HURRICANE MILLS, Tenn. — A week of fun, excitement, and intrigue came to a fitting conclusion on Saturday at the Monster Energy AMA Amateur National Motocross Championship, presented by AMSOIL, as all 36 classes of competition hit the track for the championship-deciding third and final motos.
Another day filled with rain added a layer of complexity to the action on the track, but the same grit and determination that has defined this event for more than 40 years was as prevalent as ever with championships on the line.
Moto 3: Open Pro Sport
The first two motos of Open Pro Sport proved to be showcases of dominance for Monster Energy Yamaha Star Racing’s Daxton Bennick, who entered Saturday with a pair of moto wins and largely unchallenged performances. The odds-on favorite to become the newest Open Pro Sport Champion and latest recipient of the Nicky Hayden AMA Motocross Horizon Award simply needed to keep doing what he’d been doing.
The race didn’t start as cleanly as Bennick would have hoped as Phoenix Racing Honda’s Heath Harrison emerged with the STACYC Holeshot and early lead in the moto. He was followed by Kawasaki rider Jacob Hayes to put a pair of former pros at the head of the pack. Rock River Yamaha’s Avery Long slotted into third while Bennick had some work to do from fifth.
Bennick battled his way into third by the second lap and quickly latched onto the rear fender of Hayes for second. Despite being the faster rider, Bennick needed a couple laps to make a move and was faced with a five-second deficit to the leader once he completed the pass. On the ensuing lap, Bennick laid down the fastest lap of the moto to move within striking distance of the lead. He applied heavy pressure on Harrison, who kept him at bay for a little while before Bennick made the winning pass with just a couple laps remaining.
Bennick completed the sweep of Open Pro Sport by just over two seconds on Harrison, while Hayes was unchallenged en route to third.
By virtue of his incredible performance in Open Pro Sport, Bennick became the latest rider to earn the coveted distinction of receiving the Nicky Hayden AMA Motocross Horizon Award, which recognizes the top performing amateur racer on the cusp of graduating into the professional ranks.
Moto 3: 250 Pro Sport
With 2-1 moto scores coming into the final moto, GASGAS Amateur Team rider Mark Fineis was in control of his own destiny in 250 Pro Sport. However, incredibly wet and muddy conditions from the rain would ultimately be the biggest obstacle to overcome for the entire field.
As the field emerged from the first turn it was NSA Yamaha Amateur Factory Team rider Gavin Towers leading the way with the STACYC Holeshot. However, he was passed by AEO Powersports GASGAS’ Lux Turner who showed impressive speed early on. Towers was also passed by KTM Orange Brigade’s Julien Beaumer. Fineis was mired deep in the field, completing the opening lap in 18th.
A battle for the lead materialized as Beaumer was flying despite the challenging conditions, which forced Turner to up his pace a bit more. Unfortunately, Turner lost the top spot when he slid out, which handed the lead to Beaumer and moved Towers into second. Turner remounted in fifth and kept pushing to the front. Further back, Fineis’ tough start got even worse when misfortune dropped him to the tail end of the field and eventually out of the race, dashing any aspirations for the title.
With Fineis out, the battle for the class championship came down to Towers and Bennick, who followed one another in second and third, respectively.
Out front, Beaumer’s pace dropped considerably as the moto wore on, which included a tip over that cost him valuable time, but not a position on the track. He piloted his KTM to a second moto win to bookend 250 Pro Sport with victories. Despite being the winningest rider in the class, Beaumer’s 17th-place finish in Moto 2 prevented him from being in the title picture.
Towers brought home a runner-up finish to complete an incredibly consistent weekend that saw him prevail with the 250 Pro Sport Championship. It signifies the first ever Loretta Lynn’s title for Towers, doing so in one of the event’s most high-profile classes.
