MotoAmerica COO Chuck Aksland
Chuck Aksland, COO of MotoAmerica, discusses taking over Daytona 200, what to expect from the big race, and the 2022 MotoAmerica season. He also talks about the growth of King of the Baggers, creating a similarity between MotoAmerica and the Motocross World Championship in Europe, and how you can watch live if you can be at the race in person. You also don’t want to miss the stories Chuck shares that was included at the 70th Birthday Tribute to Kenny Roberts Sr.!
MotoAmerica is the OFFICIAL Sponsor of Pit Pass Moto!
MotoAmerica, home of AMA Superbike and North America’s premier motorcycle road racing series, is thrilled to announce that it will partner with Daytona International Speedway to host one of the world’s most prestigious races – the DAYTONA 200 – during the weekend of March 10-12, 2022, in Daytona Beach, Florida. The DAYTONA 200 will not be included as part of the MotoAmerica Supersport Championship, leaving the opportunity open for the best riders from around the world to compete for the minimum $175,000 in purse and contingency that will be offered.
In addition to the DAYTONA 200, the MotoAmerica weekend at Daytona International Speedway will be the opening round of the 2022 MotoAmerica King Of The Baggers Championship, marking the first time Baggers will race on the high banks of a Superspeedway with speeds expected to exceed 160 mph, and also the first round of the Twins Cup Championship. Joining the Baggers and Twins Cup will be the ever-popular Roland Sands Super Hooligan national championship. All three classes will run two races during the Daytona 200 weekend.
Tickets are on sale now at www.daytonainternationalspeedway.com or by calling 1-800-PITSHOP
Pit Pass Moto is a production of Evergreen Podcasts. A special thank you to Tommy Boy Halverson, Producer Leah Longbrake and Audio Engineer Eric Koltnow.
[00:00:15.650] - Dale Spangler
Welcome to Pit Pass Moto, the show that keeps you up to speed on the latest in motorcycling and brings you the biggest names in motorcycle racing. Right to you. I'm Dale Spangler.
[00:00:26.080] - Dave Sulecki
And I'm Dave Sulecki. And this week we have CEO of Moto America, Chuck Aksland. Moto America is the official sponsor of Pit Pass. Moto America, home of the AMA Superbike in North America's premiere motorcycle road racing series, is thrilled to announce that it will partner with Daytona International Speedway to host one of the world's most prestigious races, the Daytona 200, during the weekend of March 10 through 12th, 2022 in Daytona Beach, Florida. The Daytona 200 will not be included as part of the Moto America SuperSport Championship, leaving the opportunity open for the best riders from around the world to compete for the minimum $175,000 in person contingency that will be offered.
[00:01:11.070] - Dale Spangler
In addition to the Daytona 200, the Moto America weekend at Daytona International Speedway will be the opening round of the 2022 Moto America King of the Baggers Championship, marking the first time Baggers will race on the high banks of a Super Speedway with speeds expected to exceed 160 mph and also the first round of the Twins Cup Championship. Joining the baggers and Twins Cup will be the ever popular Roland Sands Super Hooligan National Championship. All three classes will run two races during the Daytona 200 weekend. Tickets are on sale now at Daytona Internationalspeedway.com or by calling 1800 Pitch Shop.
[00:01:53.720] - Dave Sulecki
This week's race Recap we've got a return to Anaheim for Anaheim, too. And I tell you, with some great racing again every weekend we've got a new winter. This is the fourth round in a row where we've got a new winner, Eli Tomac taking the win, his first win on that Star Racing Monster Energy Yamaha. So that was killer to see. He did have to work for it a little bit. I think Jason Anderson helped him a little bit by jumping off the track slightly, allowing Tomato to go by there about halfway through the race. But they tell you great racing. What do you think, Dale?
[00:02:27.100] - Dale Spangler
The series just continues to I wouldn't say surprised. The depth of talent is so far this year. That. Yeah. I mean, Eli Tomac, though. Wow. The real Eli Tomac, I felt like, showed up when he's in this mindset, Dave. It just seems like he's unstoppable for sure.
