Hangtown Motocross, Annual Event Kick Starts Summer Season
Photography by Madison Finnie
Hangtown Motocross has been occurring for decades now. The official start of the Lucas Oil AMA PRO Motocross Championship kicked off again in the California Foothills near Sacramento under roasting hot conditions the third weekend of May. Why the name Hangtown? Well, the original track location was in nearby Placerville – a hardscrabble place in gold country. Placerville has its roots in mining and was once known for its notorious reputation for vigilante justice carried out by hangings. Gulp!
The new home of the event, Prairie City OHV Park in nearby Rancho Cordova is bigger and better but the Hangtown moniker remains. It’s actually a worldwide motocross rallying cry truth be told. But the only hanging going on here is hang time, as in massive motorcycle aerials around the miles-long twisty course complete with elevation changes, deep ruts and other hard-to-conquer obstacles. So tough is this track, face-down dirt naps by top riders are not uncommon.
Hangtown is a celebration of sorts. It offers a new beginning each spring. Contemporary motocross enjoys two major seasons. Monster Energy Supercross, held in the winter and spring months, is staged inside major sporting arenas across America and is well known for its crazy, high-flying acrobatics. The Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship is held outdoors during the summer and fall, focusing on large, expansive all-terrain tracks. The American Motorcycle Association (AMA) sanctions both series.
Competition at Pro Motocross events such as Hangtown feature racing in two main divisions; 250cc and 450cc. Regional classes like the FMF two-stroke race are thrown in for filler and offer nearly as much excitement as the two featured attractions. And the field is truly a national and even international collection of MX mavens with Europeans seeded in the lineup.
The going was tough this year and true to form, only the strong survived. Which flashed us back to that time Yamaha’s Damon Bradshaw was testing here. It was ugly. When the guy that ran the placed asked what he could do to make it better, Bradshaw quipped “Put a closed sign out front!” But it has gotten better over the years, however, the 2017 track condition was no picnic. Racer X Online’s Steve Matthes noted “The Hangtown track this year was brutal. It was heavily watered and prepped so much that massive ruts developed and later on, it got pretty hard and choppy.”
With Friday serving as a tech-day, Saturday was sun up to sun down action. From the 7:30am driver’s meeting to the 5pm winner’s circle, the dirt flew for 10 straight hours.
The 250cc class title was won by Abingdon, Virginia’s Zach Osborne riding a Husqvarna machine! A Husqvarna? That brings back 1970s trail riding memories as well as grandpa chainsawing while hung over! But Osborne is no slouch! Fact is, he went on to make it two-for-two at the next Pro Motocross event in Glen Helen shortly after Hangtown.
The big 450cc class winner was Kawasaki factory rider Eli Tomac who calls Cortez, Colorado home. Once he got some adjustments on a different combination figured out, he flew past France’s Marvin Musquin to take home the trophy.
And just like that – the stars of the Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship Series off on another season of outdoor escapades. The sights, sounds, and sunburns of Hangtown Motocross couldn’t have provided a better sendoff. For full Hangtown event results, as well as the remaining 2017 Pro MX event dates and locations, click here