HURRICANE MILLS, Tenn. — After an action-packed opening day of motos, another full slate of racing was on deck Wednesday at the 41st running of the Monster Energy AMA Amateru National Motocross Championship at Loretta Lynn Ranch.
The morning half of the day’s races completed the opening set of motos for all 36 classes and following a midday intermission gave way to the start of the second motos for nine classes, in which the championship battles started to take shape.
After an impressive win in Open Pro Sport, Monster Energy Kawasaki Team Green’s Ryder DiFrancesco was arguably the rider to beat in 250 Pro Sport. While the California native came up short in his bid for another moto win, he was once again impressive with a come-from-behind effort that saw him overcome an opening-lap tip over and an 11th-place start to just narrowly miss out on victory by mere bike lengths.
The battle for the first moto win began as a hotly contested affair between GASGAS Factory Amateur Team rider Caden Braswell and NSA Yamaha Factory Amateur Team rider Gavin Towers.
Towers made the first move and prevailed with the STACYC Holeshot, but Braswell went on the attack early and took over the top spot. The GASGAS rider set a strong pace through the opening laps to assert himself out front, but misfortune caused him to lose valuable ground and drop from first to third.
Towers assumed the lead and relied on his experience to manage the advantage, with consistent lap times that allowed him to keep Team Honda HRC’s Chance Hymas at bay through the middle of the moto.
As Towers continued to control the lead, DiFrancesco jumped into the mix with both Hymas and Braswell, and got the better of both riders.
The final lap of the moto was filled with tension as DiFrancesco closed onto the rear of Towers’ Yamaha and looked for a way around. The two riders were side-by-side entering the final corner, but Towers held on for the Moto 1 win. Braswell made a late pass on Hymas to grab third.
Following a heartbreaking start to the week in Tuesday’s 250 B opener, Wednesday was a new day and an opportunity for redemption for Monster Energy/Star/Yamaha Racing’s Haiden Deegan in the first moto of Schoolboy 2 (12-17) B/C. The second-generation racer would once again have to go bar-to-bar with the likes of NSA Yamaha Factory Amateur Team rider Evan Ferry, Monster Energy Kawasaki Team Green’s Preston Boespflug, and KTM Orange Brigade’s Daxton Bennick.
As the field roared out the gate to start Moto 1 of Schoolboy 2 (12-17) B/C it was Boespflug who rocketed out front to take the STACYC Holeshot and assume the early lead, while Deegan, Bennick and Ferry gave pursuit. Unfortunately for Ferry, a solid start was erased when he encountered misfortune on the opening lap and dropped outside the top 10 in the running order.
Deegan looked to track down Boespflug for the lead early, but a slight bobble allowed Bennick to briefly assume second. Deegan reset and went back on the attack. He ran the fastest lap of the moto to reclaim the spot from Bennick and then made an easy move on Boespflug a short time later to climb from third to first on a single lap and seize control of the moto.
From that point forward Deegan maintained a firm hold of the lead as Boespflug and Bennick battled it out for second. The KTM rider eventually made the pass and was able to keep Deegan honest through to the finish, but the Yamaha took the checkered flag by several seconds for his first moto win of the 2022 event. KTM Orange Brigade’s Mark Fineis rounded out the top three.
After a strong start to his week on Tuesday, NSA Yamaha Factory Amateur Team’s Logan Best entered the first moto of Schoolboy 1 (12-17) B/C with confidence and momentum that made him one of the favorites to make the first statement. He was expected to also be challenged by Monster Energy Husqvarna’s Casey Cochran.
However, when the gate dropped it was B.J. Stevens Inc. KTM’s Noah Stevens who emerged with the STACYC Holeshot and the lead. With the clear track ahead of him Stevens quickly opened a multi-second gap on the field as Best slotted into second and looked to track down the lead. The lead pair rode consistently fast laps that allowed them to sprint away from the rest of the field.
Despite Best’s constant presence over the entirety of the moto, Stevens never put a wheel wrong and was able to wrap up a wire-to-wire victory ahead of his Yamaha rival. Cochran was able to finish on the podium in third, but was never a factor following a sixth-place start.
Typically, one of the most competitive races at Loretta Lynn’s, the Supermini classes were expected to see several riders contend for the title. When all was said and done with the opening motos of both Supermini 1 (12-15) and Supermini 2 (13-16) the same four riders occupied the top four positions across both motos.
Leading the way was the KTM duo of Jeremy Fappani and Leum Oehlhof, who traded wins and set the stage for a compelling championship battle.
