If it weren’t for motorcycle racing, there might not be a Sturgis Rally. Luckily, the owner of the local Indian Motorcycle shop, J.C. “Pappy” Hoel, invited members of the Jackpine Gypsies Motorcycle Club to come race on the half-mile dirt oval at Meade County Fairgrounds one fine August day. “Pappy” also had the wherewithal to invite a ringer, “Smiling” Johnny Spiegelhoff, to race against the local boys. Spiegelhoff was a rising star of the motorcycle racing scene who was backed by Indian Motorcycles. Having a star attraction helped put people in the stands when those first nine riders lined up to race at the Sturgis Half-Mile in 1938. And as they say, the rest is history.

Writing the newest chapter in that history is the Sturgis Buffalo Chip. The racing spectacle kicks off with Dirt Riot the first weekend of the rally, a two-day celebration of the off-road lifestyle featuring UTVs, Ultra Four Cars and the high-flying Trucks Super Mod Trail class. These specialized four-wheelers will be tearing it up at the Buffalo Chip’s PowerSports Complex, a thrill ride of a track with moguls and table tops that runs up the hill across the street from the main campground.

Right next to it, Rod “Woody” Woodruff and the Buffalo Chip crew just carved a new motocross track out of the hill, too. Woodruff said they’d been tossing around the idea of building a motocross track for about 15 years now before the planets finally aligned and they moved forward with the project.

“We had done some deliberations when the American Flat Track people came along, and that put us on the radar with some different folks,” said Woodruff.

Those folks happened to be seven-time AMA Motocross champion Jeff Ward, the other former national motocross champion, supermoto champion, and motocross legend Micky Dymond.

The Buffalo Chip TT features the best flat track racers in the world. 

“It came down to ‘can we build a track over there?’ Well, we already had some other tracks and they looked at it and said they could build a world-class track without screwing up any of the others. So we can still do hill climbs, we can still do off-road racing and we could add in the motocross track,” stated Woodruff.

The track saw its first action June 7th when Ward and friends taught Sturgis MX Motocross School, providing local kids and up-and-comers an opportunity to learn from the pros. A couple days later, the South Dakota Motocross Association christened the track with its first official race. And that’s part of the beauty of the Buffalo Chip’s new motocross track. Plans are to utilize it year-round, not just during the rally, from races to future motocross classes.  Knowing Woody, give him a couple years and he’ll have AMA Pro Motocross there, too.

Because he’s already got two AMA-sanctioned races at The Chip. American Flat Track makes a pit stop there for the Buffalo Chip TT Sunday, Aug. 4. It’s a wild track, starting with the only right hand turn on the AFT circuit just off the straightaway. Then there’s the triple apex turn that bends around the Top Shelf lounge in the middle of the amphitheater. When it’s all said and done, people will mob the same track racers just got off of for the Godsmack concert that immediately follows. Where else but The Chip would you find such an extreme combo of entertainment?

Soon it's going to be elbow to elbow at the Sturgis Buffalo Chip. 

That weekend, AMA Supermoto West rolls into the campground for two days of racing. Again, this is no ordinary track. The Chip’s supermoto track loops around Freedom Field and its 800 American flags and by the giant buffalo sign at the entrance to the campground. Rolling into The Chip you can see racers slinging their supermotos around and launching into the air from the road, a field of American flags whipping in the wind in the background. Again, it’s a spectacle you just don’t see every day.

And while pro motorcycle racing bookends the week, Wednesday The Chip features nitty-gritty grass roots racing. The Crazy John Street Drag Invitational lives up to its billing as the good old-fashioned, head-to-head drag races barrel down a dusty strip of asphalt smack dab in the middle of the amphitheater. Talk about sketchy! It’s a true run-what-ya-brung event, be it baggers vs Dynas or Buells battling FXRs, you just never know what two bikes are going to be matched up. Some of the most entertaining moments are when young bucks challenge grizzly old drag dogs and get served because old dogs usually still have a trick or two up their sleeves. No sooner does the bellow of big bikes at full tilt fade into the distance then the roar of hooligan bikes fills the natural amphitheater when RSD’s street bike flat track racing championship tour rolls in for some bar-bangin’ battles.

It's bagger vs bagger at the Crazy John Invitational Drag Races at The Chip. 

“We’ll still be doing the hooligan stuff and we’re still doing the drag races in the amphitheater on Wednesday, so we’ve got a lot of racing stuff going on,” said Woodruff. “I think at one time I counted something like nine races we have going on and we’ll have J&P Cycles sponsoring hill climb events as well, so we’re going to do some hooligan hill climbs, too. If you’ve got a motorcycle and you think you can make it to the top of the hill, get on and let’s see ya do it!” Sounds like the gauntlet has been laid down.

To round out the carousel of racing action, there’ll be more mayhem courtesy of the Gambler 500 posse. The Gambler 500 concept began with a 500 mile “navigational adventure” in a vehicle that costs less than $500, but recently it’s involved mini-bike racing, too. On Monday, Aug. 5, The Chip’s holding its Gambler 500 Mini Bike Showdown in the amphitheater, a race that includes dirt, pavement and “a thrilling twist of danger, flying across the elevated walkways that hover over the amphitheater.” Two days later they’re holding a 100-mile Gambler 500 mini-bike race across the street at the PowerSports Complex. I raced with the Gamblers last year here in my home state of Oregon and it was the most stupid-fun I’ve had in a long time. Those guys and gals know how to have a good time, something The Chip knows a thing or two about itself.

With so many different kinds of racing packed into such a short period of time, a question comes to mind. Is this some kind of Guinness World Record? I mean, The Chip’s hosting two professional races, there will flying trucks, flying mini-bikes, flying flat trackers, dirt-slingin’ hooligans, super-charged drag bikes, and inappropriate hill climbs, all squeezed in to nine days. If that doesn’t scream Guinness World Record, I don’t know what does. How about it Guinness, can we get a confirmation? If not, how about a keg of Guinness then. Wait, I’m getting my Guinnesses confused. Either way, kudos to the Buffalo Chip for staying true to the rally’s roots by hosting one crazy train of races. See ya there in August.

You can't get much closer to the race action than at the Buffalo Chip.