Gainsville, FL — November 28, 2022
If you are a regular reader of The Lasco Press, you know we love to cover motocross racing. From the professional SuperCross and ProMotoCross circuit to local AMA District 14 amateur events. You can find live coverage, race reports, local rider stories, and industry insights on the pages of our online newspaper.
Last week we ventured into a new outdoor arena, Gatorback Cycle Park, just outside of Gainsville, FL. We were there to experience, for the first time, the Thor Mini O’s presented by Pro Circuit. This event, held the week of Thanksgiving, can only be rivaled by the AMA National Amateur Championships at Loretta Lynn’s ranch.
What is the main difference between each of these week-long competitions? Riders must qualify to participate at Loretta’s. At Gatorback, you pay your entry fee, show up, and ride. Making the Mini-O’s the biggest amateur motocross event in the country.
The Competition and the Atmosphere
Riders from all over the United States come to North Florida for the late fall slate of motos in 77 different classes. Divisions do fill up as each class is open to 120 registrants, first come, first serve. Pre-registration is online and begins in mid-summer. Sign up for their newsletter with your e-mail address on the event website to get announcements for the 2023 season.
We hung out with a group from Michigan’s AMA District 14. Talked to some racers, parents, and support staff. Interviewed a vendor who made the trip from Fenton, MI, to set up shop at the track. And met an entrepreneur with some of the hottest aftermarket equipment currently available in the motocross marketplace.
Practice and race motos run constantly from dawn to dusk all week. You need a printed schedule and the ability to adjust to time changes caused by track delays to determine when it was necessary to be trackside. Constant chaos might describe it for a novice.
Like every other amateur motocross event, it’s all about the family. Individual family groups with parents, kids, and even grandparents. Plus, the extended track families and fellow competitors who share campsites, resources, equipment, food, and hospitality. No one is a stranger. Smiles and laughter are plentiful. Like scenes taken out of a Norman Rockwell picture album, this is real America.
Our invitation to attend came from the Lasco family via Matt Lasco, Vice President of Lasco Ford in Fenton. Matt, his wife Jamie, who owns and operates Crossfit Fenton, and their 11-year-old son Maxx came to Florida for a well-deserved vacation. At the motocross track.
Everybody has their own definition of what constitutes a vacation. In the motocross community, this place is a perfect venue. Yes, late November in Florida is much more conducive to outdoor fun than the temperatures in Michigan.
It was the first trip to a major motocross event as a competitor for Maxx. What a place to make your debut in a national competition. Much like Loretta Lynn’s ranch, the Gatorback complex is huge, filled with campers and the constant buzz of young people darting everywhere on pit bikes and golf carts.
Just finding someone on the 100+ acre property was a major accomplishment. We met at the spectator hill overlooking the track. Maxx was scheduled to compete in the 85CC (9-11) Limited Class with an early starting time.
There are 40 gates at the starting line, and 120 racers were divided into three heats. Finish in the top 12 in your heat, and you automatically advance to the feature race. The last four spots in the final are filled by four competitors from the last-chance qualifier (LCQ), with the first 40 riders who did not finish in an advancement position fighting it out for the opportunity to race for the class championship.
Back at the campsite, we had the opportunity to interview the young man.
Maxx Speed Lasco
Matt Lasco is a name well-known in Michigan’s AMA District 14. A lifelong Fenton resident, Matt has raced motorcycles since his youth. He has sponsored many events and riders through the years. The family business, Lasco Ford, has operated in Fenton for the last 40 years. Matt has developed a private motocross practice track in Genesee County where Michigan riders of all ages, including son Maxx, work on their riding skills. It is aptly named Maxx Speed Acres.
During the warmer months, Maxx trains four to five days a week at the family track. He attends school online, which he says is a bit more difficult than going to a classroom. “You have to work harder to learn when it is all up to you.” Maxx calls it “cool.” Plus, it comes with the benefit of working on getting your assignments done early so you can spend the rest of the day riding.
Maxx has been riding motocross bikes since he was little. He admits that going to the track was all about fun, riding pit bikes with his buddies, enjoying the time with his dad, and the racing was fun too.
Recently Maxx has begun to take things more seriously, he started working with his mom on CrossFit conditioning. He is enrolled in a training program at the Georgia Practice Facility (GPS) and spends colder months down south with Grandma Kat keeping an eye on school work, eating proper meals, and getting enough rest. Maxx says, “I love it there. I get to work with a trainer, Sam. He is here with us this week, and he helps me get mentally ready to race.