Moto 3: 250 B
With three motos and a week full of racing at Loretta’s, the ability to get hot as the week progresses isn’t uncommon. Perhaps no one personified that ascension better than Monster Energy Kawasaki Team Green’s Krystian Janik. The Illinois native took a big step in 250 B with a win in Moto 2 and had all the confidence in the world knowing a championship was within reach.
The final moto began with Yamaha rider Dilon Blecha out front for the STACYC Holeshot, which he sustained for a couple laps before Monster Energy Kawasaki Team Green’s Aden Keefer came on strong and successfully made the pass for the lead. However, Keefer’s lead was short lived as well, as his fellow Team Green rider Janik stormed all the way from seventh to first in a matter of a few laps.
Janik closed out the moto emphatically and ultimately won the final two motos to clinch his second career AMA National Championship. KTM rider Jordan Renfro followed in second, while Keefer rounded out the moto podium.
Moto 3: Schoolboy 2 (12-17) B/C
After he was seen pulling off the track with apparent discomfort to his arm earlier in the week, concern surrounded whether Casey Cochran’s pursuit of championships would continue. While the Rockstar Energy Husqvarna rider did forgo 250 B competition, his pursuit of the Schoolboy 2 crown continued.
When the final Schoolboy 2 moto got underway it was Cochran who rocketed out of the gate to easily claim the STACYC Holeshot and grab hold of the early lead. Behind him, GASGAS rider Landin Pepperd slotted into second with NSA Yamaha Amateur Factory Team rider Logan Best in third. With the clear track Cochran was able to sprint out to a multi-second lead on the opening lap and continued to build on that advantage the rest of the way. With the leader slipping away, Pepperd and Best battled it out for second, with Best successfully making the pass before experiencing misfortune and losing several positions.
Back out front, Cochran capped off his championship-winning performance with a wire-to-wire victory to secure two of three moto wins and clinch his sixth career Loretta’s title. Pepperd finished second but did have to withstand a late charge by fellow GASGAS rider Casey Benard Jr. from third.
Moto 3: Supermini 1 (12-15) & Supermini 2 (13-16)
All week long the Supermini classes were headlined by impressive performances from KTM Orange Brigade’s Seth Dennis, fellow KTM rider Deacon Denno, and Monster Energy Kawasaki Team Green Landen Gordon. This trio made their presence felt once more on Saturday.
The third and final Supermini 1 moto began with Denno out front for the STACYC Holeshot, while the KTM of Logan Mortberg started second. Another KTM, Nathan Hummel, moved himself into the podium mix as well. Despite starting in fifth, Gordon was the rider on the move. He made the pass on Mortberg for third at the halfway point of the moto and posted his fastest lap of the race to get by Hummel for second. He then erased his deficit to Denno, whose pace had dropped off, and made an unchallenged pass for the lead. Gordon charged hard through to the finish to take his first moto win in the class ahead of Denno, while Mortberg followed in third.
Denno’s awareness of the overall classification allowed him to manage the moto as he still wrapped up his maiden AMA National Championship despite losing the lead late. His 2-1-2 moto scored edged out Gordon by a single point to take the Supermini 1 crown.
When the Supermini 2 field launched out the gate for the final time it was Denno at the head of the pack again for the STACYC Holeshot ahead of Dennis and KTM rider Canyon Richards. The early stages of the moto quickly became a three-rider battle amongst this trio as Denno was able to fend off both Dennis and Richards, the latter eventually making the pass for second. Behind this battle Gordon was working his way towards the front after starting in 11th and moved up to fifth entering the closing laps. Back up front Denno and Richards engaged in an exciting battle for the win with Denno countering each Richards attack. Unfortunately, a minor miscue caused Denno to crash out of the lead, which handed the moto win to Richards. Gordon charged all the way to second by the end of the moto while KTM rider Cole Timboe rounded out the moto podium.
Gordon’s late run to the podium put the finishing touches on his second Loretta’s championship, which was defined by podium finishes in each Supermini 2 moto. Gordon also finished on the podium in every Supermini 1 moto, going six-for-six in top-three finishes.
