Today we sit down with Zach Martino. Along with his dad, he owns and operates Joliet Motorsports park located in Wilmington, Illinois. (www.jolietmx.com)
As a motocross rider, I always think...It would be so awesome to have my own track! But besides riding, most of us have no real idea what goes on behind the scenes to make each time out as fun as possible. So thanks for answering some questions for us.
At Joliet Motorsports Park, there are 3 tracks including an outdoor MX track, SX track, and a kids track. What does it take to prep for an open ride day? Does it vary based on the season, weather, etc?
Hey Kyle, thanks for having me . We run practice 4 days per week, Tuesday and Thursday evenings from 5-9pm, plus Saturdays and Sundays from 10am- 3pm. Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays I’ll do track maintenance with the skidder. Most of this involves, pushing dirt back and it takes about half the day to do that.
On open practice days I do any other skidder work that needs to be done like rebuild Jumps / berms on practice days. I do this before opening so the dirt is wet from being flipped, I’ll do that until about one pm. After that I jump in the water truck for about two and a half hours. Midway threw watering my dad will start grooming until I finish, then we will switch jobs and I will finish grooming while my father will continue watering areas I could not get with a smaller truck. A lot of people don’t realize that it takes all day to prep for an open ride. During the hot summer months , I’ll start watering a couple hours earlier to account for evaporation.
Besides a lot of time, how many gallons of fuel does it take to get the tracks ready?
I typically go through 100-150 gallons of diesel per week depending on the shape of the track, plus around 30 gallons of gas. When we make big track changes the usage jumps up to around 250-300 gallons.
What equipment does it take to run and maintain a track? I would imagine that just like our bikes, it also requires quite a bit of maintenance?
We use 2 tractors, both for grooming, a skidder, and 3 water trucks ... If you ask me a dozer is by far the best piece of equipment you can own.
Maintaining all of the equipment is a lot of work and I spend off days keeping them in good condition.
You guys also have a night series on the Supercross track, does that take special preparation?
We do, night races are much easier to prep for verses an outdoor track because the track is half the size. This cuts down prep time and there’s a lot less watering that needs done.
Speaking of races, how many people are working behind the scenes to make it flow smoothly?
About 18-20, for a Sunday race there’s three to four running the office, starting gate, referee, announcer, 5 flaggers, 2 paramedics, front gate, in addition to my dad and myself, everyone is a big help. We have a pretty smooth program now that we have the right crew.
I think a misconception is that if you own the track then you get to ride all the time. How often do you actually get to ride yourself? Do you have a nice prepped track too, or do you mostly ride on days when the park is closed?
That’s funny you ask that , I get asked that question all the time. In October of 2016, I bought a new ktm 450. As of today April 10th, 2018 I have just over 26hrs on the bike. I also have a Husky 125 that only has about 15 hours.
So I get to ride very little, plus it’s very boring riding closed days. Besides that, I also have to work to do on the track those days.
When I was young I rode everyday no matter what the condition was; Rain or shine, but as I’m older now I don’t enjoy that. If I do get a chance to ride it’s a Thursday night or Sunday practice.
I would also imagine that you would get tired of riding the same track, do you have time to make it to other tracks on the weekends if you are open?
It does get old, and very rarely do I get out. I raced Red Bud last year for 4th of July and that was the first time I had to been to a different track in 2 years. Being a track owner is a 7 day per week job. There has never been a time where I had nothing to do. It’s constant work, but I try to race Red Bud or Motoland at least once a year.
How do you choose when you will and will not be open?
The biggest challenge is prepping for rain. If the track is prepped right you can open within a day or two of heavy rain; if not, you’ll be closed for a week and the tracks will be mud. If it’s gonna be muddy we will cancel because it’s not worth opening. After a mud Practice it’s triple the work to get tracks back together, so sometimes it’s just not worth it.
Drainage is a huge concern/issue with a lot of tracks, how did you design water run off areas?
Prep is everything! I scrape all the edges with the skidder to push dirt back on and our sx track is near our pond. We designed the track in a way to pitch all the infield’s towards the pond and use plastic piping to help drain certain sections .
On our outdoor track, there are massive pieces of drain tile in the center sections of the track draining into the outskirts of the track itself.
What is the most overlooked part of running a track whether it's just for personal use or as a business?
That’s a tough question. I’d say both. My personal life is spent at the track working. Sometimes people don’t understand the effort it takes to maintain. I couldn’t imagine running a facility like Red Bud or Glen Helen . The most overlooked part is Mother Nature, sometimes the track will be dry or it can be muddy and you just can’t control it.
Thanks Zach, we look forward to spinning some laps at Joliet Motorsports Park this season! If you want to check this place out, head over to their website at (www.jolietmx.com) or on Facebook at Joliet Motorsports Park.