[00:02:45.200] - Dave Sulecki
And he's keeping the red plate for another round. So that was cool to see. But I tell you, Ken Roxon was on fire early, pulls the whole shot. He and Jason Anderson got into it in the sand section. Their lines collided, and Ken had the worst part of it went down and was eating sand. So Anderson went on to battle for the win with Tomac coming out on first. But the thing that really surprised me for the weekend was Cooper Webb. Where was he finished P eight on the night. And the message boards are alive with rumors that the bike is having problems, so we're kind of waiting to see how that's going to play out in the next few rounds.
[00:03:20.570] - Dale Spangler
I don't know if we have should be getting too worried quite yet. Four rounds and he is twelve points down, but you can look at it as that's a lot or it's only twelve points. So for Web, I think he probably is not sweating it too much. And it'll be interesting to see how if he picks it up at the next round in 250 action.
[00:03:37.200] - Dave Sulecki
Here we go again. Lather Rinse repeat. Christian Craig with another win. He's been solid all year. He did have to work for a little bit this weekend because Vince Freeze with his patented hole shot and run up front early, but Kristen Craig was able to work his way up from third to first about halfway through the Moto passing Mozam, and so that was quite a battle.
[00:03:56.770] - Dale Spangler
I thought Mozeman had a missed opportunity for sure. He ended up moving his way into the lead. Didn't last too long though. Craig ended up passing him. I thought Fraser was going to finally put it on the podium in third. He's just riding super great. But then a crash near the end of the main event and a collision with Joe Shimodo unavoidable collision in the whoops relegated him to a DNF. So bummer for freezing, but he was looking really good. I expect to see him on the podium. Good ride for him. This week's Industry Spotlight focuses on a recently announced partnership between the American Motorcyclist Association and Init Esports to launch the World's Fastest Motorcycle Gamer Challenge. As the AMA's first foray into sanctioning an Esports tournament, participants now have the opportunity to win an AMA national title in the esports disciplines. According to Chief Operating Officer James Holter, the AMA's mission includes promoting the motorcycle lifestyle, and that extends to the digital universe, where they will partner with Innet Esports to develop the rules, structure and fairness of play that elevates online motorcycle racing to a recognized AMA discipline. According to initial Esports CEO Steffie Bau, the Digital Competition License was created to encourage accountability in the gaming world.
[00:05:23.220] - Dale Spangler
To drive or race a motorcycle in real life, you need a license. By replicating this model in the digital world, the hope is to provide a safe and fair gaming environment that increases inclusion in motorsports and gaming. Additional information can be found at Initasports GG. That's initports GG.
[00:05:57.290] - Dave Sulecki
This week's moment in Moto History We would like to talk about the return of road racing to Daytona International Raceway for this year's Daytona Bike Week, March 4 to 13th. No question that Daytona has the longest and most storied history related to motorcycle racing. The first race took place there on the beach in 1937, and it's run mostly uninterrupted up until 2019, until the race was canceled for 2020 due to Covar restrictions. The long list of winners includes not only US race Champions, but also international race Champions from nearly every form of racing, not to mention Moto America's President Wayne Rainey, three time world 500 CC road race champion who won the 1987 event for Honda for 2022. We are seeing Motor America return to feature a nearly unlimited class structure to draw as many racers and motorcycle platforms as possible to the event the motorcycle spec allowed to race. This event has evolved over the years, where Formula One spec was started originally in the late 70s that evolved into Super Bike, which was essentially 750 to 1000 CC four cylinder engines, and then in the mid 1980s, followed by Formula Extreme in 2005 through 2008.
