The 2020 Monster Energy AMA Amateur National Motocross Championship in Hurricane Mills, Tennessee, will run from August 3 through August 8, 2020 (that’s Tuesday through Saturday.) With the first gate drop for this year’s event less than a week away, we give you some names to watch heading into the 39th annual event.
RacerTV.com will broadcast each moto from all 36 classes live from the ranch so family, friends, and fans alike can watch from the comfort of their house. While there will be thousands of riders at the ranch and we will provide you some names to pay attention to, chances are we might miss a few riders who are coming in under the radar and outperform expectations. That’s literally the very point of having an event like this! For the complete entry (and alternate) rosters, visit the official rider roster page on MXsports.com.
So without further ado, here’s a quick list of rider names to know and the motos you’ll want to see.
250Fs and Up
250 Pro Sport
Shortly after last year’s event, Stilez Robertson made a switch from the Team Green Kawasaki program to the Rockstar Energy Husqvarna program in September 2019. Robertson has five Loretta Lynn class titles to his name—including the 250 B class at last year’s event—and will be looking to add another one to his list this year. He will be in the Open Pro Sport and the 250 Pro Sport classes this year.
Robertson’s FC 250 next to Zach Osborne’s FC 450 in the picture Husqvarna mechanic Dave Feeney posted.
Joining Robertson in the 250 Pro Sport class with be a trio of Yamaha riders: Mason Gonzales, Cullin Park, and Kaeden Kniffing. Mason Gonzales earned his second Loretta Lynn title in 2019 when he took the 250 B Limited title after 1-2-1 moto finishes.
"My mindset is always on winning. ...As far as specific goals, I want to go to Loretta’s this year and dominate," he told us in April.
Gonzalez is someone we might see make the transition from amateur to pro this summer. Cullin Park and Kniffing will be looking to earn their first Loretta Lynn’s titles.
Another well-known name on the list for the 250 Pro Sport class is Team Green Kawasaki’s Seth Hammaker. Unfortunately, Hammaker has announced he will not be participating in this year’s event. Hammaker, who also missed the 2019 AMA Amateur National Motocross Championship due to an injury, took to Instagram earlier this week to announce he has been diagnosed with the Epstein-Barr Virus. In his post, he said he will not race professionally in 2020 either, as he will wait to fully recover to make his pro debut in 2021.
“It’s disappointing to miss racing Loretta Lynn’s, but as I look towards my transition to professional racing in 2021, I know it’s more important to make the right choices now and make sure I’m ready to give it my best effort,” Hammaker said in the post.
Factory Connection Honda’s (GEICO Honda’s amateur program) Hunter Yoder, who was expected to compete in the 250 Pro Sport has pulled out of the event due to COVID-19 concerns.
The 250 B class will be a class filled with several heavy hitters: Team Green Kawasaki’s Jett Reynolds leads the class roster. Reynolds, who once won nine-straight titles at the ranch, will make his return to the ranch after missing both events in 2018 and 2019 due to injury. The 16-year-old will look to close in on the 11 titles from Mike Alessi, Adam Cianciarulo, and James Stewart, but he’s going to have some fast competition. Team Green Kawasaki’s Chance Hymas, Red Bull/Troy Lee Designs KTM’s Nate Thrasher, KTM’s Jack Chambers, KTM’s Josh Varize, and the Monster Energy/Star Racing Yamaha duo of Nick Romano and Matthew LeBlanc (looking to defend his #1 plate in the 450 B class as well) will all be behind the gate. Reynolds was used as the poster child for Kawasaki announcing its new 2021 KX250. The Bakersfield, California, native has been banged up as of late but he’s on a comeback tour this year and it’ll be good to see him in action at the ranch again.
“Mentally it’s so crazy just because you get hurt over and over,” Reynolds told us in May. “You really question yourself. Do you really want to keep doing this? I think I have a good future if I can keep it on two wheels. I’ve learned to back it down on the bike a little bit, because it was all pretty much practice crashes. Just stay strong, especially with this sport. Your mental game has got to be super strong. Can’t give up. Keep pushing.”
“I’m not going to be very happy at all if I don’t win,” he continued.
Hymas, Thrasher, and Romano are transitioning from superminis to 250F models this time around.
“I feel like I need to win Loretta’s just to prove to people that’s what I can do, and the people on the pro teams, open their eyes a little bit,” Hymas, who missed the 2019 event, said in an interview recently. “Just tell them that I’m for real.”
Thrasher (also competing in the Schooboy 2 [12-17] B/C class) also missed last year’s event due to a ruptured spleen and said he looks forward to racing the event again this year for the final time as he looks to turn pro in 2021.
Romano made the jump from a Husqvarna in the Mini Sr. 1 and 2 classes in 2019 to the Monster Energy/Star Racing Yamaha team’s YZ250F.
“It was a wild transition, honestly,” Romano told us in May. “Going from an 85 at Loretta Lynn’s and then straight to a 250 kind of blew everyone’s minds, even mine. I was a bit nervous at first but then I learned a little bit out here in California, I was out here for a month and a half before Mini Os.”
Varize got some attention last year when he battled with Ryan Villopoto at the 125 All Star race at Fox Raceway at Pala before taking the win. Granted, it’s a 125 race but RV is still highly competitive both mentally and physically.
In the age classes, we have also learned that long-time competitor John Grewe (Kawasaki) is out with an injury. Grewe has owned the older age group classes for the last few years, so that changes the look in the 40 and 50 ranks quite a bit. He had won the 50+ class the last four years!
Daxton Bennick will surely turn heads in his respective classes as well. After his title in the 85cc (10-12) Limited class in 2019, the lengthy rider will go straight to a 250F. At just 14 years old, Bennick will be competing in the 250 B Limited and 450 B Limited classes.
