Welcome to Racerhead, coming to you from the absolute center of the amateur motocross world, the MX Sports office trailer at Loretta Lynn's Ranch. Outside and all around us are 1,500 amateur finalists and their families and friends, all here for the 40th Annual Monster Energy AMA Amateur National Motocross Championship. They stretch out for nearly two full miles of RVs, campers, box vans, tents, pickup trucks, and pretty much anything else you can haul bikes with or sleep inside (or under). That’s every starting gate (42) in every class (36 in all), plus a half-dozen or so alternates in each class who also come to Hurricane Mills, Tennessee, in hopes of getting called up into a spot. Seemingly the entire U.S. amateur motocross is also shoehorned into this otherwise spacious ranch, because from last weekend to this weekend, this is the place to be to see and support the best young riders in the country, as well as the best of the old riders too.
There are also a bunch of well-known graduates here this week to be part of it all: Jeremy McGrath, Ricky Carmichael, Ryan Villopoto, Kevin Windham, Ivan Tedesco, Jake Weimer, and even Chad Reed, who never raced here growing up (he's from Down Under) but wanted to come with his wife, Ellie, and the kids to camp out and see what this event is really all about. Josh Grant is here as a first-time minicycle dad—his son Easton is in the Mini E (4-6) class—while Tim Ferry and Brian Deegan are here as seasoned racer parents, and their boys Evan and Haiden will likely take home at least one title each. Jeff Emig, Mike Brown, Keith Johnson, Ryan Hughes, and even British GP legend Kurt Nicoll are all here, too, but they’re racing Vet classes, and at least two of them will take home at least a title. And then there are the folks you may have never heard of, people who didn't make it as far as the aforementioned riders. A lot to them came back to the ranch this week to be part of the 40th version of this American motocross classic.
And of course, there are the countless golf carts, pit bikes, side-by-sides, e-mountain bikes, and little Stacycs, all whirling around in a chaotic and endless traffic loop, just cruising around, visiting, joy-riding, and being a part of it all. Loretta Lynn's is a big place, and the camping is spread out well past the actual home of Loretta Lynn, where the country music superstar still lives.
In the middle of it all is a mile-long motocross track that is one of the most deceivingly rough and complicated tracks you've ever seen.
As both Hughes (who hasn't been here since 1990) and Nicoll (who's never even been here before, let alone raced) attested after their first motos of the week, the track may look tame and relatively easy, but it gets brutally rough and technical. Especially when you're on a 1986 Honda CR250 like the one Ryno decided to race on. Why? He explained it all on Instagram:
The track gets so rough because it has such an expansive lineup of classes, all of them filled with fast riders who use up every inch of the track. Because we are racing everything from Mini Es to 450 As and all the sizes in between, the track takes a pounding from 7:30 a.m. to 7 p.m., moto after moto after moto. There are 65cc ruts, 250 A braking bumps, 125 Schoolboy acceleration ruts, and berms, berms, berms.
All three motos are long, sometimes hot, sometimes wet, sometimes cool. And because all three count, it's easy to lose a title due to bad luck—but almost impossible to luck into one. Ask Haiden "Dangerboy" Deegan, who lost a title because he missed a gear on the face of a big tabletop and could not clear it. The rider he was dicing with, Illinois' impressive Krystian Janik, was following right behind him and ended up clipping Deegan's elbow and knocking him down and out. Or ask former GNCC star Jimmy Jarrett, who had a 1-1 going into the final Senior +40 Sportsman class and had a sub-frame malfunction that led to a third-moto DNF. Or very fast and impressive young Swedish rider Matti Jorgensen, who won the first 450 B moto, only to later be disqualified because he's only 15, which is too young by AMA rules for a kid to race a 450. But he's definitely old enough to race the 250 B Limited class, which he won, giving his week a happy ending.
These are just a few of the riders and stories that have emerged from Loretta Lynn's so far this week, the kind of happenings that have allowed this event to grow into what it's become: "the world's greatest motocross vacation" for 40 years now. Fans and the industry get to see both the future and past of American motocross, the kids who will one day be the stars of Monster Energy AMA Supercross and the Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship, and then years later come back to ride the age groups. They come here for upwards of two weeks in many cases and just enjoy the motocross community that rises up around them here at Loretta Lynn's Ranch. The racing is a huge component of it, and so is the social network that grows out of it. Some riders will soon graduate to the pro ranks, like Levi Kitchen, Jett Reynolds, Preston Kilroy, Chance Hymas, Hunter Yoder; others are already on the horizon, like Nick Romano, Gage Linville, Gavin Towers, Daxton Bennick, Evan Ferry, Mark Fineis, Haiden Deegan, Krystian Janik, Enzo Timmerman.... And some are just groms who have yet to make a name for themselves and will do so in the years to come.
