Right in the middle of one of the most exciting Supercross seasons ever, things suddenly come to a crashing stop with the arrival of the COVID-19 virus. So, what’s next when it comes to the rest of the 2020 Monster Energy AMA Supercross Championship?
Photography by Steve Cox
Of all of the thousands, perhaps millions, of questions out there regarding the coronavirus, one of them is: what’s going to happen to the 2020 Monster Energy AMA Supercross Series? In the grand scheme of things, yes, there are far more important questions and concerns on our minds right now than motorcycle racing when it relates to COVID-19. If you’re a Supercross fan, however, it’s hard not to at least wonder now and then what’s going to happen to the ’20 season, which was abruptly halted after 10 of 17 rounds and, unfortunately, right in the middle of one of the most exciting Supercross seasons ever. Some questions that quickly come to mind are: Will the season ever resume? If so, when and where? Will all 17 rounds eventually play out? Will there be double-headers? Will the Supercross Series and outdoor National MX Series collide later in the year, and, if so, which series will take precedence?
To answer these questions and more, and to get the latest information on the future of the 2020 Supercross season, we chatted with Senior Director of Operations – Supercross, Mike Muye.
Let’s get straight to the point. What is the situation with Supercross right now? Are your priorities now working on venue availability and times to hold the remaining seven races still left on the schedule?
Yes, that’s really where we’re at right now. You’ve seen everything that’s come out from our media team, stating kind of where we’re at as far as the event cancelations thus far and the season being postponed. We’re looking towards the future. We are going to host seven rounds at some point in the future. Venue availability is what we’re working through right now, to see what’s out there. A lot of these venues have tenants that would be playing. They’re kind of in the same holding pattern that we are, so once things start to ease up restrictions-wise, everybody’s going to kind of be vying for the same availability. So just kind of monitoring that situation, staying in communication with a few of the different venues that are on the list as well as potential others as we need to go that route.
In a best-case scenario, when do you think you might have the next race?
It’s hard to tell right now. Everything’s changing so rapidly. Just a few days ago it was announced that social distancing was extended through the end of the month [April]. It is kind of hard to tell, but it would likely be towards the latter end of the year when we finalize the 2020 season.
Knowing stadium availability will be difficult, will you still try to have races in the same stadiums that were canceled/postponed, or are you prepared to conduct races at non-traditional venues, such as outdoor NASCAR facilities like Daytona?
We’re not looking so much at the stadiums that were originally scheduled, we’re looking at [traditional stick and ball] stadiums specifically because that’s kind of the home of Supercross. But that being said, everything’s on the table right now. Our Routing and Tourist folks have contacts throughout North America with all the major sporting facilities and have been communicating daily with availability and trying to stay up on that. Beyond that, yes, we’re open to looking at other non-traditional venues. For us and the teams and riders as well, it’s important to get these races [in]. That’s kind of first and foremost is how are we going to get these done, and then we’ll figure out where.
Are you confident you will be able to finish out the season with 17 rounds?
Yes. We’re confident that we’ll be able to finish out the season with 17 rounds at this point. Obviously, things are fluid. We have no idea what’s going to happen in the next hour, six hours, 30 days. But at this point, we’re confident that we’ll be able to put on the final seven races.
Have any of the factory teams put any kind of time limit on when the Supercross season needs to be wrapped up?
No. We’ve been in communication with all the race teams, as well as the AMA. We’ve done as much as we can communications-wise with them. There’s no set “this is the date that you have to be stopped.” They all want to get these races in as much as we do. It’s kind of a conversation that’s ongoing more so than anybody saying, “This is what we’re doing, one direction or the other.”
There’s been a lot of talk about double-headers. Is that an option? If so, would they be held on consecutive days, or perhaps two main events on the same day/night? What are you considering when it comes to double-headers?
Back when Seattle first went off the schedule, that’s the conversation that we were having. At one point, we thought we were only going to have to deal with this one time and race Saturday/Sunday in Detroit and move on to the rest of the calendar. Obviously, a lot has changed since then. But the overall feedback from riders and teams [is] that’s not a good idea. That’s not something that any of them would feel comfortable with. That being said, we have had further dialogue on that in terms of possibly racing twice in a week with a few days in-between. That’s something that’s on the table right now being discussed.
