HURRICANE MILLS, Tenn. — The penultimate day of the 40th Monster Energy AMA Amateru National Motocross provided the first opportunity for championships to be decided, as 19 classes contested their third and final motos.
As the sun set on Loretta Lynn’s Ranch, 19 riders stood with coveted No. 1 plates.
All week long the budding rivalry between Monster Energy/Star/Yamaha Racing’s Levi Kitchen and Bar X/Chaparral/ECSTAR/Suzuki Racing’s Preston Kilroy has provided captivating drama and emerged as one of the biggest storylines of this year’s event.
In 250 Pro Sport, Kitchen has been the rider to beat, and if not for a penalty after the first moto he’d be in position for a 1-1-1 sweep. Nevertheless, Kitchen carried a two-point advantage over Kilroy entering Friday’s third moto.
As the field stormed out of the first turn for the last time, it was Moto X Compound Husqvarna’s Chris Blackmer who captured the STACYC Holeshot, just ahead of Kitchen, Kilroy, and Monster Energy Kawasaki Team Green’s Chance Hymas. Kitchen seized the moment and jumped into the lead in an effort to sprint away, as Hymas followed into second and Kilroy into third.
The battle for the lead heated up near the end of the opening lap when Hymas applied heavy pressure on Kitchen and successfully took over the lead. Kitchen then made an uncharacteristic miscue and went down. He remounted quickly, but reentered outside the top 10.
Hymas was determined to end 250 Pro Sport with a win and he surged out to a lead of more than five seconds after a couple laps. As the Kawasaki rider took control of the moto, all eyes were on Kitchen and his climb back through the field. The Yamaha rider was on a mission and climbed back into podium position before the halfway point. He then tracked down and passed Kilroy for second, which was effectively a championship-winning move.
Hymas took the moto win in emphatic fashion, with Kitchen second. AEO Powersports GASGAS’ Austin Black followed in third after a late pass on Kilroy.
After impressively strong outings through the first two motos, Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing’s Evan Ferry and KTM Orange Brigade’s Mark Fineis entered the third moto knotted atop the standings.
A pressure packed final gate drop saw C&C Drilling KTM’s J.J. Willoughby secure the STACYC Holeshot as both Ferry and Fineis jockeyed for position in the pack. Realizing the significance of the moment Ferry dropped the hammer and clawed his way into the lead before the completion of the opening lap.
As the early stages of the moto wore on, Ferry consistently added to his lead over EBR Performance Yamaha’s Collin Allen in second. Meanwhile, Fineis showed tremendous patience as he continued to make passes and move up the running order. Back out front, Ferry never wavered and looked cool, calm, and collected at the head of the pack.
The second-generation racer took the moto win with relative ease and ended his championship-winning week in emphatic fashion. Fineis managed to fight up to fourth, but misfortune struck on the last lap and dropped him to 15th at the finish. VPE KTM’s Bryce Shelly finished second, with Allen third.
In the second appearance of Schoolboy 2, Monster Energy/Star/Yamaha Racing’s Nick Romano had an opportunity to get a firm grasp on the overall standings and put the pressure on his rivals. When the gate dropped on Moto 2 Romano did exactly that and jumped out to an early lead over Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Gavin Towers, who crashed and reentered outside the top 10. Towers’ misfortune moved KTM Orange Brigade’s Caden Braswell into second and EBR Performance Yamaha’s Ben Garib into third.
Romano was too much and moved out to an advantage of more than 10 seconds at the halfway point of the moto. He was never challenged and brought home a very convincing Moto 2 victory to effectively put him in the driver’s seat in the overall classification.
With a lineup of some of the sport’s most successful and well-known names, it was anyone’s guess as to which rider would prevail with the Moto 2 win in Senior (45+).
Rockstar Energy/Munn Racing Husqvarna’s Mike Brown entered the day with the momentum following his opening moto win, but The Wick 338/Pilgrim Powersports Kawasaki’s Keith Johnson and Shift MX Husqvarna’s Jeff Emig were sure to make their presence felt.
As the riders charged through the first turn it was Brown who once again surged to the head of the pack ahead of Area 83 GASGAS’ Dennis Cooley and Brewer Cycles KTM’s Edward Walston. That paid big dividends for Brown, who was able to sprint out to an early lead while Johnson worked his way forward from fifth and Emig from outside the top 10.
It took Brown just two laps to check out on the field, as he established a double-digit advantage while his rivals were still jockeying for position. Eventually, Johnson worked his way up to second, but he faced a deficit of nearly 20 seconds by the time he got to the front of the field. Likewise, Emig successfully clawed his way into the top three, but was all alone in pursuit of the top two.
Brown enjoyed one of the most dominant motos of the week at Loretta’s, with nearly 30 seconds between he and Johnson at the finish, with Emig a distant third.
A championship was on the line as Johnson and Emig returned to the track for the third and final Masters moto. After trading moto wins, this veteran duo sat tied atop the overall standings, which set the stage for a captivating showdown in the class featuring Loretta Lynn’s oldest competitors.
When the gate dropped and the field funneled in and out of the first turn, it was Champion MX KTM’s Kurt Nicoll who captured the STACYC Holeshot. Fittingly enough, Johnson and Emig were right next to one another, but it was Johnson who seized the moment and charged to the head of the pack as Emig still looked to assert himself.
Johnson’s aggressiveness on the opening lap proved to be a championship-winning move as he jumped out to a healthy lead that was going to be difficult to overcome. By the time he moved into second, Emig faced a deficit of more than seven seconds to his rival and continued to lose ground through the middle of the moto.
Emig did all he could en route to a second-place finish, while Stahlman Powersports Kawasaki’s Billy Fosnock was third.