Also, keep an eye out for Renthal’s Paul Perebijnos in the Vet (30+) and Junior (25+) classes and Racer X’s own Kris Keefer in the Senior (40+) class—and Keefer’s son Aden in the 125 C class!
125cc and Superminis
125cc (12-17) B/C and Schoolboy 1 (12-17) B/C
Before the 2019 Loretta Lynn’s, Gage Linville won the 125 All Star race at the Florida National. Linville was able to carry the momentum into the ranch as he earned the 125cc (12-17) B/C title and while he hopes to do so again this year, he’s going to have some tough competition. In 2019, Max Vohland earned both the Supermini 1 (12-15) and Supermini 2 (13-16) titles at the ranch—after last winning a title in the 65cc (10-11) Limited class in 2015. Vohland was racing in the EMX125 championship in Europe earlier this year until he had to return to the U.S. when the COVID-19 situation started to escalade. Watch for Vohland to be a competitor in both the classes.
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Vohland will be going against Talon Hawkins, another rider making the jump from supermini to the 125 this year. Hawkins finished fifth in supermini 2 (13-16) and eighth in supermini 1 (12-15) in 2019 and will be looking for his first title at the ranch next week.
Mini Sr. 1 (12-14) and Mini Sr. 2 (13-15)
In the Mini Sr. classes, Haiden Deegan, a member of the KTM Orange Brigade and son of Metal Mulisha’s Brian Deegan, and Suzuki RMArmy’s Casey Cochran are two favorites as they both move to the Mini Sr. 1 (12-14) and Mini Sr. 2 (13-15) classes. Last year, Deegan split titles in his 85cc classes with Bennick, but the two friends are finally no longer in the same classes, because Bennick is now way too tall for 85s.
Supermini 1 (12-15) and Supermini 2 (13-16)
The Supermini 1 (12-15) and Supermini 2 (13-16) class might offer some of the best racing at the ranch this year. With KTM’s Mark Fineis and Benjamin Garib, Rockstar Energy Husqvarna’s Evan Ferry, and Team Green Kawasaki’s Ryder Difrancesco and Gavin Towers, these classes are filled with young, fast talent. You’re going to make sure to tune into RacerTV.com for these motos! Ryder D already had six Loretta Lynn titles entering the 2019 event…and he left the ranch with the same amount. With “Six-Time” written as a butt patch (a shout-out to Jeff “Six-Time” Stanton and also a flex on his own number of titles at the ranch), all eyes were on DiFrancesco who was not able to deliver in either supermini class last year. Meanwhile, Towers switched from KTM to Kawasaki before the 2019 Monster Energy Cup, and he and DiFrancesco became a one-two punch for Team Green Kawasaki in 2020 as the two have battled back and forth at several amateur events this year. Evan Ferry made the jump to Husqvarnas before the 2019 AMA Amateur National Motocross Championship but the results didn’t favor him at the ranch. He’s been ripping a 125 this summer and he’s looking for better results this go round.
With these riders all matching up together in both classes it would be tough—but not impossible—for one of them to take both titles. But, upsets are unknowns are what this event is known for. Can someone else rise up and battle these guys?
50cc to 85cc
A few names to watch in the smaller bike classes are: Seth Dennis (KTM) and Canyon Richards (Yamaha) in the 65cc (10-11) and 65cc (10-11) Limited classes, Drew Adams in the 85cc (10-12) Limited and 85cc (10-12) classes, and Kelana Humphrey 85cc (10-12) Limited and 85cc (10-12).
Still a youngster in the 85cc (10-12) Limited class in 2019, Adams finished second overall. In only his second go round at the ranch, the fast and stylish Humphrey will look to improve his results. Team Green Kawasaki’s Ryder Ellis will be a name to watch in the 65cc (7-9) and 65cc (7-9) Limited classes, as well Cole Betts in the 65cc (7-9) class. Betts is the recipient of the first ever 988 Scholarship by our good pal Jason "Wheels" Todd and will lineup in Hurricane Mills for the first time next week.
While the 2020 Monster Energy AMA Amateur National Motocross Championship at the Loretta Lynn Ranch will be a historic one for many reasons, one is that it will feature the first ever Mini-E (4-6) Jr. class. Young rippers will have the chance to lineup on the quiet but capable KTM SX-E 5 and Husqvarna EE 5 models before transitioning to 50cc machines and beyond.
“I am very excited to be able to see our SX-E 5 race at Loretta’s in 2020,” said Nathan Ramsey, Orange Brigade team manager. “I believe it is a necessary step for our industry to look into the potential future of our sport. I am very happy to be a part of a company like KTM, who is always striving forward and always Ready To Race. I can’t wait to watch those little riders have an electric battle!”
As mentioned by Jason Weigandt earlier this week in an interview with Sarah Whitmore, the Women’s class offers some of the best racing each year. Hannah Hodges, Jordan Jarvis, and Jazzmyn Canfield battled it out in the final moto last year before Jarvis took the moto win, Hodges had a bike issue and DNF’ed and Canfield ended up with the title. Well Hodges and Jarvis will be back in action next week to battle it out for the Women’s class title! Katie Benson (second in the Girls [11-16] class in 2019), Tayler Allred (third in the Women’s class in 2019) and Jamie Astudillo (fifth in the Women’s class in 2019) will compete for podium spots.
Who do you think comes out on top in their respective classes this year? Give us your predictions in the comments section below.
Main Image: Ryder Difrancesco at the Loretta Lynn Ranch in 2019, photo by Jason Michael Watkins.