Arenacross races into July Fourth celebration lineup

Friday, July 2, 2010
Tucker Thrower poses on a motorcross course in Cape Girardeau County Wednesday, June 30, 2010. Thrower began riding at age seven and has been going ever since. You can catch him in Saturday's USA Veteran's Arenacross during the Fourth of July celebration at Arena Park in cape Girardeau. (Laura Simon)

Thrill-seeking riders from Southeast Missouri and the Midwest will be pushing the limits with their dirt bikes as they go the distance at the arenacross event Saturday at Arena Park.

Local rider Tucker Thrower is working to make his name in the sport of arenacross. Thrower, who turns 20 this month, said he's been doing arenacross racing since he was 7.

"My dad [Tim Thrower] used to race when he was younger, and I found one of his trophies in the basement and asked him about it," Thrower said. "He just kind of got me into it after that."

Arenacross races are fast-paced trials of a rider's skill, with narrow tracks and plenty of riders fighting for the lead spot. A favorite in recent years has been the pit bike races, which is what Thrower competes in.

A pit bike is basically a miniature dirt bike that has been modified to have a powerful engine. The bikes were originally designed for easy transportation of riders between races -- hence, the term pit. Racing teams started mutating the bikes to be able to run the tracks and jumps, and what was a hobby for tinkerers has grown into a common element in motocross racing.

From the open beginner class to the open pro, there will be classes for racers of all ages Saturday. There will be an 85cc Supermini Open race and a Veteran's Open for riders 40 and older. There will also be quad races, which will have their own modified track. Some races offer cash prizes, while others offer large trophies.

Thrower's love for racing has taken him around the Midwest to compete, and he is eyeing taking his involvement in the sport further.

"I would love to go to the next level and get my pro license and make a living doing this, and that's what I'm trying to do," he said. "Of course, you can't do it your whole life. You try to go pro and do that for a few years, as long as you can, and then you try to make a career out of something you like that involves dirt bikes and arenacross."

Normally riders have to travel to St. Louis, Mason, Ill., Red Bud, Mich., and other cities to compete. Many of the competitors said they are looking forward to getting to race close to home.

"We've had phenomenal interest from the community and really regionally," said Todd Rapp, owner of Campus Scooters in Cape Girardeau. "We have some coming in from Springfield [Missouri] and a couple from Chicago. There aren't a lot of races in this area, and racers here locally have to travel three to four hours to race."

Rapp said organizers passed out fliers for the U.S.A. Veterans Arenacross at a race in Illinois recently and the response from regional racers was positive.

The Monster Truck Winter Nationals and Bad Boy Arenacross Racing show at the Show Me Center in February exposed many Southeast Missourians to the sport of arenacross.

"This is a little bit different from what people saw at the Show Me Center," Rapp said. "This is an outdoor track, so you've got a lot longer run. This will have a good 500 yards straight ahead with some big, huge jumps on it, so it's going to be a fun track."

Rapp said the competitors will range from pros to local youth entries.

"We sell the little pit bikes here, and there's no place to ride or race them, so we'll have a huge pit bike class for this event," he said, adding some riders are as young as 7 or 8 years old.

While races often offer prize money, the competition is enough for some riders.

"I usually race every weekend," Thrower said. "It's an adrenaline rush, a big one. Not a whole lot of people do it. It's a little different of a sport. It's fun for kids and adults."

Arenacross came to life from the sports of motocross and supercross. Supercross events are usually in large stadium-style tracks, and arenacross is a smaller version of those events. By being downsized from the huge stadiums, arenacross is infiltrating cities that otherwise might not see the sport, including Cape Girardeau.

"My family is into it quite a bit; I think it would be awesome to get Cape more involved" in arenacross, Thrower said. "I think if people would see more of it that they would get into it, too, because it is exciting to watch."

Gates open at 4 p.m., posters and autographs will be available around 6, and the races start at 7:30. Tickets are available at the Arena Building box office and Campus Scooters on Broadway. Tickets are $10 for general admission and $20 for box seats, and are cash only. For more information on riding in the event, call Campus Scooters at 334-3888.

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