For several years now, the most attended annual event at Virginia International Raceway has been the AMA Superbike Big Kahuna Nationals. Until this year, I haven't been able to make it out for the event featuring the riders from the various classes in AMA motorcycle racing nor have I ever attended any kind of paved track motorcycle race from any series. This season, the championship battle had been dominated by Ben Spies of the factory Suzuki team whose teammate - Matt Mladin, won it in 2005. VIR would prove to be an important weekend in the title chase as misfortune struck during Friday practice when Spies crashed his bike sustaining a broken right hand. Despite the injury, Spies planned to race the following 2 days to continue to fight for his points lead in the Superbike class.
With my new Nikon SLR camera, I headed up to VIR alone for the Saturday practices and races. The weather was the hottest I had ever experienced at VIR and was actually worse than the weekend at Indy for us earlier in the summer. I spent the day mingling around the paddock area and pit fence along with taking a seat on the hill over-looking the track's turns as the various levels of riders in different classes raced by all day. I got some good practice in using my camera and took in the sights around the north course that the bikes raced on. For all the other racing series I have seen at VIR, they used the entire course which consists of the north and south courses. The full course would be too fast and dangerous for the bikes. After the final Superbike race, I headed over to the podium area and watched the riders get their trophies and the trophy girls parade around for the cameras. Race 1 was won by Mladin over his teammate who finished second while riding with a severely broken hand. Some of the pictures I took show the swelling on his hand that day.
The next day, I returned to VIR again with my friend Sean along for the ride. He too is into photography so this would be his first chance to shoot photos at a motorsports event and to visit VIR's historic race course and facilities. Race 2 was much like Race 1 with Mladin taking the checkered flag and gaining additional championship points on Spies who finished fourth, just off the podium.
As much as I enjoyed the weekend's racing, I hardly think the AMA racing compares to the excitement of the Grand Rolex Series race featuring the Daytona Prototypes roaring around the full course. In case you missed my breakdown of this year's event, read it up at: Sunshine, beer, more playmates....and more racing too.
The AMA has a great series and the fan excitement is real. With the personalities and companies involved, I expect the Big Kahuna Classic to remain an important event at VIR for years to come.