The return of the Washougal National will be an emotional one for many.
For the more than 20,000 fans expected to visit the Washougal MX Park this weekend, it will be elation and joy that the sport has returned to the Pacific Northwest.
For others, the event will also have its tearful moments. For the first time in four decades, track patriarch Ralph Huffman will not be in attendance.
Huffman, who helped establish Washougal as a staple of the professional racing circuit, died in March at age 83. His 10 children now help keep the park thriving, including track director Ryan Huffman.
“It’s going to be a bit of sadness,” Ryan Huffman said. “But for me, it’s about being grateful and thankful.”
MX Sports Event Director Tim Cotter echoed Huffman’s sentiments.
“Ralph was a pioneer of the sport,” Cotter said. “Washougal is what it is today because of Ralph, and Carolyn, and their vision to motorbike racing.”
While Ralph Huffman won’t be making his way around the property this weekend, meeting with fans and handing out the pins he became known for, his mark is always present at the track.
Washougal is one of the riders’ favorite stops on the calendar. The clay surface combined with the proximity of fans to the track and the towering trees that line the course make this a can’t-miss venue.
“It’s a bucket list track,” Cotter said. “It’s the most picturesque race track in America, period. It’s not even close to anything else.”
That’s why it was so gut-wrenching for all involved last year when the series opted to cancel its trip to Washougal at the last minute. Ryan Huffman worked tirelessly with local and state officials leading up to the event last year, getting clearance to host the National without fans.
But with the uncertainty of COVID-19 in the area, the series made the tough choice to forego its annual trip to the Pacific Northwest. It was just the second time since 1980 the event did not occur.
“These teams were worried about getting in the truck and driving from Tennessee to Washougal and then having it canceled,” Cotter said. “We had to make that decision. … Nobody liked it.”
That uncertainty continued into this year, as Ryan Huffman cautiously sold tickets following the ever-changing state guidelines in June. But when he saw the Seattle Mariners moving to full capacity in July, he knew the Washougal National was again a full-go.
Ryan Huffman will be unendingly busy this weekend. But when he does get a moment or two to take a breath and reflect, there will be happy tears, he said.
“I’m not sure I’ll ever reach his height and impact on the sport, but I’m definitely going to try,” Ryan Huffman said. “This is what my dad built and what we’ll carry on.”
Saturday’s admission: $60 and must be purchased online at https://www.washougalmxpk.com/
10 a.m. Saturday — Practice/qualifying, Peacock
1 p.m. Saturday — 250 moto 1, Peacock and MAVTV
2 p.m. Saturday — 450 moto 1, Peacock and MAVTV
3 p.m. Saturday — 250 moto 2, Peacock and MAVTV
4 p.m. Saturday — 450 moto 2, Peacock and MAVTV
Aug. 8 — Replay of both moto 2s at 9 a.m. and 10 a.m. on NBCSN
Note: MAVTV can be found on DirecTV Channel 214, but is not available on Comcast or Dish. Peacock app is available on Xfinity.