It has been a great week at the Loretta Lynn Ranch covering The 36th Annual Rocky Mountain ATV/MC AMA Amateur National Motocross Championship for the Lasco Press. Again, congratulations to Ryan Valade who placed ninth in the nation in the Senior 40+ class.
Covering the AMA Amateur National Motocross Championship as a rookie at any motocross race was a surreal experience. It is hard to describe how almost 1,500 riders in 35 classes compete with motos scheduled every 30 minutes for five days. The Loretta Lynn Ranch is a constant beehive of activity from seven in the morning to late at night. Even though the on-track activities conclude around 7:00 pm.
The first thing you notice is that the sport of motocross racing is a family affair. With divisions for riders as young as four year’s old to men past the age of 50. Whole families compete. Campsites feature youngsters running around barefoot. Teens riding stationary bikes to prep for upcoming races. Dads, and Moms working on bikes for kids or themselves. Acres of camping sites covered with motor homes and tents. Trailers and canopies serve as mobile garages. And everywhere bicycles, scooters, motorbikes, and golf carts buzz around. The food trucks, the swimming creek, and the track are the most visited spots.
Did I mention there is no cell service? Unless you ride to the top of the camping hill and are lucky enough to catch a signal from your carrier. Not necessarily a bad thing, when trying to get young people to unplug from the digital world. There is nothing more real than getting pelted with clods of dirt flung from the tires of the motorcycle you are trying to pass on the race course.
Chasing Stories at the Ranch
With everything going on it seemed an impossible task to dig up a story or two from the thousands of real-life experiences happening around the Amateur National Motocross Championship. But, as the old expression so clearly states, “even a blind squirrel finds an acorn every once-in-a-while.”
As we reported, Ryan Valade’s last moto Wednesday was delayed by lightning. The rain that accompanied the thunderstorm drove a few photographers, myself included, into the walk-through culvert under the tunnel jump. While waiting out the brief shower, a conversation started with a young lady toting two expensive cameras with huge lenses.
Jessica Ten Hagen is a well-known motocross photographer and contributor for motorplayground.com. Turns out Jessica knows Ryan, Matt Lasco and a number of individuals in Michigan’s motocross community. If you need help, why not ask an expert? So I did. Jessica said, “If you want a great story, talk to this kid called ‘SpeedBump.’ He’s from Michigan too.”
Carson Fields, from Onstead, MI, competes in the 51CC (7-8) Limited Class. The obvious question is, “how did you get that “nickname?” According to Dean, Carson’s Dad, when Carson first started racing he would charge to the front of the pack. Passing kids left and right, building a big lead. Then he would crash and be laying on the track when the other riders would catch up and pass him by. Dad said he looked like a speedbump, it stuck.
Eight-year-old Carson has been racing since he was four-years-old. He was a veteran of the AMA Amateur National Motocross Championship having qualified in 2014 for the trip to Loretta Lynn’s Ranch. A bad second moto that year resulted in a DNF and an overall 19th place finish. Carson qualified out of the North Central Regional in Mount Carrol, Illinois. Where he finished 1-2-1 in his three motos. According to Dean, “Carson has been on fire this year and we were hoping to be a podium contender here at the Nationals.”
The “Big Crash”
In a scary accident two weeks ago Carson was racing at Chilli Town in the Battle for Ohio. In his first moto of the day, on the second lap of the heat, Carson fought his way into third. Already lapping slower riders, the leaders battled heavy traffic. Carson flew off an 80 ft jump and landed on a lapped rider. Both kids took ambulance rides to the hospital. It was feared he had broken his pelvis and femur. Fortunately, the extent of the physical damage turned out to be a severe groin sprain.
We asked Carson if that was his first ambulance ride? “Nope.” Attesting to the potential dangers of the sport, he broke his left wrist and collar bone in an accident in 2015.
Having already paid their registration and camping fees, the family started out for the Loretta Lynn Ranch with Carson on crutches. Not knowing if they would practice or compete. At the very least, it would be a family vacation. Carson’s doctor had cleared him to ride if he felt up to it. Nightly ice downs and stretching worked and Carson gave it a shot in practice
After practice, Carson said he felt good and wanted to ride. In Moto one a poor start left him in 32nd into the first turn. By lap two he was in 13th and battled to a 10th place finish. Crashes in the next two motos ended the dream for this year.
Riders who earn a podium spot (first, second, or third) get interviewed at events such as the National Championship. When asked who he thanks when interviewed, Carson replied. “I have won smaller races where they don’t do interviews. But, I have been practicing what to say.” With no opportunity to deliver the speech this year, we asked him to tell us who he would acknowledge.
Like a pro, Carson rattled off the lines he had practiced. “I want to thank my Mom, my Dad, my Step-Mom, my Step-Dad, my Grandpa, and both of my Brothers. Mika Metals, Bell Helmets, Xtreme, and Cobra Moto. Pretty sharp for a third-grader. Carson shared that he is a multi-sport athlete, playing football in the fall. He was excited that next year he goes from flag-football to tackle. No problem there, this is one tough kid. Mom Cassie reminded Carson that he also wrestles in the winter. “To help stay in shape.” Last year Carson earned a spot in the state championships.
It’s likely there are many more championships in store for SpeedBump, we wish him continued success.
Maggie McCarthy’s Wishes
The cutest competitor we met was five and a half year old Maggie McCarthy. Maggie already has two years of experience under her belt and was not shy about telling us she has five victories already in her young career. She was also quick to thank her sponsors. My Mom, my Dad, my Grandpa, my Grandma and my cousins. Also Cobra motorcycles.
Maggie wishes she could become a champion someday. She is also wishing for a baby sister. We are not sure if that was a family secret blurted out or an ongoing request to her parents. No comment from Mom Chelsea McCarthy, just a blush.
Friday’s 250 C final ended with a bit of controversy. Jagger Grace was involved in a crash mid-race just before the tunnel jump. Knocked off the track, Jagger refired his bike, bypassed the jump and raced across the starting area to get back in the race. He rejoined the heat in the turn next to the starting gates and went on to finish third. Combined with a second and fifth place finish in the first two motos of the class, Jagger sat third overall.
After the Bronze Medal was hung around his neck, race officials approached with bad news. There was a possibility Jagger would be disqualified for shortcutting the course. Can you imagine the angst a parent goes through when someone accuses their son of cheating? Emotions were running high, to their credit the officials involved maintained a calm demeanor and reminded everyone the incident was still under investigation. No decision had been rendered yet.
No doubt the possibility of removing a medal from a young man’s neck and awarding it to another was not something officials wanted to do. But the complaint filed appeared to be legitimate.
A family member produced a video of the incident and officials reviewed it with Jagger. It showed clearly the path did indeed cut off a turn and a portion of the course. Jagger pleaded his case. He could not return to the course at the missed turn due to a roped off section adjacent to the tunnel jump.
After reviewing additional footage from Racer TV officials determined that Jagger should have entered the track earlier. However, even if he had done so no advantage was gained by the shortcut. The next rider could not have caught Jagger and changed the race outcome. Jagger was allowed to keep the medal, the finish declared official. A good decision that was accepted without further protests.
For more in-depth coverage and and an event picture gallery, check back with The Lasco Press later this week. More stories to tell, more images to see.