One thing Maxx has practiced very well is the sponsor speech. “I want to thank mom and dad, Lasco Ford, CrossFit Fenton, GPR, FXR, my trainer Sam, MMCR, MCR, and Factory Connection.” If you plan to be on the podium, you have to train for that as well.
Asked what his experience at Gatorback has been like. Maxx replied, “It’s been super fun. The racing is really fast.” Maxx’s goals for 2023? “I want to qualify for Loretta’s.” The experience at Gatorback is a good start on that goal. Maxx now knows what a super competitive national event is like.
Sam Jennings acts as Maxx’s mental coach, trainer, and part-time mechanic. A veteran, Sam served four years in the Air Force. He studied psychology and child development in college. His love of motocross guided him into the industry. Sam made the trip to the Mini-O’s, and we had an opportunity to talk with him as well.
He shared some interesting insights about the sport. We asked if there is really an advantage to a kid starting out at the age of five or six. “Yes, the most important thing in motocross is time in the saddle. You want your 10,000 hours. If you are getting it as a kid, your body is developing as it grows. You are riding all the time, and your body is going to develop to handle that better.
One of Maxx’s best friends, Parker Beckington, was scheduled to be at the Mini-O’s but suffered an on-track accident and broke an arm. So, we were curious about how the dangerous aspect of the sport factors into mind games on the track. Maxx says, “I just don’t think about it when I am on the track.”
Sam talked about the potential for injury in motocross. “It’s not for the faint of heart. You have got to be mentally 100% ready to do it.”
How do you get inside a kid’s head? “It varies with the kid, you have to become their friend first, and they have to trust you.
What is the make or break age for a young person in determining if they are going to have a future in the sport? Sam feels it is between 14 and 17. “You have to be concentrating on national events by that age and have developed a riding style that allows you to be consistently competitive.”
It is easy to see why Matt and Jamie trust Sam with Maxx’s development leading up to the critical age bracket.
Adjacent to the Lasco’s campsite sat the motorhome of the Hekker Family. Logan Hekker is another of Maxx’s friends who trains at the family compound. Mom and dad, Nancy and Skip, make up another three-person family team at the track that supports a young motocross prospect.
Nancy is always busy. Baking, cooking, worrying and praying. Her chili was top-notch. Chasing it with a brownie and cookie made for a simple but filling track-side lunch. Worry and prayer must be working well also. Her son, 13-year-old Logan, is a strong, polite, and handsome young man with a good head on his shoulders.
Stand Maxx and Logan next to each other, and one would guess Maxx to be 13 and Logan easily 16 years old. Both display well-developed athletic builds. The differences are what you might expect from young people of that age.
When asked what he enjoys most about coming to the track. Logan replied, “The girls.” Better pray a little harder, mom! What about the racing? “Oh, yeah, that is awesome too.”
This is Logan’s second year at the Mini-O’s, and you can tell the confidence and maturity are really beginning to develop in the young man.
Logan began motocross riding at nine-years-old and currently races in the 12-17 age group. He rides a 125cc bike, often against guys on 250cc machines. You cannot ride the bigger bike until you are 14. He says it forces him to concentrate more on technique than horsepower.
Like Maxx, he goes to school online. He says it is more difficult than public schools but believes he is getting a better education. Logan trains at WW Ranch in Jacksonville, FL, from October to May.
The confidence Logan displays he credits to prayer as well. But unlike mom, he does not worry. “I just go out on the track and ride as hard as I can.”
Matt introduced us to a couple of vendors they work with at the track. It is amazing to walk through vendor row and check out the items for sale that relate to the sport. From T-shirts and hats to racing uniforms, plus aftermarket equipment, custom-designed to improve the performance of stock bikes.
Tim Bennett owns and operates TCD Racing. The Fenton resident has a shop at 8405 Andersonville Road, Suite A, in Clarkston, MI. His facility features its own C&C machine, a suspension dyno, and they represent WP Suspension as an authorized sales and service center.
A former rider himself, Tim loves the motocross business. With his wife Heather and their three-year-old daughter, they have built their business into a full-time cycle accessory center with five employees and at-track support.
Dan Daniels has three sons, a 13-year-old and twin 11-year-olds who race motocross. Keeping three kids on the race track is a full-time job with bike repairs and maintenance. Add to that the cost of equipment and expenses add up quickly.
Dan found his boys were experiencing a high rate of throttle part failures. He came up with a new design made from billet aluminum. It worked so well people began to notice. Soon he was selling them to friends and other competitors at the track.
T-Rex Moto-X now provides an array of billet aluminum parts to enhance the performance of stock bikes.
Watch for feature articles on both TCD Racing and T-Rex Moto-X coming soon in The Lasco Press as we continue motocross coverage leading into 2023.