In order to count down the days until the start of the 2019 Rocky Mountain ATV/MC AMA Amateur National Motocross Championship at Loretta Lynn Ranch, we’re asking some of the top graduates from yesteryear to tell us about their favorite moto from the Ranch. Since the race was founded in 1982, we’ve got a bunch of fast folks to choose from.
“My favorite moto as a kid?” responds Jeff Emig when we asked him about his favorite moto growing up at Loretta Lynn’s Ranch. “I can barely remember my favorite moto when I came back as a returning vet rider!”
So begins the recollections of one of the all-time greats in AMA Motocross and Supercross history, multi-time champion Jeff Emig. Back in the ‘80s he was a promising prodigy out of the Midwest who raced Loretta Lynn’s for Kawasaki Team Green, winning multiple AMA Amateur National Championships. Then in the ‘90s, as factory rider for Yamaha and Kawasaki, Emig was the primary rival of Jeremy McGrath, as well as a standout member of Team USA at six consecutive Motocross of Nations. Then after his professional career ended, he did indeed come back to the ranch for a few vet class titles, and he very nearly beat all of the kids in 2006 when he also signed up in the 250 A/Pro Sport. And that’s where he went to find his favorite moto from Loretta Lynn’s, and it was one that he lost. But we will get to that later.
“It certainly wasn’t the one from 2003 when I looped out right in front of everyone, including the ESPN and Moto World cameras were there, and I ripped my throttle off,” laughs Emig, still trying to dig up his favorite. “Yeah, that was a good one."
“But it’s just been so long ago that I was there as a younger guy,” he continued, “though I do remember my final amateur moto in 1989 before my pro career, when I had won all three motos of the 250 A Modified class and I had this big ole trophy in the winner’s circle, #47 on a Kawasaki. We didn’t have the Nicky Hayden AMA Horizon Award at the time, but I think I would have been up for it…”
Emig swept all three 250 A Mod motos, topping fellow future superstars Steve Lamson, Tallon Vohland, McGrath, and more. He also won a moto in the 125 A class but DNF’d one as well, so he only won one title that year.
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“Earl May was in that race too, and he was already a Vet rider way back then!” laughs Emig of his longtime friend and Loretta Lynn’s icon Earl May. “He’s officially raced there more motos there than anyone at Loretta’s, right?” Yes, he’s right—by far. “And he’s still racing!"
“There was another year where I remember me and Damon [Bradshaw] were going for the title in the last moto and crashed together,” Emig said. “It was 1988, and it was the corner after the Ten Commandments with the step-up, step-down. Bradshaw had a flat and I caught him—and we still argue about it to this day, whose fault it was—but that jump was really cool, like a tabletop with a peak in the middle, but it was actually kind of narrow in the middle, but then it widened back out. Anyway, in my recollection, he went wide, I went tight, so I am coming straight down the right-hand side. But he has the flat tire and jumps across me, and we both crash. He goes on to finish the race and win the overall, but I end up with gasoline on my balls! I literally have to strip down so that the flagger, who has this big plastic jug of ice water, can dump it on my nuts in the middle of the track! And to make it all even worse, my goggles smashed into my face and my eyebrow got cut and I still have the scar to this day!
“So my face is bleeding, my balls are on fire, and I lost the race. I go to the hospital; Bradshaw goes to the podium for the win. Yes, I remember that moto well…
“So part two of this comes from my post-professional career return to Loretta Lynn’s,” he continued. “And my favorite moto, I didn’t even win. It was 2006 and I was also racing 250 A/Pro Sport. I was battling with a couple of fast kids from Florida, Kyle Chisholm and Matt Boni. The final moto is set up just perfectly. It was one of those races where it was midday, the weather is great, everyone is out, it’s not like they’re sleeping or they left, and they are all watching this 250 A/Pro Sport moto—you always have one of those motos at Loretta Lynn’s where everyone is watching.
“So I didn’t get a great start, but I started passing a bunch of guys, and then Chisholm, who had won the first two motos, gets knocked out, and that means it’s going to be down between me and Boni for the title. I caught him with like two laps to go, I’ve got my heart rate in check, and I’m going, ‘Okay, mentally, I’ve got him. I’ve got him, I’ve got my place to pass, and I am going to win this…’ And then I tipped over in the corner before the Ten Commandments! I catch my foot peg and just fall over and blow it. I blow the overall! But I had such a good race, and I was just so stoked with my ride that moto, but that mistake cost me the title.”