MAYFIELD - What started out as a weekend of riding fun has turned into an opportunity to race for a national championship.
Mayfield's B.J. Smith recently raced his way to the AMSOIL National Arenacross Series East Coast championship and will represent the area at the National Championships in Las Vegas the first week in May.
"I wasn't planning for it, just kind of winging it," Smith said. "One day I called my mechanic and trainer Brian Miller and asked, 'What are you doing this weekend?' He said nothing. So I said 'You want to go to Worcester, Mass., for some arenacross and he said, 'Why not?'"
Mayfield’s B.J. Smith will compete in the AMSOIL National Arenacross Series National Championships in Las Vegas after winning the East Coast title in the Over 25 ProAm division. (The Leader-Herald/James A. Ellis)
Smith came away with a third-place finish in the Over 25 ProAm division that weekend.
"I was told if you finish in the top four [in the series] you can go to championship in Vegas," Smith said. "So we decided to go to Baltimore and I got second and the points lead. Then we saw there was only Greensboro separating us from a trip to Vegas. I should have had the win down there but I used my head, finished second and won the championship. That was huge."
Smith earned the red 1E plate that he will carry on his 250 Honda instead of his familiar No. 188 at the championship event.
"It [the 1E plate] is a big target but I am pretty happy," Smith said. "Baltimore and Greensboro were tough because I had a chance to win both of them but lapped bikes got in my way. It was tough being so close to winning but in the end the championship meant more to me than a possible win, especially after traveling 12 hours to North Carolina. It was actually pretty tight between the top three people going into the last championship event with just a few points separating us."
Smith won the title with 44 points, followed by Nicholas Peccarelli of Nutley, N.J., with 35 points and Nathan Mutch of Newburgh, Ontario, with 20.
The arenacross championships will be run May 2 through 4 at the South Point Hotel and Casino. However, it is not the only motorcyle racing event in town.
"That weekend is the Monster Supercross finals at Sam Boyd Stadium, so it is actually going to be a pretty big weekend in the racing industry," he said. "There are going to be a lot of people from the industry in town and for me to go out there, represent this area and New York in an event that will be televised and talked about is big for me."
Smith has raced locally in all divisions from pee wees to pro and has won numerous titles and events on the CNYMRA circuit.
"I have been doing this for about 20 years and eight years racing at the pro level," he said "I also have been riding pro in Canada. That has been a big accomplishment for me. This year I was getting ready for a national race [in Canada] and I went to Royal Mountain, my home track, to have some fun at before going to and getting ready for one of the biggest races in Canada with a lot of big sponsors there. I hit a kicker and it sent me on my way and I broke my wrist."
Smith compared arenacross to the other types of racing he has participated in.
"Arena is tighter and smaller," he said "You are constantly working and thinking. Supercross is a little more open. In arenacross you run 30- to 35-second lap times, while in supercross, it is about a minute and motocross is two minutes. There is little room for error because you can't make it up like you can in the others. The jumps are big and the corners are tight. It is pretty much like a demolition derby. After a race, my bike had rubber and ding marks on it. If you leave yourself open going into a corner, somebody is going to take advantage of it. I had my share of getting knocked off the track and I did my share of knocking off the track."
Smith has run both a 450 and a 250 Honda in competition but chose to run the smaller bike inside.
"I found the 250 to be better and I felt more comfortable on it," he said. "The 450 had so much power that in a tight arena you are not using it. I felt I could ride the 250 more to my ability and it more suited an aggressive hold it open style."
Earning the opportunity to compete for the championship was one challenge, now Smith and his crew are working out how to get from New York to Las Vegas.
"We looked into driving but it was just too much time and not really cost effective," he said. "We decided it will be best to ship my bike out and fly. We have some things worked out so we can get there early, get settled in, check out the track and get some practice in."
Smith will be joined on the trip by Miller and his wife, Darci, Steve and Heather Melita.
"I have family that want to go and friends in Texas and Utah that are going to meet me out there," he said. "I have had friends text me to find out more and support me. A lot of people have asked 'What can I do to help?'"
Smith appreciates the help, support and sponsorships he has received from the Miller and Melita families, his grandmother, family and friends, especially his mother and father, Bernie and Barbara Smith.
"Racing for as long as I have and getting to the professional level is great but now to be able to race in a place where everyone says you need to go visit is special," he said. "Now to be able to go visit and race there on pretty much the biggest stage there is."
He is also helped out by sponsors Millers Fitness, Whitey's Deli, Hart's Motorsports, Buanno's Body Shop, Barney's Signs, Pine Lake Stoves, Fulton County Electric, Team Merica, One Industries, Six Six One, Smith Optics, Arai, Monster Energy, EVS, Ogio, Tag, Sunline, Yoshimura and of course, mom and dad.
"Brian [Miller] taught me to calm down and not have that inner wild child that just wants to go for it and think big picture instead of spur of the moment," Smith said. "That was actually part of the strategy once we got down to Greensboro. This is our third year working together.
I believe I have the tools and the equipment to get there. Now it is just putting the pieces together. Unfortunately, living in New York, the only training I can do right now is in the gym but we may make a trip down south to a couple of indoor tracks to stay in shape. I am going to be out there for a week. I think I have what it takes to win the title and I am going to do everything I can to train. We are going to Vegas and we are all in."
The 2014 season of AMSOIL Arenacross, featuring Ricky Carmichael's Road to Supercross. Feld Motor Sports announced the races will be broadcast on FOX Sports 1.
The Worcester, Mass. event was broadcast last Sunday.
The second broadcast from Baltimore, Md., and Baltimore Arena will air on March 2, at Noon and the Greensboro, N.C. event will air on March 16 at noon.