubleheader en route to winning that year's AMA Grand National Championship. Little did anyone know then that it would be 12 years before another national would be held at the track.
Sedlack and fellow Harley-Davidson dealer Pat Moroney attempted to bring back the Syracuse Mile in 1996 and 1997, but the weather gods were not with them.
"Our hopes of bringing back the race at that point just crumbled," Sedlack recalls. "Pat didn't want to mess with it after those two rainouts and it took me a few years to regain my composure before I was ready to try again."
Last year the race was finally revived. The race ran on Sunday afternoon and Chris Carr took the win in a photo finish over Rich King. It was Carr's first win on the historic circuit. "I think I've finally learned how to deal with the unique dirt this track has after all these years," Sedlack said. "The dirt is made up of clay that was imported and the original stone dust. It makes for a loamy track, but it tends to hold water. When it's hard packed it's just like concrete and I hope that's the way we run it this year. It makes for good racing once the groove gets wide enough."
Chris Carr likes the track and said it's one of the trickiest Miles the series visits. "Syracuse though fast, is also highly technical," says the defending champ. "Turn three is its signature turn -- 130 mph into a portion of track that only about ten feet of it is worth riding on. It can reach out and bite you."
So mark June 17 on your calendar and get a taste of history as the AMA Grand National Championship returns to the Syracuse Mile at the New York State Fairgrounds. For ticket information call (315) 471-1157 or visit the website www.performancehd.com.
About AMA Pro Racing
AMA Pro Racing is the leading sanctioning body for motorcycle sport in the United States. Its properties include the Amp'd Mobile AMA Supercross Series, the AMA Toyota Motocross Championship presented by FMF, the AMA Superbike Championship presented by Parts Unlimited, the AMA Ford Quality Checked Flat Track Championship and the AMA Supermoto Championship. For more information about AMA Pro Racing, visit www.amaproracing.com.