JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Break out the sunscreen out and load up on the water, then get ready to enjoy a day at the race track that might not come around again for a long, long time.
The state hasn’t hosted a stop on the outdoor national motocross circuit since Alachua’s Gatorback in 1997, when a who’s who of racing legends led the podiums. Jeff Emig won both motos that day to edge iconic rider Jeremy McGrath in the 250 class. Ricky Carmichael claimed the 125 race as his sterling career was just beginning.
Since that weekend — March 2, 1997 — pro motocross on the nation’s top circuit has been absent from the state. It returns Saturday when the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship’s US Assure Florida National debuts at Jacksonville’s WW Ranch Motocross Park. Practice begins at 8 a.m. The 125 class all-stars race starts at 11:45 a.m.
General admission tickets for children (6 to 11 years old) start at $20 (plus fees) for Saturday’s event. Adult tickets begin at $50 (fees not included). Parking is $10.
“It’s exciting, I was super stoked when pro motocross announced it back on the schedule,” said rider Adam Cianciarulo, a Port Orange native. “I’m really digging the home vibes. It’s about time we got a national back in Florida.”
It is the fifth stop on the 12-leg tour, and the only one remotely close to the southeast. Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota and Washington will host the next four weeks.
For riders like Cianciarulo, who has won nine of his 14 races this year — all four in motocross and five in the January-to-May supercross — it’s a welcome return to a course that feels like home.
“For one the heat, the conditions make it so much harder physically on everybody,” he said. “A lot of the motocross world is based in California where they get some dry heat, but nothing like this. Getting off the plane from California and stepping into this, it’s a whole different world. Luckily, I’ve been fortunate enough to grow up here and I trained here during the week, so I’m a little bit more used to it. But it certainly poses a challenge to everybody.”
It’s also a major stage for the area, especially for WW Ranch and owner Wayne Scarborough Jr.
His track showed in 2017 that it could handle an event comparable to the Florida Nationals. It scrambled to get everything in place for the final round of the FIM MXGP after the event had to be moved from Gatorback Cycle Park.
The track had just two months to prepare for the event and pulled it off well. According to the city, the event had a $2 million economic impact on Jacksonville.
Saturday’s Florida Nationals are even bigger.
“[The] statement I hope it makes is were back, Florida’s back, we’re trying to make Florida motocross great again,” Scarborough said.