[00:07:09.590] - Dave Sulecki
The current iteration, Daytona Sport Bike, will allow 600 CC inline four such as the YZFR Six S JXR 600s and Kawasaki ZX sixRS, but will also include larger platforms such as the Triumph 765, Triple Takati's Panigal V 2955 and MV Augusta's F Three, which is an 800 CC motor. No question, it'll be an exciting event. Varied engine platforms will add another level of excitement and interest for the fans to see just what the race teams can come up with as a solution to winning this historic event.
[00:07:44.600] - Dale Spangler
A couple of observations about the inclusion of Daytona this year is, I believe, Dave, it's going to be the first time in some years that the Daytona 200 is actually included as part of the Emote of America series. And of course, now it's going to be the actual kickoff to the series officially. So I thought that's pretty interesting that they're coming back. And then also the inclusion of the King of the baggers class, which I think is going to be super cool to see those big bikes on the high banks of Daytona and think about that.
[00:08:13.550] - Dave Sulecki
Harley is going around that racetrack at Daytona Bike Week, which is basically on Harley riders haven. So to see those two things together, it's just going to fill the stands, and I'm excited for it. We'd like to welcome to Pitpass Moto today, Chuck Axeland. He is the COO of Moto America. Welcome to the show, Chuck.
[00:08:41.530] - Chuck Aksland
Hey, thanks, guys. It's good to be here. It's been a while, but I look forward to our talk.
[00:08:46.580] - Dave Sulecki
Awesome. And so are we. I mean, you've got to be excited. You're what I think six weeks away from the kickoff of the season, and this year you've got some exciting news about that first race of the year. So tell us about what's coming up and what to expect for 2022, man.
[00:09:01.760] - Chuck Aksland
Yeah. So generally, our first race of the season would have been kicking off either at Circulated America. This is portrayed for MotoGP or Road Atlanta. But this year we partnered with Daytona International Speedway and basically are taking over the running and operation of the Daytona 200. And that kicks off March 10 to twelve. And that's super exciting for us. There's a new super sport type rules that are going to be introduced. It'll Pit Dukati versus Triumph, versus Yamaha, versus Kawasaki and versus Suzuki. And there's some exciting stuff to watch there. And then we got the mission King of the Baggers are taken to the high banks for the first time. That's going to be quite interesting in its own right. And then we have our twins in the Rolling Sands Super Hooligan class coming out to join us. So I think it's going to be a different type of event. It's going to be fun, though. It's going to be great.
[00:10:02.340] - Dale Spangler
Yeah. How much does that mean for you guys to be back at Daytona International Speedway, especially just to kick off the entire series? I mean, that definitely has to be pretty special for you guys.
[00:10:12.360] - Chuck Aksland
It's special in a lot of ways, I think probably especially to myself and Wayne, our families. Wayne won the Daytona 200 and my uncle Skip Axlan participated in it and won the 250 race there back in 1079. And my father was going there with Kenny Roberts and Skip for many years. So it's just part of the tradition of motorcycle racing. It's one of the biggest events in the world in the United States, certainly, and it's got a lot of prestige to it. And our hope is that we could continue to build on that and get more and more Europeans and more manufacturers involved, and hopefully that will bring out more spectators and more interest.
[00:10:57.460] - Dave Sulecki
And I got to believe having that event during Bike Week, with the prevalence of V twin and Harley riders seeing the King of the Baggers go around the high bank ovals, to me, I was really impressed how Moto America has pulled that in and grown that series and turned it into something that a lot of people, I guess, just didn't expect to take off. I guess maybe there were some doubters in the crowd. What's your take on that, how it evolved into what it is today?
[00:11:24.280] - Chuck Aksland
No, certainly there were doubters in the crowd, and to be honest, we had no idea how it was going to work out when we ran the first race two years ago. It's certainly something that is very unique. You could watch sport bike racing at different times in different countries all over the world, but you only see one King of the Baggers race from the inception, from the first race and to where both Harley and Indian, they're very serious about competing and neither one of them wants to lose, I can guarantee you that. But it's definitely struck a chord. And overall, it's made us kind of rethink our events because we welcome the Baggers and also the superhero crowd for that. But it's making our events more of a bigger motorcycling party. People that come out to watch the Baggers get to watch the Superbikes and the Superbike guys are exposed to the Baggers, and it's just helping our attendance. And it's helping our overall interests in motor America and road racing. And there's a lot of positives, but certainly when we went into the first race, we had no idea what to expect to be fair.
