AMA Club Profile: The Lodi Motorcycle Club
April 10, 2013
The Lodi Motorcycle Club—75 Years With The AMA
By LMC President Paul Toms And Club Member Al Webber
In 1937, the Lodi Motorcycle Club in California was issued AMA sanction 46. For the first 16 years of its existence, the LMC operated first out of members’ homes, and then out of a clubhouse on Douglas Avenue in Lodi.
The club got a real break in 1953 when State Route 99 was completed and a “borrow pit” at the far end of Morse Road from which dirt had been excavated for the highway came on the market. Pit areas are ideal for motorcycle racing activities and that quality has only grown in importance over the years as homes and other developments have steadily moved into the countryside surrounding Lodi.
The LMC scraped and saved, sold the Douglas Avenue property and bought that 12-acre area for $2,500. The club has owned and operated the track—called the Cycle Bowl—ever since.
The LMC has run scrambles, rough scrambles, hare and hound—almost any kind of event that places bikes on dirt. Since the very first race, however, Class C dirt-track has been the mainstay of racing at Lodi.
The Bowl has two features that make it nearly ideal for dirt-track events. First, it is big enough to comfortably fit both a quarter-mile oval and a half-mile TT and, second, the dirt itself has a very high percentage of clay that has created the famous “blue groove” surface that so many riders have enjoyed over the years.
The LMC itself is a diverse group of members that has included police officers, a former Lodi mayor, a local judge, business owners and most every other trade, all united in their shared interest in motorcycle racing and keeping dirt-track racing alive.
In addition to running 25 to 30 races per year, the LMC has also been a regular participant in the Lodi Grape Festival and the Lodi Christmas Parade of Lights, both public festivals that allow the LMC to remind the central California area that motorcycle racing remains active and available to all.
The LMC brought Mile racing back to the West Coast in 2009 and 2010 with the Stockton Mile—an event that set attendance records and provided racing opportunities for pro and amateur racers alike. Having seen many racetracks over the years falter and close, LMC members attend any city or county planning meetings that might involve the Cycle Bowl area in an ongoing effort to maintain a positive working relationship with those authorities. The LMC takes its stewardship of the second oldest racetrack in the country seriously!
As you might expect from a race facility that has been around this long, an awful lot of racers have tried their hands at the Bowl. One of the real pleasures that the current LMC members get is when an “older” fellow comes to the gate, pays his spectator fee and then watches the races while telling us how he or his brother or his dad raced here in the ’60s or ’70s.
There is a real sense of history here.
The Bowl has provided a venue for countless amateur racers and still does today. On an average Saturday night, 90 percent of the riders are Sportsman riders who have no interest in “turning pro” or getting anything more than a plastic trophy for beating their pals in the Vet or Vintage classes. These riders are important to the LMC—they make up the backbone of the sport. At the same time, however, the racers who’ve started out at Lodi as amateurs but have gone on to the pro ranks are many and famous.
Probably the most famous racer to have learned the art of backin’ ’er in at Lodi, and then taking those skills to the pro ranks, is Kenny Roberts Sr. Starting on air-cooled Suzukis, it was obvious from the start that Kenny had something special. He proved that first with GNC plates in 1973 and ’74 and then 500cc world roadracing championships in ’78, ’79 and ’80.
Another LMC alumnus is Chris Carr. The LMC archives contain many photos of Chris on 50cc bikes (go to Chris’s webpage and look up “my first race”—he just turned 6 and he’s running a Lodi TT), taking those first steps that led him to GNC national No. 1 plates in ’92, ’99, ’01, ’02, ’03, ’04 and ’05. His dad has given up starting Cycle Bowl races but we still enjoy seeing him in the stands.
One of Chris’s main Lodi rivals was Doug Chandler. Doug has left a big mark on the sport, being one of only four riders (one of the others is Roberts) to score a “Grand Slam” by winning one each AMA roadrace, TT, short track, Mile and Half-mile event. The transferability of a dirt-track background can be readily seen in Doug’s two AMA Superbike championships.
Other GNC and AMA stars who started at Lodi and went on to the pro ranks are [alphabetically] Norifume Abe, Dave Bostrom and his sons Ben and Eric, Alex “Jorgy” Jorgenson, Rich Oliver, Wayne Rainey, Jim Rice, Kurtis and Kenny Roberts Jr., and Matt and Nate Wait.
Some say that Alex’s brother, Kim, was just as quick as Alex. Kim’s son, Toby, was a rising young star until his untimely passing. The LMC still hosts an annual Toby Memorial race with the proceeds going to a high school scholarship in Toby’s name and to an injured rider fund.
The Lodi Cycle Bowl has made many a racer, but at the same time each one has added, in his own way, to the history of the Bowl (the Paul Toms grass skirt fiasco notwithstanding). The future will certainly expand upon that history as each succeeding generation of racers continues to learn and hone the skills of riding, sliding and racing that is at the heart of dirt-tracking.
Much is said and written about how dirt-track racing might survive and grow as a sport in America. However differently each of us views the future, though, we can all agree that a grassroots, accessible race program is fundamental to the sport and that without a venue for new riders to try the sport and to become skilled at it, the sport will simply die.
If a retrospective racing philosophy is a key to a track’s survival, then the Lodi Motorcycle Club should produce two things—many more great racers and another 59 years of great racing.
About the American Motorcyclist Association
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