From the NJ Motocross Archives comes this race report all the way back to 2006. I found it when going through an old hard drive and I don’t think it was ever posted on the site. It is an interview that we conducted with Mickey Kessler back when he was doing the track prep at Raceway Park.
I believe it ran in Raceway news prior to the Kawasaki Race of Champions
The track is used so often for quad racing and practices how do you make it raceable for Sunday morning? My main concern is to try and loosen the dirt back up after the quads pack it down hard as a rock.
What is a typical week like for you? I get to the track Thursday morning, check out what is broken like sprinklers, hoses, pumps, water trucks, fences, clogged drains, and prep the dozer. Then I start to fix any jumps that are worn out, push in berms that are built up 6 or 7 feet by the quads. Friday I start to grade the track and try to loosen the surface with the rake on the back of the dozer. If some help shows up we try to make some changes. Saturday I do the start and finish up the track. I groom the infield and get the water truck ready to water when the sun goes down.
How does the pit bike racing affect your schedule? This year Dakota is going to set up the pit bike and youth track. Last year George Trapani and his crew set it up. It affects my schedule of finishing up Saturday afternoon and watering the track. It pushes everything to 11:00-12:00 Saturday night.
What got you started in track construction? I grew up on my dad’s farm always running machines and I had some dozers of my own. Jay Irwin had me fill in for him a few times over the 20 years he did the track. In 1989 four of us rebuilt New Egypt (Powerline Park). Jerry Seip, Rich Zupko Sr., Don Gundry and myself. When Richie Zupko took over for Jay I jumped at the chance to help him. (Richie) Zupko moved on and I took over.
Where do you get your ideas for track design? Do you watch professional track builders or just use your experience? Jay (Irwin) put the foundation of Raceway down in a BOLD way. I don’t think people realize the amount of dirt that is in each of those jumps. Zupko and I redesigned the center of the track with four times the equipment that Jay had to work with. I try to make the track as natural as I can. My son Dakota and his young friends help to keep me up with the times, but Jay was and is my biggest influence.
I know you can’t do all the work yourself. Who helps you with the track work? Zupko has been the most help during the week. Tommy Ulikowski and young Jay Irwin almost always come to help. Dakota and long-time friend Rich Carrino along with his crew and his trucks help on Saturdays and race days.
In addition to all the time, you spend at the track you also run a very successful performance shop KPS. How do you split the time between the two? At the beginning of the season it is very hectic, but as the season gets going I look forward to getting my work done early in the week and leaving my wife Debi with KPS and going to the track. Debi and I have always worked as a team; from the beginning of my pro career in 1974, the start of KPS in 1980 and now raising Dakota.
Do you still get to ride and test your track changes? If not who helps you test the changes? I get to ride some, but my lack of riding has really hurt my speed. We don’t really test things but I watch a handful of guys in practice: Dakota, Carsten, Harper, Ty Wallace, Lettieri, and Zupko and adjust what needs to be changed.
Your racing career was very successful…what got you started racing? I grew up on my dad’s 180-acre farm with lots of sand pits in the area. Enduro’s used to come through the connecting properties. Motocrosser’s practiced on a track in my back yard. I used to watch Scott Wolfensburger and his friends ride CZs. I had a neighbor work on bikes in his garage. I guess you could say like Koty. I rode enduros on a Honda 90 and SL100. I won some but went fast in most. The next step was MX which I knew nothing about except you could go as fast as you wanted.
You were a top national rider in the days before big bucks factory and satellite teams. Is there anything you could change about your racing career? The factory ride’s I had were great experiences and gave me the feeling that I made it to the top. I did everything with the help of Debi in my career. It showed me that I could make it and I didn’t take crap from anyone. Sometimes that was not the best way to be. Obviously, if it were 20-25 years later I’d be making big bucks.
Do you have a favorite race? I won a lot of support classes all over the country. I got 2nd and 3rds behind guys like Laporte, Bailey, and Glover. I lead a lot of nationals but winning the 500 support class at Unadilla in 1986 the same day Hannah won the 250GP was pretty cool.
Who was/is your favorite racer to race against? At Raceway Kenny Adams was one of the most competitive racers to race against.
Watching your son Cody ride, his style is very similar to yours. Do you coach him very much? I give him encouragement more than anything. Luckily his style is up with the times and way better than mine. I love this sport because when the gate drops the rider is on his own. All you can do is encourage him from the sidelines.
You have designed some of the roughest tracks over the last couple of years for the KROC since this is the 30th-anniversary KROC do you have any tricks up your sleeve for track design? The roughness of the track comes from trying to make the surface soft so lines will form and riders will move out of the main groove which is always the roughest. I want to make changes all year long and then a big change for the KROC. With the help of my son and crew hopefully, we can fit it into the tight schedule the track has.