[00:12:38.810] - Dave Sulecki
And now, as I understand, some of the online impressions from those events were, I guess, multifold above what viewership was for even the popular Superbike class. So kudos to you guys and your team for coming up with an idea and partnering and creating something that draws in other fans that you wouldn't normally have.
[00:12:58.730] - Chuck Aksland
No, for sure. And I think it just turned into one of those things that even the naysayers, the road racing purists are kind of against it, but I think they still watch it. It's like one of those things that you probably shouldn't be watching, but you do anyways. And certainly the fans that do enjoy it have told their friends. And yeah, it's a very popular part of what we're doing, for sure.
[00:13:21.710] - Dale Spangler
One other aspect for 2022, I've noticed Moto America is encouraging participation in both Stock 1000 and Super Bike. I believe you can run the same machine. Is that a way for the series to kind of just better help accommodate budgets and just make it more accessible and easier for racers to get more track time?
[00:13:39.620] - Chuck Aksland
A little bit of both. Super Bike is our Premier class for the series and a lot of riders come up. We have a great platform, starting with the Motor Mini Cup, to Junior Cup, to twins racing, super sports, stock thousand Super Bike. So ultimately we want our competitors to end up in that Super Bike class with stock thousand and the level of machinery that's available now for stock thousand, you can effectively race in Superbikes. So what we've done is just created some incentives for riders that do aspire to be Super Bike and participate in the Superbike class. If they want to raise stock thousand and want to raise Super Bike, it gives them more track time, more experience, more opportunity to make some money because the manufacturers are very generous with contingency money in the Stock thousand and Superbike categories. It's an initiative that's also supported by Dunlop. Our Superbike Cup carve out is basically open to stock thousand riders and give away a set of tires for those participating to the top five finishers in the Superbike class that are part of the cup. So I think it's everybody pulling together and just giving some more opportunities for the young guys.
[00:14:57.760] - Chuck Aksland
Certainly they get some track time. They get a little bit more television coverage as well being in both classes. And yeah, it's been very positive. It's been well received.
[00:15:07.370] - Dave Sulecki
It's always exciting to see these guys progress through the classes to that pinnacle of Superbike and then even possibly go overseas to race World Superbike or MotoGP. So it's almost like a great feeder series, shifting gears just a little bit. I kind of wanted to ask you about yourself I know your name and your family. You've been around racing your entire life, and you've seen some pretty interesting things over the years. But I wanted to ask you, anybody who's tried to rotate Yamaha 550 vision has really got my respect, because I owned one of those motorcycles, and to imagine it on a racetrack would just blow my mind. Tell me how that worked out.
[00:15:46.040] - Chuck Aksland
Well, I actually didn't get the chance to ride it. What happened was I went with Kenny Roberts over to Europe in 1983. It was his last year competing for the world Championship. Kenny has been a lifelong friend of our families. My dad was his first sponsor, and at that time, I was racing motocross, and he needed somebody to help train with. And he was going through a divorce at the time. And at the end, he said, hey, why don't you come over and help out? And so I went over to Europe and kind of saw what that scene was like, and I just thought, well, maybe when I come back, I should try road racing. Obviously, we were involved in road racing to skip my uncle. He was pretty good in his day. And so when we came back, Kenny had a vision of 550 AMA vision in his garage. And he thought that that would be a good platform to learn how to road race on. So for whatever reason, we built a chassis. We built bodywork, gas tank seat and all that. And obviously, the vision is a shaft drive. So when it got to the point where we were going to convert it from a shaft drive to a chain drive, somebody brought up the fact that the engine ran backwards.