Moto 3: Mini Sr. 1 (12-14) & Mini Sr. 2 (13-15)
Highly competitive racing defined both Mini Sr. classes where a multitude of riders emerged with moto wins and spots on each moto podium. The parity made for a pair of hotly contested championships during the final motos.
When Mini Sr. 1 emerged from the first turn for the last time it was the Husqvarna of Vincent Way out front for the STACYC Holeshot in very wet conditions. The second-generation racer led the opening lap over the KTM’s of Kevyn de Pinho and Caleb Wood, but then crashed out of the lead and dropped outside the top 20. That opened the door for de Pinho to take control of the moto. More than 10 seconds separated de Pinho from the rest of the field but misfortune late in the moto allowed Wood to claim the top spot and drop de Pinho well back in second, which would prove costly in the overall classification. Wood wrapped up the moto win over de Pinho with GASGAS rider Austin Camden in third.
The unpredictable results across the division saw KTM rider Colby Lessar emerge with the Mini Sr. 1 title with 5-4-6 moto scores, which narrowly edged out de Pinho by a single point. It signified the first AMA National Championship for Lessar in his third year at the Ranch.
The final Mini Sr. 2 moto got underway with Wood out front for the STACYC Holeshot ahead of de Pinho, Husqvarna rider Kade Bollasina, and Wey. Wood paced the field for the opening lap but a bobble caused him to lose the lead to de Pinho, who opened up at 16-second advantage over the field. That left the battle for second to unfold between Wood and Wey, from which Wey moved his Husqvarna into the runner-up spot after more misfortune for Wood. Back out front de Pinho brought home the moto win ahead of Wey, while Wood soldiered home to a third-place result.
A trio of consistent Mini Sr. 2 finishes helped Wey prevail with his second Loretta Lynn’s title.
Moto 3: Senior (40+) & Masters (50+)
Both the Senior and Masters classes were showcases of the incredible prowess of 52 year old Mike Brown, but if there was ever a major equalizer in the sport of motocross it’s rain. As a result, nothing would be guaranteed for the 11-time Loretta Lynn’s champion as rain and extremely wet conditions greeted riders for the final Senior moto.
The race began with Yamaha rider Robert Fitch at the head of the pack for the STACYC Holeshot, with Brown in tow. Fitch held on to lead the opening lap, but unfortunately saw his moto come to a premature conclusion on the ensuing lap. That allowed Brown to assume the lead, four seconds clear of the field, but it all came to an end when Brown was seen pushing his motorcycle off the side of the track less than one lap later. The latest victim of attrition opened the door for Jeff Emig to claim the top spot aboard his KTM, not far ahead of the Honda of Shane Kelleher. The second to last lap saw Emig post his fastest time, only to be bettered by Kelleher by more than 2.5 seconds. That was enough to give Kelleher the speed advantage he needed to pass Emig on the final lap and carry on to a surprise moto win.
Emig was well aware of his standing in the overall classification and didn’t need to put up a fight in the final moto as his trio of runner-up finishes was more than enough to clinch his first AMA National Championship at Loretta’s since 2006.
By virtue of his bike issues from the Senior moto, class leader Brown was unable to line up for the Masters Moto 3 later in the day. That opened the door for Emig to ride a solid, drama free moto to wrap up his second championship of the day. One of the biggest elements of accomplishing that was to grab a good start, which Emig did by securing the STACYC Holeshot and moving into the early lead. Emig was able to sprint away from the field on the opening lap and establish a gap of more than 10 seconds over the Yamaha of Brian Carroll Jr. From there all Emig needed to do was get his KTM through to the finish. He added to his lead every lap and soon found himself more than a half-minute clear of the field. Emig closed out his title-winning ride with a wire-to-wire victory, followed by Kawasaki rider Gregory Pamart in second and Carroll Jr. in third.
Emig’s 1-2-1 moto scores were well ahead of his rivals to make him two-for-two in championships at the Ranch this summer.