It was racing motorcycle weekend in Las Vegas, or as I like to call it, “Vroom with a view.” Wherever you turned, guys were doing wheelies and catching big air.
On Friday night, the American Motorcycle Association held its season-opening EnduroCross at Orleans Arena.
On Saturday, it was the AMA Supercross season finale at sold-out and Monster-energized Sam Boyd Stadium.
Then on Sunday — very, very early on Sunday, not long after cocks had crowed — the AMSOIL Amateur National Arenacross Championships crowed even louder at South Point Arena.
Look! There goes Peter Fonda, Dennis Hopper and Jack Nicholson. And Jack’s wearing that football helmet sans face mask.
I arrived at the South Point around 10 a.m. Sunday to check out the easy and uneasy amateur riders. The pungent aroma of motor oil and engine additives had permeated the casino by then. People near the coffee shop were hanging around the statue of Benny Binion, copping buzzes.
The amateur riders had been at it since 8 a.m., transforming South Park Arena into the world’s loudest cathedral — a cathedral of earsplitting noise and speed and motorized hallelujah, where the parishioners’ Sunday best consisted of a Fox off-road racing uniform and a pair of Alpinestars riding boots that cost around $500.
A lot of people were on hand to worship at the dirt altar comprised of moguls and whoop-de-doos and cannons belching flame and other pyrotechnics.
They had to open the big rolling doors at the ends of the arena to let some of the noise out. Frankly, it didn’t seem to help.
The reason the amateur riders started vroom-vroom-vrooming so early was because there were 29 classes and upward of 300 competitors.
The youngest riders were 4 years old.
The oldest was Scary Vacchieri, a 51-year-old delivery truck driver from Sacramento, Calif.
Scary Vacchieri’s real name is Patrick. His dirt bike has two knobby tires while Scary carries a third tire around his middle. Doesn’t slow him down much.
“Still bustin’ big, still rippin’ hard after all these years,” Scary Vacchieri said in a boisterous voice on the concourse level. This was right after the opening ceremony, before the final round of vroom-vroom-vrooming. They must have heard Scary down by Benny Binion’s statue.
The engine in his Honda dirt bike is one of those 250cc displacement jobs, but Scary Vacchieri’s enthusiasm for riding it is at least 1000cc, or 2000cc. Despite finishing eighth in his heat race, he appeared to be the happiest guy in church.
But amateur arenacross is mostly the bastion of young riders, some of which are barely tall enough to see over the handlebars. They mostly catch little air now; their tiny legs and tiny motorcycles preclude them from jumping two whoops at once and catching big air.
The big air hopefully will come as they move up the ladder, which is sort of the idea behind amateur arenacross. The phenoms one day will graduate to Supercross, where factory riders can make multimillions in sponsorships and endorsements and marry celebrities such as Pink.
For now, though, the amateur arenacrossers are a pox on their parents’ checkbooks. But it’s mostly a good kind of pox; arenacross seems a motorized alternative to Little League, except the equipment costs more.
You didn’t have to look very far or long to bear witness to some family bonding or a Kodak moment.
After one of the races, I was strolling around what is normally the barn area at the South Point but what this weekend was serving as a paddock and staging area for the off-road bikes.
One of the little Kawasaki riders, a tyke named Tristan Edmonds, was perusing a video board that showed he had finished 10th among 16 riders in the AMSOIL Dominator Supermini final — not exactly like striking out with the bases loaded, but not exactly touching ’em all like Kelly Leak in “The Bad News Bears,” either.
A grown-up, who I’m told was Tristan Edmonds’ father, came over and kissed his little guy on the top of the head. When I saw them last, father and son were headed away from the noise and the fumes, and father had his arm around son. They were alone in the barn; it made for a poignant image.
Just around the corner, a 9-year-old rider from California named Derrick Fisher and Bowen Bell, a 6-year-old from Idaho with a red and yellow mohawk, had taken some of the dirt from their Alpinestars and built their own arenacross track in miniature.
They were down on the barn floor, playing with little toy motorcycles in the dirt and the DNA, and their hands were getting filthy, and they appeared to be getting along famously.
They were oblivious to the noise and the fumes coming from inside the arena, and also to their parents, who were keeping an eye on them from a distance.
Las Vegas Review-Journal sports columnist Ron Kantowski can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0352. Follow him on Twitter: @ronkantowski.