[00:16:58.230] - Chuck Aksland
And so basically, that project stopped there. We got pictures of the bike, but it never ran, unfortunately. So I never had the pleasure to take it to a racetrack. So there you go. We dropped that. And then we built a TZ 250, basically made one of the first Delta box frames and took that to Daytona 1984. And so that was kind of the second bike we built in the garage, but the TV actually ran. So there you go.
[00:17:28.430] - Dale Spangler
So you mentioned the name Kenny Roberts, of course. Definitely an iconic name in motorcycle racing. I love, by the way, your recent 70th birthday tribute to Kenny Roberts senior. I mean, I can only imagine some of the stories behind many of those moments that you listed. There Carnival, any of those? I was noticing one I'm like dislocating your shoulder at Imola or the Belgian flying snails. I can't even imagine some of the stories that you have together.
[00:17:57.630] - Chuck Aksland
Well, yeah, the flying snails involve somebody else, so I don't think that they would be too happy if I talked about that. But again, that was 83, and we were at Emily, I think it was for the emula 200, actually. And Kenny was always a guy to joke around and somehow myself and Kenny and the champion spark plug guy, I think his last name was French. I can't remember his first name now, but somehow we ended up in this big wrestling match, and I got stuck in the wrong position and moved and it popped my left shoulder out of socket. And Emily was the hometown of Dr. Costa, who does the clinical mobile. And at that time it was starting. So we went to see Dr. Costa with my shoulder out. He couldn't put it back in there at the race track. So we went downtown to where his actual practice was. And boy, he had about three or four guys pulling both ways of my body and finally got it in. And then he put me in a body cast for like three days from the waist up. So basically my arm was put to my chest and it was pretty extreme because now he just put it in a sling and be careful with it.
[00:19:13.360] - Chuck Aksland
But yeah, I had to wear a frigging body cast for three or four days. But yeah, that's one of the many stories there for sure. But Kenny has been, like I said, a good friend of the families, and I work for him, as my father did. But we've never really considered each other colleagues. I don't think it's just been more family always in Ouch.
[00:19:34.970] - Dave Sulecki
I want to say, because I've been through that dislocated shoulder myself, and I can only imagine the pain is immeasurable for sure. And talk about some of those race memories that you had listed in that 70th birthday tribute. There was something about being the first MotoGP helmet boy, and it was something that you're actually able to make money from well.
[00:19:57.130] - Chuck Aksland
Not very much money. I think I told him I would go over there and help them for like $50 a week as long as he paid for my food. And I was young and I was actually staying at his house at the time because I was helping him. But yeah, so I went over there. And nowadays pretty much every MotoGP rider has an assistant, somebody to help them with their helmets and leathers and organizing their stuff. And at that time, I was probably the only one. He took me over there. I would take care of his helmet and leathers and boots. But it was much different because I think he had two sets of leathers and I think he only had one helmet and three face Shields. So it wasn't changing Shields. It was just keeping them clean over there to get a set of gloves. At that time, I think I had one set of gloves, so, yeah, it was limited, so it was pretty easy. But I guess I was maybe one of the trendsetters. Like I said, every MotoGP guys got an assistant, so I was doing that. I'm sure they get paid better now than I did at that time.
[00:21:03.190] - Dale Spangler
As well, yeah. Before there was the term man friend. Right. Because I think that's probably used these days. Now you got to have your little entourage when you go to Europe and race over there. Probably.
[00:21:12.650] - Chuck Aksland
Yeah, there you go.
[00:21:14.550] - Dale Spangler
So one other question back to Moto America series is creating similarities between the US and the World Racing Series. Is that something that Moto America is trying to do as part of, like, a long term plan to kind of just help make that transition easier for younger American riders coming up with aspirations to go race in Europe?
