For Eric McKay, participating in the Geico Motorcycle Budds Creek National motocross race is priceless for the 10-year veteran professional motocross and supercross racer who hails from Hollywood in St. Mary’s County.
One of the biggest motocross races on the East Coast is coming Saturday to Budds Creek Motocross Park in Mechanicsville. The race is the 11th round of the 12-race Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship. Racers from around the world will compete for the pro motocross championship title in the 31st running of the event.
“Racing professionally comes with sacrifices most can’t imagine,” McKay said. “So for me to be able to have one of the 12 rounds at Budds Creek each year is priceless to me, and I couldn’t be more excited to hit the dirt.”
This year, 100 of the world’s best riders, including some from the surrounding area, will race for the championship crown in the 250 and 450cc class.
Preparing for a national motocross competition is difficult as there is really no way to prepare for the turbulent and challenging course that riders will encounter.
“Budds is always a different track at the national,” McKay said. “We can train and train through the weeks leading up to the race, but come race day it demands a much higher level of commitment. The most challenging parts are actually the most fun. During a pro national, the track will have deep ruts that make it a fast, but challenging course.”
The 450cc is the premier class. Each class does two motos, 30 minutes plus two-lap race. Riders get awarded points for each race to accumulate a two-race total for the day.
“Motocross is a sport like no other. We aren’t football or NASCAR. It is a physically demanding sport that requires each rider to live on the edge every single time we hit the track,” McKay said. “When most people hear ‘dirtbikes’, they think of regular trail bikes that buzz around the yard or through the woods. What make motocross different is the ever-changing track, the obstacles, the racers elbow to elbow going 50-60 miles per hour around the track and through the air.”
Despite suffering an injury roughly two months ago, McKay is confident he can compete at the event this year.
“My goal for Budds is to place in the top 20 in my qualifying times. Seven weeks ago, I sustained an injury that required surgery,” McKay said. “Training and seat time have been minimal for me leading up to the event, but I feel strong and confident to be able to compete this year at the race. My training compound is here and I have a fairly large, supportive following from the county. A race like this does usually bring out family and friends from all over, so it would be hard to even start to say how large the overwhelming support will be.”
McKay also noted that for a privateer, it can be difficult to compete against the top racers in the business who will be riding Saturday, but the local rider has experience competing at Budds Creek Motocross Park.
“As a privateer it is very hard to compete against the top racers in the business. But for realistic results with what we are given, I believe I have made great accomplishments only few will ever get the chance to achieve,” McKay said. “Budds Creek is always the one race a local racer wants to make the main races in. My results have varied, but each year since 2009 I have competed in the Budds Creek Pro National.”
Another rider aiming to have a strong showing Saturday is rookie racer Max Sanford in his first season as a professional motocross rider.
Even though Sanford, from Pasadena in Anne Arundel County, is in his rookie season on the professional tour, the 18-year old has prior experience competing at Budds Creek as an amateur.
“I have won many races there as an amateur, but have not raced there as a professional yet,” he said. “The most fun parts of the track are the big jumps and the elevation changes. It is great to see as a spectator. The most challenging parts are the tight turns on the track, as it is difficult to maneuver the bike without making mistakes.”
Sanford is hoping to have a strong showing in his debut at Budds Creek as a professional rider and wanted to encourage people in the community to come check out the event.
“These are the best motocross athletes in the world coming to Budds Creek,” Sanford said. “The sport is very intense and thrilling for both the racers and the fans. Us racers dedicate our lives to compete at these type of national events.”