Under a hot June sun, motocross racers gunned their engines Sunday and kicked up dust at Thunder Ridge Motor Sports Park south of Craig.
While the buzz of dirt bikes filled the air, the scene in the stands was mostly quiet. Less than 10 spectators showed up to watch a handful of racers compete at the new track’s second event.
Owner Gregg Kolbaba said attendance was lackluster.
“I’m not satisfied with that at all,” he said. “It’ll get better, but I expected a lot more people this week.”
The event got off to a harrowing start Sunday. During the first race, 19-year-old Steven Sharp of Craig crashed his dirt bike when landing a jump and was seriously injured.
Teresa Stoffle, who served as a volunteer announcer, said no one is certain what happened.
“We were waiting for him to come through the double (jump), and when he didn’t come through it, that’s when everybody started running,” she said.
Stoffle said Sharp suffered an apparent neck injury, was un-
conscious and had difficulty breathing. No other racers were involved.
Sharp was transported to The Memorial Hospital in Craig by ambulance. TMH spokeswoman Jennifer Riley said Sharp was brought to the emergency room and then transferred to a different facility.
A spokesperson at St. Mary’s Hospital in Grand Junction said Sharp was admitted there, and as of Sunday afternoon, was listed in critical condition.
After the ambulance departed Thunder Ridge, races resumed.
Kolbaba, who leased the Thunder Ridge property from Moffat County in December 2010, said he’s undaunted by the initial challenges.
This year is about working out some of the kinks at the track. Next year will be bigger, he said.
The plan is to have the track sanctioned by a racing circuit.
“There are three sanctioning bodies, but that won’t be until next year,” he said. “They like to plan all that out in late fall and have it all set. I just didn’t have everything ready in time to get sanctioned, but next year, I will. And, that’s how you get riders in here.”
The track at Thunder Ridge was previously operated by the Yampa Valley Sportsman’s Rider Club. However, the track was dormant for nearly two years until Kolbaba stepped in.
The track had not been maintained during those two years, so Kolbaba started from scratch.
First, he built the motocross track. Currently, he’s building a stockcar track on the same property.
“The stockcar track is the big thing to finish up,” he said. “We have an event scheduled for next weekend, so it’s going to be tough to get all that done.”
Kolbaba is doing the work himself.
“Every bit of it,” he said. “I’ve got a small number of people helping out in their spare time, but I don’t have a construction company.”
Instead, Kolbaba has been renting or borrowing heavy equipment for excavation.
Michael Stoffle, co-owner of Xtreme Mountain Racing, a snowmobile racing circuit, was on hand to volunteer for the event.
“I’m just here helping Gregg out,” Michael said. “I know it takes more than one person to do this stuff, and it doesn’t hurt to help to make this happen for the kids. That’s what it’s all about.”
Michael said Kolbaba is on the right track.
“You gotta start somewhere,” he said. “I wish he had a bigger crowd, but you gotta start somewhere. More will come.
“It’s a good track, I think. And, he’s trying.”
Craig resident Mike Mercer raced Sunday. He said the track is fun, but it could use some improvements.
“The turns are actually pretty good, the jumps are fairly decent,” he said. “It needs to be lengthened a little bit.”
Craig resident Chris Anthony was on hand to watch her son race. Anthony said not enough people know about Thunder Ridge.
“There are just so many people who don’t know this is out here,” she said. “It’s a little track, but if we get more people out here it’ll be good.”
Anthony had high praise for Kolbaba’s excavation work.
“He’s done a lot of blade work out here,” she said. “For a start-up track, it’s a good track. It makes (the racers) work, it makes them think, it makes them pay attention.”
Kolbaba acknowledged Sunday that there’s still work to do.
“This motorcycle track is close,” he said. “It still needs some fine-tuning, but it’s close.”
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