Fappani put himself in a perfect position to start the Supermini 1 (12-15) moto, as the KTM Orange Brigade rider grabbed the STACYC Holeshot and easily sprinted out to a big lead. Fappani was a picture of consistency over the course of the moto and enjoyed an advantage of more than 10 seconds on the field by the time the moto reached its halfway point. Behind him Oehlhof was hard at work trying to overcome a 10th-place start.
The Rides Unlimited KTM rider was impressive in his climb through the pack, passing multiple riders each lap early on. He eventually made his way into second but was nearly 20 seconds off the lead. Fappani enjoyed one of the most dominant rides of the week thus far and took a commanding wire-to-wire win as Oehlhof followed in a distant second. GASGAS Factory Amateur Race Team’s Tiger Wood finished third, fighting back from a seventh-place start.
The head-to-head battle between Fappani and Oehlhof that never came to fruition in the previous moto proved to be the showcase element of Moto 1 in Supermini 2 (13-16). After both riders positioned themselves near the front of the field off the start, they moved to the head of the pack before the completion of the opening lap, with Oehlhof leading the way.
The two riders shadowed one another for several laps and put on an impressive display of mini-bike prowess. Near the halfway point of the moto Oehlhof dug deep to push the pace and forced a small miscue from Fappani that proved to be the difference maker. The lead continued to grow and Oehlhof cruised to the moto win, with Fappani second and Wood once again in third.
The first wave of second motos included Open Pro Sport, which brought many of the Ranch’s top riders back onto the track for a second time on Wednesday. Following a win in Moto 1 and an impressive runner-up effort earlier in the day to start 250 Pro Sport, all eyes were on DiFrancesco and his Team Green Kawasaki, as he looked to move one step closer to his first “big bike” crown.
The result of the second moto was one of the most exciting races of the week thus far. In his third gate drop of the week Hymas finally put his Honda at the head of the pack to open the second moto. The Idaho native looked comfortable pacing the field and built a multi-second advantage in the early stages, but both Braswell and DiFrancesco were on the move after each started inside the top five. It wasn’t long before the lead trio was separated by less than two seconds.
Braswell made a savvy move to get by Hymas and take over the lead, which then put Hymas into the clutches of DiFrancesco, who dropped his rival to third. At that point the battle was one between the GASGAS and Kawasaki riders.
A brief off-track excursion by Braswell handed the lead to DiFrancesco, but moments later the rear end of the Kawasaki went up and over and sent DiFrancesco into the ground. Braswell moved back the lead and carried on to the finish as DiFrancesco remounted in fourth.
Braswell took a wild and dramatic victory by several seconds over NSA Yamaha Factory Amateur Team’s Jayden Clough, who put in a strong charge over the second half of the moto to finish second. Hymas earned his first podium result of the week in third. DiFrancesco soldiered home to fifth.
Despite the adversity of Moto 2, DiFrancesco still leads the way in the overall classification. His 1-5 moto finishes totals six points entering the final moto, while Braswell (7-1) leads a four-way tie for second at eight points with Clough (6-2), Monster Energy/SlamLife Racing Honda’s Cole Martinez (4-4), and Pure Outlaw Yamaha’s Gage Linville (2-6).
The battle in the 85cc (10-12) class took quite an intriguing turn during its second moto as each of the division’s three front-runners, Future MX KTM’s Carson Wood, KTM Orange Brigade’s Seth Dennis and Monster Energy Kawasaki Team Green’s Caden Dudney, all faced adversity in Moto 2.
While Dennis and Dudney were forced to battle through the pack after difficult starts, a dominant performance by Future MX KTM’s Carson Wood came undone when he crashed out of the lead in the waning minutes of the moto.
Wood seized the moment from the outset of the gate drop and jumped out to the early lead as Dennis started just outside the top 15 and Dudney found himself outside the top 20. With an opening moto win already in hand, the early advantage would likely be more than enough for Wood to remain undefeated. However, with a lead of more than eight seconds and mere minutes left in the moto Wood crashed in an awkward spot of the track, which hindered his ability to remount in a timely manner.
Monster Energy Kawasaki Team Green’s Ryder Ellis assumed the lead after Wood’s crash, but the rider on the move was none other than Dudney, who overcame a 21st-place start to put pressure on the lead and make a late winning pass. Dudney closed with emphatic fashion and took the moto win by multiple seconds over Ellis, while Fast Company KTM’s Grayson Townsend finished third. Dennis battled back for fourth, while Wood got back on track to finish in 11th place.