[00:21:35.230] - Chuck Aksland
Yeah, for sure. I spent a lot of time in Europe running Kenny's MotoGP team. And when we came back over here and had the opportunity to take over the AMA Superbike Championship, I knew through history the AMA had its own kind of separate rules for Superbikes and the different classes, and they had over in Europe. And I never really saw much sense in it because I know the Rd budgets that went into the US racing and went into the factories, Japanese factories and so forth. And really, I just thought everybody should be on the same platform, so to speak. There should only be one RMD budget for manufacturer and so forth. That was part of the reason. And the thought was that maybe parts or equipment could trickle down from taking the super bike class into consideration. Maybe some of those parts and electronics and know how would funnel down to our Superbike Championship. And at the same time, it helps riders adapt to those electronics and those engine configurations and set ups and so forth. And I think it's been pretty successful. I mean, although Camboba went from Super Bike to Moto Two bike, I think SDK going from Super Sport to Moto Two is going to be a good thing to watch.
[00:23:02.640] - Chuck Aksland
Joe Roberts is over in the Moto Two class, but I think Garrett Gerloff, I know there are some differences in tires and setups and so forth, but hopefully the experience that he gained with us helped him in his transition to the World Superbike. The other thing, other than technical that we try to emulate is just the whole race start procedure. So again, if our races run like MotoGP do for start procedure and timings and so forth, and World Superbike runs on the same pattern. And so for our riders, I think it just takes one more element of something that they have to or don't have to think about when they make that transition, everything is similar. So hopefully that helps out. And that was part of our mission when we started Moto America was to try and emulate what they do in the FIA World Championships.
[00:23:55.740] - Dave Sulecki
And for sure, it's paying off, as we've seen many riders make the jump overseas and be successful. So, Chuck, we wanted to take these last few moments together and talk about Moto America, how they are reaching end users out in the field who want to see road racing Besides live? Obviously that's the best way to see road racing. But what does Moto America put together to get people to be able to see racing?
[00:24:22.730] - Chuck Aksland
Well, we have it spread out in a lot of different places. You can start with the live transmissions for Superbike classes on Fox sports. King of the baggers is also on Fox sports. Our junior cup will be on Fox sports as well. Super sport live coverage is on map television. We also have Moto America live plus, which is basically three days of live viewing from the event. We try and go do a lot behind the scenes interview participants, team managers, fans sometimes, but really get a good look at what we have going on at the track. And that generally starts on the Friday of a race weekend and you see practices and qualifying plus all of the races live. It's really good show. It is a subscription and if you go to motoremarka.com, you can find out more information on that and then generally about a week after the events, the races start going up live on or not live, but start going up on YouTube and we do show some events time to time from Facebook. So what's that done is basically spreads the coverage out and if you're not tuned into Fox sports, hopefully you catch on one of the other platforms and if you miss everything completely, we launched Moto America TV, which if you go to MotoAmerica TV, you can find out where you could tune in to 24 hours content of Moto America races.
[00:25:51.220] - Chuck Aksland
So little something for everybody.
[00:25:54.090] - Dave Sulecki
Awesome. So easy to find them and so easy to watch and very exciting package and very exciting racing. We're really excited this year to partner with Moto America and we can't thank you enough for spending time with us today, Chuck.
[00:26:07.000] - Chuck Aksland
I appreciate it, guys. Thanks for having me on and hopefully we'll hear from you again as the season gets rolling.
[00:26:27.790] - Dave Sulecki
Thanks again to our guests for being with us today and thank you for tuning in. If you enjoyed this episode, make sure to follow us on your favorite podcast app so you never miss an episode. If you have a moment, please rate and review us. We really appreciate it. Make sure you're also following us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and visit pitpassmoto.com where you can check out our blog and our brand new store where you can get your Pit Pass swag.
[00:26:52.360] - Dale Spangler
This has been a production of evergreen podcast. A special thank you to tomb producer Leah Longbrake and audio engineer Eric Koltnow.
[00:27:02.290] - Dave Sulecki
I'm Dave Sulecki.
[00:27:03.550] - Dale Spangler
And I'm Dale Spangler. See you next week on Pit Pass Moto.