Once you have your AMA Pro Racing license, your ImPACT Concussion Management test and your entry for an individual AMA National, you still have to qualify to make the two main motos. Here is how you go about it.
(1) The AMA accepts 90 entries for each class, but under many circumstances they will accept more for the same reason that airlines oversell tickets for flights. The goal is to have 90 riders attempting to qualify for the 40 available spots in each class.
(2) AMA National motos consist of 40 riders in each class. Those 40 riders are selected by a combination of (a) current points standings, (b) timed qualifying, (c) Last chance motos.
(3) The current top 10 riders in points are automatically seeded into the AMA National motos. Consider this the “Jeff Ward Rule,” because years ago Jeff was running in the top five in 125 National points, but as an unranked first-year Pro, the AMA rejected his entry for a 125 National. Thus, a rule was written to insure that the top ten contenders would always be allowed to enter the race. Originally the “Jeff Ward Rule” just assured that a top ten rider’s entry would be accepted, but was later revised to automatically seed them directly into the National motos...whether they had qualifying speed or not. And for a long time, the top ten in points were given the first ten picks at the gate. Now, they get gate pick based on their times or Last Chance finishes...and if they don’t have any of those they get last pick at the gate.
(4) For timed qualifying the 250 and 450 classes are broken up into two divisions (which could easily be considered “fast” and “slow”). Each division is given two practice sessions and the fastest 36 riders in the timed session are put into the Nationals motos. If you think about it, only the fastest 26 are actually seeded on time...because the top ten are already in. But, in function, it is 36 because the top ten always try to set the fast time in practice because lap times determine gate pick for the first moto (the second moto gate pick comes from results of moto one–but that wasn’t always the case).
(5) With 36 riders put into the field via timed qualifying and National points there are four spots open. This year the AMA added Last Chance races to determine the final four riders (who get the last four spots in gate pick).
(6) Once the 40 riders are narrowed down, the 40 riders will be loaded behind the starting gate based on their qualifying times (for moto one). The fastest time gets gate pick one and the slowest time gets gate pick 36. The last four spots got to the riders who got in from the Last Chance qualifiers.
(7) Each rider can only take one person with him to the starting gate and neither the rider nor the person with him are allowed to groom the ground in front of their selected gate. No starting blocks are allowed, although the AMA has a bail out rule that says natural material found at the gate can be used in lieu of starting blocks...and you’d be amazed at the number of rocks that magically appear behind the starting gate. To make any kind of repair the bike must be pulled back from the gate. If your bike fails to start the race, you can enter the race any time – up until the leader completes the first lap. If the leader finishes the first lap and you haven’t gotten your bike running, you are out of the event.