Loretta Lynn's is quite a week for everyone, win or lose, racing or not. We've been trying to bring you as much of the action as possible on www.racertv.com, which hasn't left much time for myself or Jason Weigandt to offer much in the way of Racerhead contributions because our own motos go dawn-to-dusk (and then some), his on the microphone and me on out working on the track and in this office. Plus, we've mostly been cut off from the rest of the racing world. (For instance, I just now heard that the great Valentino Rossi is finally calling it quits?) So look for a full wrap on everything from Loretta Lynn's, which ends tomorrow, next week here at Racer X Online, but please enjoy the action over on Racer TV.
This is my favorite week of every year, as well as my busiest. Can't wait for it to end tomorrow, can't wait for the 41st Loretta Lynn's next August!
Loretta Lynn's Ranch Align Media Loretta Lynn's Ranch Align Media Drew Adams Align Media Evan Ferry Align Media Haiden Deegan Align Media Krystian Janik Align Media Kyleigh Stallings Align Media Logan Best Align Media Luke Fauser Align Media Nick Romano Align Media Peyton Crisp Align Media Ricky Carmichael Align Media Ryan Hughes Align Media Vincent Wey Align Media
I haven't been very plugged into Loretta's outside of what I see on IG, so I'll let the experts weigh in on that. Outside of Evan Ferry crushing it and a late-night phone call from Tim this week, I'm not sure what else I have to talk about.
But what did drop this week was the announcement that Shane McElrath has signed with Rocky Mountian ATV/MC-KTM-WPS for next season. Shane had a crappy season with the SmarTop/Bullfrog Spas/MotoConcepts (MCR) Honda guys, with a back injury taking him out pretty much all SX season outside of a few races. He did have the moment of glory at Orlando in his first race back where he holeshot the heat race and led a few laps, but other than that, 2021 wasn't a very good year for Shane, his first in 450s after a successful 250 career.
This is a good spot for Shane, as it's a factory bike on a good team. He'll also have a chance to race the outdoors, as MCR didn't partake in that series and Shane's had some solid results in motocross in his years on the Troy Lee Designs/Red Bull KTM team as well. The back injury, as anyone who’s had back injuries knows, is hopefully something he's gotten fixed or has gotten better, because it's bothered him for a while now. A healthy, in-shape, ready-to-go McElrath on a factory KTM is a top-ten guy for sure.
Where does that leave the current team of Joey Savatgy and Justin Bogle? Well, from what I hear they're both going to be looking for a ride, as the team is in talks with Max Anstie to head over there too. The team took on a part-owner recently in Mark Lane, an English gentleman who bought Chad Reed's old compound (you may have noticed that his son secured a ride with the team for the amateur races), so I have to think getting Anstie over there is not a coincidence. Max has had a good season with the Twisted Tea/HEP Motorsports Suzuki guys, also, so it fits.
Spangler’s Loretta Lynn’s Memories (Mitch Kendra)
Former pro racer, longtime industry representative, and now owner of Buzz Media Dale Spangler started doing the Dirt Buzz Podcast earlier this year. He’s had numerous guests on including racers Skyler Howes, Steward Baylor Jr., Andrew Short, and industry insiders Rob Buydos, Steve Matthes, Jason Gerald, Kris Keefer, and more. But on his latest podcast, episode #34, Spangler dug into his memories from racing the Monster Energy AMA Amateur National Motocross Championship at Loretta Lynn’s Ranch. The Ohio native talked about the 1985 Hurricane Danny year—which Davey Coombs covered recently in one of our 30 Stories From the Ranch features, racing with a cast on his leg, and landing a deal with Team Green Kawasaki. Spangler also remembers missing his high-school graduation in order to qualify for Loretta Lynn’s at High Point Raceway, racing in the top class at the Ranch, getting Alpinestars into Loretta Lynn’s Ranch as an Alpinestars brand representative, and different memories from his approximate 12 times at the Ranch. One thing that stuck out to me is this quote he said at the end of the episode:
“That race taught me a lot. I think it has a lot to do with my work ethic, how I go about things— whether it’s my job owning my business—no matter what it is, writing a paper or creating this blog: I want to do the best I can and I feel like that’s something that motocross has given me through the years. I didn’t win any championships but that’s okay because I feel like it’s made me the person I am, and I’m pretty proud of that.”
