Dr. Bud in front of his legendary Mt. Saint Helen.
Dr. Bud Feldkamp owns Glen Helen Raceway. With all the internet talk about why Glen Helen doesn’t have an AMA National, he decided to sit down and clear the air about some misconceptions that the public has about why Glen Helen dropped the National in 2010, what happened with the USGP, and whether he would do the National again
MXA: IT IS IMPLIED BY MX SPORTS THAT GLEN HELEN DOES NOT WANT TO HOLD AN AMA NATIONAL. IS THAT TRUE?
Bud: Absolutely not. Glen Helen would love to host an AMA National again and I think that our track record shows that we can put on a show beyond expectations. Glen Helen did AMA Nationals for 16 years and I personally have wondered why we are not in the mix now.
WHY ISN’T GLEN HELEN IN THE AMA NATIONAL MIX?
Boiled down to its essence, Glen Helen isn’t currently an AMA National track because of the history of the National Promoter’s Group (NPG). In 1997 Dave Coombs Sr. asked Glen Helen to become a founding part of the NPG. The NPG consisted of the 12 AMA National tracks. The NPG stood together to fight for its rights against the AMA, Supercross promoters and those forces that were interested in discrediting the National series. It was, as Dave, Sr. expressed to me, important work.
DID THE NATIONAL PROMOTERS GROUP DO GOOD WORK?
Yes. The NPG did great things. It, under the executive guidance to Dave Coombs’ family, negotiated with the AMA to ensure that the Supercross series did not encroach on our dates. It not only found sponsors for the AMA Nationals, but it negotiated agreements with the AMA under which they shared series sponsorship money with every National track (ie. including Chevy and Parts Unlimited).
THEN WHAT HAPPENED?
The NPG, under the executive guidance of the Coombs family (because they had two AMA National tracks), was so successful that the AMA formed a for-profit arm called Paradama (which later became AMA Pro Racing) to compete against us. I have to say that this move by the AMA threatened the National tracks and the NPG because we were sanctioned by the AMA, yet they went into competition against us in the search for sponsors. Again, the NPG prevailed, and got all 12 promoters a uniform contract for four years with the AMA.
And this is just the back portion of the Glen Helen course…better known as the REM track.
DIDN’T THAT CHANGE WHEN THE AMA SOLD THE RIGHTS TO PRO RACING TO DMG?
Yes and no. When we heard that the AMA was going to sell off motocross, road racing, dirt track and Supermoto, all of the NPG tracks banned together and pledged a fund to buy the series from the AMA. It was, to the best of my recollection, about $2 million. When the AMA decided to sell everything as a package to DMG, I assumed the NPG executive team approached them about buying the rights to motocross. It only made sense; we were the 12 promoters most invested in the series and felt that we could run it ourselves. Since the Coombs family held the executive positions with the NPG they did the negotiating with DMG.
BUT, DMG DIDN’T SELL THE RIGHTS TO MOTOCROSS TO THE NPG.
Surprise. Lo and behold, at the midnight hour we got a call from the Coombs saying that sadly the NPG didn’t get the rights, but, happily, the Coombs family’s MX Sport organization did. This was unbelievable to me. The 12 NPG tracks were represented at the DMG offering by the Coombs family, but our bid was beat out by the Coombs family. I was shocked by the lack of allegiance to the group that they went to represent.
THEN WHAT HAPPENED WHEN MX SPORTS TOOK CONTROL?
All the hard work of the NPG tracks and Dave Coombs Sr., was undone. The things that we fought for; a share of the series sponsor money, back gate income sharing, access to sponsorship deals, and control of our own vending, were wiped out. MX Sports took all the series sponsorship money and our individual sponsorships were limited to the title sponsor of the event. They even installed their own T-shirt vendors. This money, per MX Sports, was going to TV rights for the AMA Nationals. Also the MX Sports charged us an additional fee (what they called a “rights fee”). By my way of looking at it, the racetracks were reduced to ticket takers. All decisions impacting the fan experience were effectively stripped away from the tracks. because that was the only money MX Sports left us.
