SuperMotocross puts Chicagoland Speedway in its new playoffs; zMax Dragway will open

Chicagoland Speedway SuperMotocross
Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

(UPDATE: SuperMotocross date changes for Chicagoland Speedway (to Sept. 16) and the L.A. Coliseum (to Sept. 23) were announced in a Jan. 23 release.)

The new SuperMotocross World Championship announced the venue lineup for its inaugural playoff, which will feature the reopening of Chicagoland Speedway and the dirt bike debut of zMax Dragway.

The three-round playoff to determine the first SuperMotocross world champion will open Saturday, Sept. 9 at zMax Dragway (which is adjacent to Charlotte Motor Speedway in Concord, North Carolina) and then will move Saturday, Sept. 16 to Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Illinois. The final will occur Sept. 23 at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

The announcement of the SuperMotocross World Championship was made Friday during a news conference ahead of Supercross’ season opener Saturday night in Anaheim, California.

SUPERCROSS 2023 OPENERHow to watch Anaheim I on USA, Peacock

“The design from the get-go was to make sure that each part of the country was represented so fans would have an opportunity to experience SuperMotocross firsthand,” Dave Prater, vice president of Supercross, Feld Motor Sports, said in a release. “It was important to have one playoff in the East, a second in the Midwest, and then the final on the West Coast making each round easily accessible to each region. zMAX Dragway, Chicagoland Speedway and the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum all provide the perfect footprint to create world-class SuperMotocross tracks and a one-of-a-kind fan experience that will blend elements from both Supercross and Pro Motocross.”

It’ll be the first major racing event at Chicagoland Speedway, which opened in 2001 has sat dormant since its most recent NASCAR Cup Series race June 30, 2019 (which marked the first career victory for Alex Bowman).

Chicagoland’s Cup race in 2020 was moved elsewhere because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the 1.5-mile speedway has sat unused since then while questions loomed about its future. NASCAR will race on the streets of Chicago this year but has given no indication of returning to the Joliet track that also played host to IndyCar from 2001-10.

SuperMotocross World Championship officials were intrigued by Chicagoland’s 900 acres (a larger footprint because the track isn’t holding NASCAR races) that will allow creative track layouts. The Supercross layout will cover much of the frontstretch grass down through Turn 1 of the oval.

With the addition of Atlanta Motor Speedway to the Supercross schedule two years ago joining longtime prestigious venue Daytona International Speedway, NASCAR-oriented tracks have proved suited to dirt-bike racing.

“As a proud partner of Supercross at Daytona International Speedway for over 50 years, we look forward to welcoming the first-ever SuperMotocross World Championship Playoffs to the Midwest at Chicagoland Speedway,” NASCAR senior vice president and chief track properties officer Chip Wile said in a release. “With a thrilling season of motorsports ahead, we are excited to see riders return to Daytona and Chicagoland for intense two-wheel action this season.”

The zMax Dragway event will be designed to have a Pro Motocross vibe, situating fans to be able to “line the fence” or watch from above because of the venue’s grandstand and suite layout.

“Innovation and entertainment are at the core of everything we do, so adding a SuperMotocross event to our portfolio at zMAX Dragway just makes sense,” Charlotte Motor Speedway Executive vice president and general manager Greg Walter said in a release. “Fans who visit us expect big action and big fun, and that’s exactly what SuperMotocross provides. We couldn’t be more excited to make some playoff history in September.”

Over 19 seasons of playing host to NASCAR, Chicagoland Speedway delivered some memorable moments — namely the famous “Slide Job” that Kyle Larson tried to pull on Kyle Busch to win the 2018 race. There also were memorable skirmishes between Tony Stewart and Kasey Kahne and Jeff Gordon and Matt Kenseth.

The SuperMotocross World Championship will begin its inaugural 31-event season Saturday night in Anaheim, California. Click here for how to watch the season on NBC Sports and Peacock.

SuperMotocross set to introduce Leader Lights beginning with the World Championship finals


In a continuing effort to help fans keep track of the on track action, SuperMotocross is in the process of developing and implementing leader lights for the unified series.

Currently Supercross (SMX) utilizes stanchions in the infield that are triggered manually by a race official. At least two stanchions are used in each race as a way to draw the eye to the leader, which is especially useful in the tight confines of the stadium series when lapping often begins before the halfway mark in the 22-bike field. This system has been in place for the past two decades.

Later this year, a fully automated system will move to the bike itself to replace the old system. At that point, fans will be able to identify the leader regardless of where he is on track.

The leader lights were tested in the second Anaheim round this year. An example can be seen at the 1:45 mark in the video above on the No. 69 bike.

“What we don’t want to do is move too fast, where it’s confusing to people,” said Mike Muye, senior director of operations for Supercross and SMX in a press release. “We’ve really just focused on the leader at this point with the thought that maybe down the road we’ll introduce others.”

Scheduled to debut with the first SuperMotocross World Championship race at zMax Dragway, located just outside the Charlotte Motor Speedway, a 3D carbon fiber-printed LED light will be affixed to each motorcycle. Ten timing loops positioned around the track will trigger the lights of the leader, which will turn green.

SMX’s partner LiveTime Scoring helped develop and implement the system that has been tested in some form or fashion since 2019.

When the leader lights are successfully deployed, SuperMotocross will explore expanding the system to identify the second- and third-place riders. Depending on need and fan acceptance, more positions could be added.

SuperMotocross is exploring future enhancements, including allowing for live fan interaction with the lights and ways to use the lighting system during the race’s opening ceremony.