A Family Tradition

Howard family gears up for
2012 race season

Track plays hosts to mud runs
and motocross races

By Vanessa Torline
Contributing Writer

BEDFORD, Ky. (June 2012) – Most families wash their hands and bond over the dinner table. The Howard family connects in the dirt and mud at motorsports tracks.
Cleveland and Debbie Howard of Milton, Ky., and their friends, Tom and Mindy Matthews, envisioned a place where their children and grandchildren could enjoy the outdoors together. Now in its second year of holding motocross races and its seventh year of mud runs, Nickota Motorsports Park is the culmination of that vision.

Nickota Motorsports
2012 MX races

• June 3: Kentuckiana Series
• June 22: At Trimble Co. Park
• Aug. 5: Kentuckiana Series
• Sept. 9: Kentuckiana Series
• Sept. 22: Nick Howard Memorial Race
• Nickota Motorsports is located at 373 Bucks Run Rd., Bedford, Ky.
• Information: www.Nickota Motorsports.com or call Cleveland Howard at (502) 525-1167 or Tom Matthews at (502) 525-1507.

Nickota will play host to the fifth race in the Kentuckiana Motocross Championship Series on June 3 at 373 Bucks Run Rd., in Bedford, Ky.
Cleveland became interested in motocross as a child. He said the sport appeals to all ages. Riders usually start riding at a young age and develop skills over time, getting family members interested in the competition.
Three generations now enjoy motorsports and are involved in Nickota, making it the epitome of a family-operated venue. From maintaining the dirt track and bog pits throughout the year to selling tickets at events and cheering on riders, “everybody has a job,” said Cleveland.
Named for the Howards’ and the Matthews’ children, Nick Howard and Dakota Parks, Nickota is not the only motorsports operation in the Bedford area. However, turning a profit does not motivate the Howards.
“It’s a big family affair,” Debbie said. “That’s what it’s all about. Our biggest thing is keeping the prices low for the families to come. It’s really nice to see so many families come together.”
Debbie said since opening the motocross track at Nickota, “motocross people are my family. I spend more time with them than biological family.”
Four mud runs for trucks and four motocross races take place every year. Mud runs are held on either a speed pit or a deeper bog pit and divided into two classes according to tire size. Motocross bikers race on dirt tracks with curves, hills and jumps. In the Howards’ estimation, the tracks at Nickota afford riders an equal challenge.
Proceeds from the events go toward year-round maintenance and updates for the tracks. Cleveland says he takes soil samples and tests the clay content of the mud track so ensure the right conditions for mud runs.
The Nick Howard Memorial Race in September highlights the season. Nickota’s most popular event, the race is held in memory of national championship rider Nick Howard, who died in a vehicle accident in 2008. “Nick was so well-known in the motocross community,” Debbie said. “Racers from all over turn out.”
In the past two years, they have given away a new motocross bike in a drawing.
Cleveland said he expects a good year for the Kentuckiana series. “The number of riders has picked up this year,” he said.
Top riders in their respective race classes include Josh Bixler of Scottsburg, Ind., Lucas Hammons of Pendleton, Ky., Ryan Withered of Madison, Ind., and Dylan Skaggs of La Grange, Ky.
During weekends without a scheduled event, Nickota plays host to open practices for riders to get a feel for the tracks. Riders pay a practice fee of $10 but may camp out in the park free of charge.
Motocross is popular in Trimble County, said Cleveland, and now Nickota draws people from outside the Kentuckiana area. He anticipates high attendance at the races in the 2012 season. And contrary to outsiders’ expectations, he said mud runs “aren’t just a few guys in trucks. Everybody gets a little something out of it.”
Through Nickota, the Howards and the Matthews work to give back to the community by holding benefit races to aid local charities and to raise funds for racers to attempt motocross camp. They also organize canned food drives at the last mud run of the season.
Plans for the park’s future are still in progress. The owners want to eventually expand beyond motorsports and promote other park activities, such as camping and fishing on their property. A playground, permanent restrooms and other amenities are also among their ultimate goals.
Cleveland said he is confident that they will be able to share the fun he has with his family. “Everything is coming together, but it takes time,” he said.
For the June 3 event, the gates open at 7 a.m., and the race starts at 10 a.m. Tickets are $10. Children five-years-old and younger enter for free. Parking is available on-site.

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