While everyone wants to win titles at the Ranch, sometimes it’s the hardships that make us grow as individuals. For the riders who are not finishing in the top ten or the podium, not earning race wins or factory rides, going to the Ranch can teach lessons that will last a lifetime, just as Spangler recalls. Here’s to hoping everyone has a memorable, life-changing experience at the Ranch, whether it’s in the results column or life lessons and memories off the bike. Listen to Spangler’s Dirt Buzz Podcast Episode 34 — A Tribute to Motocross Memories at Loretta Lynn’s Ranch After 40 Years.
MEANWHILE, IN LATVIA (Thomas)
With a weekend off for Lucas Oil Pro Motocross and with Loretta Lynn’s coming to an end tomorrow, I will be locked in on the MXGP series as they travel to the Baltic country of Latvia. Kegums sits just on the outskirts of Riga, the capital of Latvia, and also served as host to the 2014 Monster Energy FIM Motocross of Nations. Riga is a beautiful city with history at every turn. This area of the world has its own culture and atmosphere, one I personally enjoy very much.
As for the racing, parity is at an all-time high in both classes. We have seen multiple winners in MX2, with series favorites Tom Vialle and Jago Geerts both dealing with their fair share of adversity. Some of the younger talent like Thibault Benistant have broken into the forefront, making a name for himself on the world stage. Benistant’s Monster Energy Yamaha teammate Maxime Renaux is the story, though, carrying the red plate into Latvia. Renaux has been in a dogfight with Red Bull KTM’s Mattia Guadagnini, but after a tough round in Lommel, Mattia needs a bounce-back win this weekend. Watch for more chaos in the MX2 class—unpredictability has been the only predictable aspect.
In the premier MXGP class, just when we think we know what to expect, the series changes. Tim Gajser had a grasp on the field early in the season and really looked to have put his crashes of yesteryear behind him. That sentiment was premature, though, as he has crashed several times in recent weeks and allowed the field to stay within sight. Tony Cairoli looked ready to capitalize, but a down day at Lommel left him looking for a rebound in Latvia too. While TC222 was unable to make the most of Gajser’s stumble, Romain Febvre certainly was. His first ever Lommel win put him back on course and winning in the sand fulfilled a lifelong goal for him, too. While everyone certainly appreciated the slack Gajser allowed, the biggest benefactor of Gajser’s slump has been Jeffrey Herlings. His broken scapula at Oss could have meant the end of his season. Instead, he sat out the Czech Republic round of Loket and came out swinging a week later in Lommel. He devastated the field in the first moto and overcame a crash in moto two to retain an overall podium finish, all the while taking nine points back from Gajser. It was a heroic salvage effort when many wondered if Herlings’ year would once again be taken down by injury.
This weekend’s race at Kegums is a critical one. Coming off of four consecutive rounds, the series will take a month off leaving Latvia after both Sweden and Finland’s events were canceled due to COVID-19 complications. Riders will want to leave this round on a good note. The mental effect going into a long break can be a great confidence boost or it can leave a lasting smear on your confidence. For those suffering from injury, this break couldn’t come at a better time. Regardless, this pause represents a reset button for everyone. The months of September and October will be a fast and furious stretch of consecutive race weekends, kicking off with a double header in Turkey. This coming break is the last real opportunity to heal, rest, and regroup. A great result in Latvia would be the perfect way to start it off.
Hey, Watch It!
Check out the new farm hoops edition pit bike
Check out this move by Vincent Wey (P.S., his dad Nick was not happy after seeing this move!)
Supermini 2 Moto 1 Highlights from Loretta's 2021 ft. Dangerboy Crash
Ryno Goes Down on CR250 & Brownie Takes the W - 45+ Moto 2 Highlights
Open Pro Sport Moto 2 RAW Highlights - Loretta Lynn's 2021
Head-Scratching Headlines Of The Week
“Passenger duct-taped to seat after allegedly groping flight attendants”—WPXI Pittsburgh
Check out the news report/interview on the situation...it’s worth the watch:
Thanks for reading Racerhead. See you at the races!