Welcome to a new Racer X Online Countdown, this one dedicated to the men and women who graduated from the Rocky Mountain ATV/MC Loretta Lynn's AMA Amateur Motocross Championship (est. 1982) and went on to do some other big things in their lives—some in motocross, some in auto racing, some in the motorcycle industry, and some just in life in general. It's our way of counting down the days to the single biggest and most important amateur motocross race of all and how it's helped shape the lives of those who have gone off the starting gates on the land of the first lady of country music, Loretta Lynn.
Back in the very early years of the AMA Amateur National Motocross Championship at Loretta Lynn’s Ranch, two of the brightest minicycle racing stars were Bob Moore of California and Jimmy Button of Arizona. These were the halcyon days of minicycle stardom, when full magazines and product ads were dedicated to youth racing. The talent pool was deep, too, with the likes of Eddie Hicks, Paul Denis, Trampas Parker, Mike Healey, Larry Brooks, Ron Tichenor, Keith Turpin, Rick Simmett, Damon Bradshaw, and more. Titles did not come easy at the Ranch for anyone.
Moore was a factory Yamaha rider, and in 1982, the first year for Loretta Lynn’s, he narrowly lost the 85cc (12-15) Stock class title to his teammate from Texas, Danny Storbeck. It was the closest he would come to winning an AMA title before turning pro and becoming the first 125 AMA West Region Supercross Champion in 1985.
Button, a Honda factory rider, was a few years younger than Moore, so he had many more chances to earn wins at Loretta Lynn’s. He won his first in the 85cc Stock (7-11) in 1984, his last with a sweep of the 125 Schoolboy classes in 1989. All told, Button won six championships at the Ranch.
From there, the two friends’ careers took different turns. Moore ended up moving to Europe to race in 1986 on the FIM 125cc Motocross World Championship circuit and would remain there for nearly a decade before winning the 1994 125cc World Championship. Button would turn pro right after Loretta Lynn’s ’89 and, within a few years was a Suzuki factory rider winning 125 Supercross main events along with his teammate Ezra Lusk. When his own opportunity came up to go race in Europe, Button took it, joining his old friend Moore in Europe in 1995. Button ended up fourth in the ’95 FIM 125cc Motocross World Championship; Moore finished eighth after moving up to the 250cc class.
Within a couple of years, Moore retired from professional racing to become the FMF Honda team manager and, later, a sports agent. Button went back to America to race—first as Jeremy McGrath’s teammate on Chaparral Yamaha, then as a full-blown Yamaha factory rider. He won the 1999 Washougal National on a YZ450F, possibly the highlight of his career.
On the afternoon of January 22, 2000, something happened that would once again pull these two childhood friends and Loretta Lynn’s alumni together, and in a way that would change both their lives as well as the sport in general. While practicing for the San Diego SX at Jack Murphy Stadium, Button bounced off his bike in the whoops and went head-first into one of them. The awkward angle injured his spinal cord, and for a time, Button lost all feeling below his neck. His rehabilitation would be long and costly, but he was fortunate to have a strong family around him, as well as friends like McGrath and, of course, Bobby Moore.
After several weeks of slow progress, Button began regaining the use of his limbs, but it was an expensive undertaking, as his hospital and rehabilitation strained his and his family’s insurance and life savings. Moore, who visited Button regularly when he was in Arizona, began forming an idea for a foundation of some kind that would help riders like Button, and especially privateers who did not have the same means or insurance that a factory rider like Jimmy did. With the help of his fellow agent, friend Bob Walker, and other industry friends, Moore and Button formed Road 2 Recovery, a 501 (C) non-profit organization for action sports athletes who might find themselves in a similar situation to what Button and his family faced back in 2000. Road 2 Recovery offers financial assistance, as well as motivational, emotional and spiritual support. R2R also helps guide the injured through the bureaucratic and costly maze of medical bills, insurance, rehabilitation, and more.
In the years since, Road 2 Recovery has helped dozens of athletes, but they want to do more—and more is needed. With Jimmy’s mother Anita, Road 2 Recovery’s director of operations; R2R marketing director Lori Amstutz; and former professional racer Mike Young; Jimmy Button and Bob Moore are still working tirelessly together for the general good of all of the riders out there on the racetracks, having all gone through it with Jimmy’s crash in 2000.
“We really are here to help because, from my experience, I know what these parents are going through,” Anita Button, the mother who has been through it many times, says, beginning with her own son’s injury of nearly 20 years ago. “It still makes me emotional today. It takes me right back there. I know how they feel and what they’re going through and it’s just a living hell, a nightmare that you can’t wake up from. That’s why we want to help them through that in any way we can. I think it’s important that they know that we are here for them.”
Last fall, Bob Moore was inducted into the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame for not only his success on the racetrack as an FIM and AMA Supercross Champion, but also for what he and fellow Loretta Lynn’s graduate Jimmy Button did in starting up Road 2 Recovery. There’s a full feature about the foundation and its mission in the latest issue of Racer X Illustrated, which you can check out here.
And to learn more about Road 2 Recovery and the ways you can help, visit their website, www.road2recovery.org.