HURRICANE MILLS, Tenn. – The first gate drops of the landmark 40th running of the Monster Energy AMA Amateur National Motocross Championship commenced on Tuesday from Tennessee’s famed Loretta Lynn’s Ranch.
On-track action kicked off at 7:30 a.m. local time, where the first set of 22 motos set the tone for what is expected to be an exciting and highly competitive week of racing to crown 36 AMA National Champions.
Jeff Emig, a two-time AMA 250cc National Champion, has collected a total of seven titles at the ranch, but he has not competed on the hallowed grounds since 2006, when he won the Vet 35+ crown.
Emig’s anticipated return to Loretta Lynn’s kicked off with the opening Masters (50+) moto, where Team Carey Yamaha’s Tim Fillipi started things off with the STACYC Holeshot, only to be passed by Stahlman Powersports Kawasaki’s Billy Fosnock and The Wick 338/Pilgrim Powersports Kawasaki’s Keith Johnson, while Emig snuck into third.
Fosnock led the opening lap, but Emig went on the attack and passed both riders to surge into the lead aboard his Shift MX Husqvarna. He opened up an advantage of more than five seconds over Johnson, but the Kawasaki rider laid down his fastest lap of the moto to make things interesting in the late stages. However, Emig showed why he’s one of the sport’s legends and resisted the late challenge to pull away once more and secure the moto win.
Johnson finished second, with RM Army Suzuki’s Barry Carsten third, Champion MX KTM’s Kurt Nicoll fourth, and Ulrich Performance/Triangle Cycles Suzuki’s Kevin Walker in fifth.
One of the showcase divisions of Loretta Lynn’s is always a focal point thanks to a stacked roster of talent destined to graduate into the professional ranks. This year’s field includes the likes of Bar X/Chaparral/ECSTAR/Suzuki Racing’s Preston Kilroy, Monster Energy/Star/Yamaha Racing’s Levi Kitchen, and Monster Energy Kawasaki Team Green’s Jett Reynolds, each of whom entered with a shot at the AMA National Championship.
As the gate dropped on the first of three motos for the class, it was Kitchen who emerged from the first turn with the STACYC Holeshot. Kitchen was able to take advantage of the clear track and opened a gap on Phoenix Racing Honda’s Hunter Yoder. Behind them, Kilroy battled with AEO Powersports GASGAS’ Austin Black, while Reynolds started seventh.
At the completion of the opening lap Kitchen had already built a lead of more than five seconds, which he continued to add to as Kilroy fought his way into second to drop Yoder to third and into the clutches of both Reynolds and Black. Out front, Kitchen was in a class of his own and soon established a double-digit advantage that he easily maintained through the remainder of the moto. Once into second, Kilroy asserted a similar hold on the position and ran most of the race on his own.
With the leaders all but checked out, the attention shifted to a tight battle for third between Black and Reynolds. The duo mirrored one another’s lap times as Reynolds sought to mount enough of a challenger to make a pass attempt. However, Black withstood the pressure throughout and inched away in the late stages of the moto.
Kitchen rode a near-perfect race en route to the opening moto win, followed by Kilroy in second and Black in third. However, after the race concluded it was deemed that Kitchen had jumped in an area showing a red cross flag, which signifies a downed rider in a precarious position and requires wheels to remain on the ground. As a result of the infraction, Kitchen was penalized two positions, which moved Kilroy to the top of the results, with Black now second. Kitchen was dropped to third ahead of Reynolds in fourth, while NSA/bLU cRU Yamaha’s Luca Marsalisi rounded out the top five.
Just like Pro Sport, 250 B is also a class brimming with talent, including Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing’s Talon Hawkins, NSA/bLU cRU Yamaha’s Gage Linville, Monster Energy/Star/Yamaha Racing’s Nick Romano, Monster Energy Kawasaki Team Green’s Gavin Towers, and others.
As the field stormed out the gate and into the first turn it was KTM Orange Brigade’s Caden Braswell who grabbed the STACYC Holeshot, but Romano made a quick challenge to jump into the lead. Braswell battled back and reclaimed the top spot before the completion of the opening lap and brought Red Bull KTM’s Daxton Bennick along with him into second.
Romano regrouped and came back to challenge Bennick. The Yamaha rider made an aggressive pass to take over second and looked to close the gap to the lead. That ended up being all the work Romano had to do, as Braswell had a miscue and lost several positions. Romano inherited the lead as Linville charged up into second and Bennick followed in third, just ahead of Towers.
The Yamahas at the head of the pack stayed close to one another, as Linville kept Romano within striking distance, but as they navigated through lappers at the end of the moto Romano was able to slip away. He charged home to the moto win, with Linville second and Towers third. Braswell recovered to grab fourth, while MotoSport Hillsboro Honda’s Preston Boespflug completed the top five.
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