Archives: The Ritchies of RedBud
As I walked through the massive hallways of Lucas Oil Stadium as thousands of fans flooded out of the stadium after this year’s Monster Energy AMA Supercross race it started. Above the den of hundreds of conversations about that night’s racing one fan yelled out at the top of his lungs, “REEEED BUUUUD!!!” In response hundred of his fellow race goers simultaneously yelled back the iconic motocross shout, “REEEED BUUUUD!!!” It was especially appropriate that to hear the fans of the Indy Supercross doing the Red Bud yell. That night RedBud’s own brother and sister team of Tim and Amy Ritchie were honored during opening ceremonies by the Legends and Heroes Tour.
Archives: The Ritchies of RedBud
I went down to the floor of the stadium after the ceremony honoring Amy and Tim to see if I could catch a quick interview with them. As I walked up none other than motocross legend Broc Glover was telling the Ritchies a great story of showing up to RedBud Track ‘n Trail in May of 1976 to try to qualify for his first AMA Motocross National and how by sheer chance, years later a photo taken on a little Kodak Instamatic by a friend of one of the guys who was lined up next to Glover at the gate all those years ago surfaced, showed Glover’s first clutch drop as a pro.
A few moments later as we started our conversation Amy joked about having to try to keep a constant eye on her mischievous little brother when they were growing up around the track. As Amy tells it with a grin, her parents’ attitude back then was “You’re the oldest, you’re responsible.”
Amy and Tim grew up watching their parents Gene and Nancy, along with the Patterson and Miller families, foster RedBud from a rolling plot of rural farmland to one of the premier motocross facilities in all the world. Just this past fall, they showed the world just how far RedBud had come, by hosting an international event, when Motocross des Nations came to the little Michigan burg of Buchanan. In spite of the challenges of near constant rain turning the track and surroundings into a mud bog, thousands of fans ignored the weather and packed the place to watch the prestigious competition.
Just a few months out from hosting their biggest race ever, when asked about the takeaway from des Nations, Tim answers quickly, “I wish we had a do over!” Not that the event was a failure, he explains, but had it not been such a soggy weekend, it would have been absolutely over the top. Things as a fan you don’t think about, such as parking. Amy mentions they’d rented land from neighboring farmers to use as parking lots, “but when the first vehicle got buried up to the axles in mud, that was it, we couldn’t use it. And it wasn’t like we could ask for our money back.”
Things like that can driver promoters nuts. But the Ritchie family has been at the game long enough to know they simply have to roll with the punches.
A very unglamorous job is how it all started in 1972 for an eight-year-old Amy at RedBud.
“We lived in Valparaiso [Indiana] when we bought the track,” Amy explains. “It was an hour away, so on weekends usually I would go with dad to the track because there were three kids and he wasn’t going to leave mom with three kids, but he couldn’t take them all, so usually I would go. Two other families were involved and they brought their kids and we would do fun things like picking up rocks.”
After a year of back-breaking work, the track hosted its first race in 1973. A year later came RedBud’s first national, won by Michigan’s own Mike Hartwig (500cc) and Bultaco ace Ken Zahrt in the 250cc class.
There were a lot of motocross tracks back in the 1970s and we wondered why RedBud was able to survive and thrive all those years.
“We were too young to know what was going on, but years later dad told us that back in those days there were no contracts,” Amy said of hosting nationals. “With the AMA it was just year to year and he was always trying to improve and do something creative with the track so they wouldn’t leave you off the list the next year.”
Tim points out that as he and Amy started taking on more responsibilities over the years, they were fortunate in having their dad to guide them.
“Being young and crazy, there were times I’d try to do something with the track and my dad would say, ‘I don’t know if they are going to like that.’ And most of the time he was right and we’d have to take that off the track or they’d make us modify it. So it was great for us being second generation to have someone who’d already experienced these things and could pass them on.”
One obstacle that Tim somehow built and got by with, which has now become one of the legendary jumps in all of motocross is “LaRocco’s Leap”.
“That was something I fought hard for,” Tim said. “I was out at Mike LaRocco’s track and he had this massive 150-foot jump he called Kong. I told him that was similar to a jump we had. So I went out and straightened out the approach and did some modifications to the face of the jump and Mike came and tried it out. I asked him if we could name it “Kong” and he didn’t say anything. He’s probably glad he didn’t say yes, because announcer Larry Maiers named it after LaRocco when he was the first to clear it during a national weekend.”
Amy adds, “We like to tease Mike that the jump is more famous than he is.”
Amy and Tim are also trying to do their part in bringing in more young people to the sport. Being a national track, Amy said a lot of young riders were a intimidated to try to ride it, but now RedBud is hosting a Youth National with the track being prepped totally differently to make it ridable even for riders on PW50s.
In the end Amy and Tim both think the best part of running RedBud is meeting all the young riders and their families when they are coming up.
“One day we see a kid going around and think, ‘Wow, he’s pretty fast.’ And then the next thing you know he’s doing great at the nationals,” Tim concludes.
“It’s the people,” Amy agrees. “I had one guy come up to me and thank me for giving him a great place to raise his kid. That’s the kind of thing you just can’t put a price on.”