Words and Photos by Scott Lukaitis
Well the 2009 KROC begins tomorrow. I hope you enjoyed this trip down memory lane. Please if you enjoyed it let us know by commenting below on the website or on our Facebook page. Stay tuned all year long and NJ motocross explores motocross and other forms of racing in the Garden State, past, present, and future.
Below is an article that ran in Cycle News as well as some photos.
Futrell and Nicoletti Split KROC Green
Old Bridge Township’s Raceway Park
October 3-4, 2008
Words and photos by Scott Lukaitis
When a couple of friends laid out a motocross track in an empty New Jersey field thirty-three years ago little did they know what their track would one day become? The staff of Raceway Park ran a couple of races that first years and it their second year of operation the Race of Champions was born. Originally sponsored by a local country club it was in the early 80’s that Kawasaki motors stepped in as the title sponsor. Team Green was in its infancy and so was the little track in New Jersey. Well, the time has served both well as Team Green and Raceway Park have grown to the professional organizations that we now know.
The Kawasaki Race of Champions or KROC is often a stepping stone to a successful racing career and over the years virtually every Team Green racer has made the annual pilgrimage to KROC. Guys like Billy Liles, Donny Schmidt, Eddie Warren, Ron Tichenor, Denny Stephenson, Ricky Carmichael, James Stewart all made their mark in the Jersey soil. What would 2008 hold? With the current state of the economy and high fuel prices, one would wonder how the turnout would be. With over 750 racers on Saturday and qualifiers in Sunday’s pro classes, the racers showed that the KROC is a must attend in Northeast motocross.
Saturday is amateur and Vet day at the KROC. Full gates were the order of the day and winning a class at KROC is surely a notch on your resume. Completing the full program as the sun set below the trees the Raceway Park staff was on the move. Saturday’s big winners included Chris Duymich (250 and Open Novice), Keith Johnson (25+ and 30+ Expert), and Jacob Hayes (85cc 12-15 and Schoolboy 4-stroke). Perennial NJ fast guy Barry Carsten was the 40+ expert winner and former Quad National Champion Travis Spader shed 2 wheels and won the 25+ “B” class.
Sunday’s schedule would consist of the Pro Expert classes (250 and Open) as well as 3 special intermission races for amateur and mini bike riders.
Serious Racewear Honda rider Taylor Futrell jumped out to the early lead in the first Open Expert moto of the day with Rockstar Suzuki rider Justin Weeks, track local Adam Blessing and Phil Nicoletti in tow. As the pack came back into view Team Green rider Lowell Spangler it was Weeks in the lead followed by Blessing, Nicoletti, Jay Weller and Team Green rider Lowell Spangler. Futrell had bobbled in the back of the track and would be forced to work through the pack. Nicoletti would make quick work of Blessing and jumped by Weeks in the front grandstand section of the track. Spangler too got by Blessing and then around Weeks. The Kawasaki pilot set off after Nicoletti who was rapidly disappearing. Behind the lead duo, the positions started to settle in with Weeks in third, track points champion Dakota Kessler in fourth and working his way through the pack was Futrell for fifth. At the moto’s end, Spangler closed up slightly but not enough to pressure Nicoletti who went on to win. Spangler was second and Weeks third. Nicoletti thanked his friend Vic Palmieri for lending him the bike to use and former mechanic Paul Bruno for staying up late the night before getting the bike ready. When asked about riding the unfamiliar Honda, Nicoletti mentioned that next season he would be on the Red machines as part of Team Solitare.
In the first 250 Expert moto Futrell was once again the man in the gas grabbing the holeshot and early lead. Nicoletti, riding his more familiar Kawasaki, Team Green rider Keith Johnson and Dakota Kessler were close behind. Futrell and Nicoletti battled until the track reached up and grabbed Nicoletti throwing him to the ground and out of the moto. Banged up and bruised it was questionable if Nicoletti would be out for the rest of the afternoon. Futrell moved out up front and began to stretch his lead, meanwhile, Paul Lamb worked his way past Kessler and Johnson and was second behind Futrell. Spangler too worked his way through the pack and settled into third at the end of the motos.
Many were surprised when Nicoletti lined up for the second Open Expert moto but working with his trainer Greg Direnzo in between motos he felt well enough to tough it out. When the gate fell it was Nicoletti this time grabbing the holeshot with Spangler, Futrell, and Kessler hot on his heels. When Futrell went down in the tricky front section of the track it gave Nicoletti the breathing room he needed to go on and take the moto and overall win. Behind Nicoletti Spangler had settled into second and Saturday’s Vet class standout showed the kids a thing or two and came across the line in third. Spanglers 2-2 motos gave him the second step on the podium and a sixth in moto number two gave Justin Weeks the final spot on the podium with 3-6 motos.
After witnessing Futrell’s Open class crash it was a surprise to see him on the line for the final moto of the day. Futrell got the early jump on the field but it was two-stroke mounted Brian Mulcahy leading the pack up the staircase. Futrell wasn’t showing any ill effects of his early crash and quickly went into the way. Mulcahy, Spangler and Ryan Blizzard gave chase but it wasn’t to be. Futrell was a man on a mission and pulled away from the pack. Behind him, Spangler was the first man out with a DNF as his rear wheel went away. First moto second place rider Paul Lamb had worked his was past Mulcahy and Blizzard and was again in second place. With a couple laps to go NJ hero, Barry Carsten was in third place but was under attack from James Decotis. Carsten, who won the 40+ Expert class on Saturday, held on for third despite a last straight attack from the young Suzuki rider. In the end, it was Futrell going 1-1 for first overall followed by Lamb in second with 2-2 motos and the consistent 5-5 motos of Jay Weller for third overall.
Along with the four exciting Pro motos, three special intermission motos were run. In the Ironman Classic race, for amateur racers, Cody Robbins survived a last-lap charge from Nick Desiderio to take the win and a brand new bike courtesy of Pennsylvania dealer Can Do Powersports. The Top Gun Minicycle Shootout was won by Zachary Bell and the Kessler Cup was won by Alexander Frye. In the latter two races, local dealers Mt Holly Kawasaki and Town and Country Cycle Center gave away brand new KX85’s to a lucky random participant.
2009 Monster Energy Kawasaki team riders Tim Ferry and Ryan Villopoto put on a riding exhibition aboard brand new out of the crate machines and signed autographs for their fans.
As the sun set, and fans were on their way home, I can’t help but look forward to next October for another exciting KROC.