Has there been any talk in the past about double points at some races if you can’t get all 17 in?
Of course, everything is on the table. We have had some conversations. We don’t want to do double points. It’s not necessarily something that’s high on the docket. It is an option, of course, but at this point, we feel comfortable in getting all seven rounds in. So, it hasn’t been high on the list of topics.
Is there any set number via the AMA or the FIM on how many Supercross rounds must happen before you can declare a champion? If, for some reason, things get worse and you just cannot do another race, would you be able to declare a champion as it stands now?
If it came to that, yes. We could declare champions. Neither the AMA nor the FIM has any minimum race guidelines. You date back to the first [Supercross championship] and there were only three [races]. It’s not something that we want to do. Neither Ken [Roczen] or Eli [Tomac] or Justin [Barcia], any of those guys, any of the 250 guys, none of them went into Daytona with the mindset that this would be their last race. So, it’s not fair to them. It’s not fair to the fans. It’s not fair to the teams or partners or anybody. So, that’s very, very last resort that that option would even be considered. And it hasn’t yet.
When this whole coronavirus thing first started happening, there was a lot of talk about races happening without spectators. Is that something that you would consider if it came down to it?
Yeah, of course, it would. Again, it’s important to all involved to carry out the races. There would still be a television component with our partners at NBC that’s integral to the sport. So, it is something that we would consider. We would prefer to have fans in the stands, but it’s going to kind of come down to what the CDC [Center for Disease Control] and the President all suggest as that time kind of rolls around. It is something being discussed.
Again, if it came down to it, would there be any chance that the Monster Cup would pay points toward the championship?
We’re still kind of working through most of that. Kind of circling around what options are with the Monster Cup. Major League Soccer plays in that same stadium [Dignity Health Sports Park] in Carson, California. So, with their season somewhat in limbo at this point, we’ll probably start to have conversations around that event, as well. To say it is part of the conversation right now and be a points-paying race, I think is probably a stretch, but it is part of the conversation into that timeframe, is somewhat of what we’re looking at.
Are you concerned that crowd attendance might be down when racing returns because people will still shy away from large crowds?
Yeah, of course. It’s going to take a little while for everybody to kind of get back to a certain comfort level of being in public spaces. We work with some of the best stadiums in the world, so obviously we will make sure that every proper protocol is followed prior to having any events that would include fans.
Feld Entertainment was forced to lay-off several people. Will that have any effect on the Supercross program?
Obviously, with the COVID-19 outbreak which has resulted in some unprecedented shutdowns that have never been seen before, it’s affected all of our shows worldwide. It’s unfortunate, the circumstances that everybody’s in right now, but we had to make some difficult decisions along the way. We’re moving forward. Dave [Prater, Director of Operations – Supercross] and I and Sean [Brennan, Media Relations] and the team here are still progressing with Supercross 2020, 2021. As we head down that path, we’re a 100-percent confident that we’re going to be able to produce a world-class show when we’re ready to go racing.
What about the outdoor Motocross Championship? Are you working with MX Sports Pro Racing regarding possible racing schedule conflicts?
We are working closely with MX Sports, the teams and athletes so that everyone is aligned on what motocross and Supercross racing will look like for the remainder of the year. We all have to be aligned in this unprecedented time.
Is there anything you want supercross fans to know that we haven’t hit on?
The biggest thing is when we do pick back up, we’re picking up on one of the best seasons of supercross ever. We were averaging almost 50,000 fans. We have an incredible points battle in all three classes. I think that’s the most exciting part of this is that it’s not over. We’re going to be moving forward. It’s something to look forward to. I know all of us here are looking forward to it. Hopefully, your viewers at home are, as well.
So, one more time: you are 100-percent sure you will finish out the season this year with 17 rounds?
I never say 100-percent. We’re 99.9-percent. Let’s reiterate. That is the current plan. That is what we’re planning for, and that’s 100-percent the goal. CN