IS THAT WHY YOU CANCELED THE 2010 GLEN HELEN NATIONAL?
It was a contributing factor to what I saw as a bad business relationship, but it wasn’t the reason. At the time I pushed for fan access to the pro pits and improved track viewing, but wasn’t getting anywhere. I also made a request for better accounting of ticket sales and what was happening to the money. I also started hearing rumors that MX Sports planned to drop the Glen Helen National immediately after the 2010 event and move the race to Pala. These weren’t wild rumors, many of them were coming from Pala personnel. I wanted assurance, before I invested money into building a new track (because Glen Helen made a brand-new track design every year for 16 years), put up two-miles of fencing and supplied 14 phone lines, T-1 lines and internet access for MX Sports that I would have a contract for more than three months into the future.
The start is a fifth gear blast into a 45-degree banked 180-degree bowl called “Talladega.” You can get the start from any of the 40 gates.
DID THE OTHER TRACKS HAVE LONG-TERM CONTRACTS?
Of course they did. It is expensive to hold a National and you could lose everything if it rained. MX Sports had given every other track multi-year contracts and yet only offered us one year that would go through the 2010 National. Combine the Pala rumors with the financial questions I had and it became obvious that MX Sports was using Glen Helen as a place filler for 2010 so that they could go to Pala in 2011.
Glen Helen deserved the same contract as every other track and there were no facility issues. In fact, in moving to Pala and then Lake Elsinore, neither of those tracks have the facilities of Glen Helen. We offered free pit passes to our customers. We had free parking at Blockbuster Pavilion. We had a two-story scoring tower and we had one of the classic motocross tracks in the world. We had the fairest starts in the sport with 40 possible holeshots from any gate.
DID YOU DROP THE GLEN HELEN NATIONAL TO SWITCH TO THE USGP?
Emphatically not. I don’t know what you would do, but I stood my ground. I wanted the same contract as the other 11 tracks. We had held 16 AMA Nationals and were being disrespected. If MX Sports would have offered me a long-term contract to make the investment worthwhile, I would still be holding AMA Nationals at Glen Helen today. But, they wouldn’t and so we aren’t.
Regardless of all the rumors, we never contacted the FIM until after the deal with MX Sports fell through. We heard that the Grand Prix series was having trouble with the British Grand Prix date and by happenstance their date suddenly fit an open date in our schedule. We sent an e-mail to Wolfgang Srb and we agreed to host the USGP.
BUT IT FAILED.
It did fail, largely because the U.S. riders didn’t want to race the USGP.
That was beyond my control, but my goal was to give the fans and the industry a Grand Prix. It’s strange that my love of motocross can be spun into something bad. The USGP wasn’t a success and Glen Helen moved on. I should note that if the race had been supported by the teams, riders and fans, we’d be holding the Motocross des Nations at Glen Helen this weekend.
As it turns out, we added two Lucas Oil Offroad Truck Championship races (on our totally new truck track) and the Red Bull X-Fighters. Glen Helen isn’t losing money because it doesn’t hold an AMA National. Glen Helen will be hosting events for a long time with or without a National.
THE QUESTION IS ? WOULD GLEN HELEN HOST AN AMA NATIONAL IF IT WAS ASKED TO?
Of course we would — and to make it a fan-centered event I would double the current AMA purse to $125,000 for the race. Remember, Glen Helen offered a $100,000 bonus to any American who could win the USGP. I’m not in the sport for the money. I’m in it because I love motocross and racing. I could find lots of other ways to spend my money. If MX Sports was interested and would talk in good faith, then it could happen. I only walked away because they were going to leave me hanging in 2010.
YOU’VE BEEN QUIET ON THIS SUBJECT FOR THREE YEARS, ANYTHING ELSE YOU WANT TO SAY?
I think that the AMA Nationals should be held at tracks with history, grandeur, fan friendly viewing and courses that enhance the image and reputation of the sport. There are several AMA National tracks on the current schedule that meet that criteria — and I always thought that Glen Helen was one of them.