HURRICANE MILLS, Tenn. — After months of anticipation, motocross racing has finally returned as the 39th running of the Monster Energy AMA Amateur National Championship kicked off Tuesday at famed Loretta Lynn’s Ranch.
A full slate of action headlined the day, with the first 22 motos of the event being run.
Since 1982, the biggest names in the sport have left their mark on the hallowed grounds of this prestigious event and this year’s journey to crown 36 AMA national nhampions is destined to be as compelling as ever.
The lineup for 250 Pro Sport was brimming with talent, with the likes of Stilez Robertson (Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing), Mason Gonzales (Yamaha/Rock River/bLU cRU Amateur Motocross Team) and Dilan Schwartz (BarX/Chaparral/Suzuki) leading the way as title favorites. When the gate dropped on the first of three motos for the class, it was Gonzales who emerged with the STACYC Holeshot to assume the lead on the opening lap.
Schwartz was able to grab a good start as well and immediately went on the attack for the lead, getting around Gonzales before the end of lap two
The clear track on a layout that was only getting rougher with each passing lap proved to be all Schwartz needed. The Suzuki rider continued to build a lead over Gonzales through the first half of the moto, which soon caused the Yamaha rider to come under fire from the Husqvarna of Robertson. The battle for second heated up right at the halfway point, with Robertson eventually getting the upper hand, dropping Gonzales to third.
As the minutes wound down, Schwartz and Robertson traded faster lap times, which ultimately kept the distance between them at around eight seconds. Schwartz carried on to take the checkered flag and open his week with a moto win, while Roberston successfully battled from a fifth-place start to earn a runner-up result. Gonzales parlayed his holeshot into a podium finish in third.
Much like its Pro Sport counterpart, the 250 B division is also loaded with heavy hitters. At Monster Energy Kawasaki Team Green, Jett Reynolds and Chance Hymas were generating a lot of buzz, while the Monster Energy/Star/Yamaha Racing duo of Matthew Leblanc and Nick Romano were in the discussion as favorites to win the title.
KTM was well represented as well with Troy Lee Designs/Red Bull/KTM’s Nick Thrasher and Rides Unlimited KTM’s Jack Chambers.
As the 250 B field roared out the gate for its opening moto it was Yamaha rider Kyle Smith who grabbed the STACYC Holeshot, but he quickly dropped back several positions. That allowed Hymas to take control as the early leader, with Leblanc right behind in second. Suzuki rider Carter Biese, Thrasher, and Romano rounded out the top five.
The ability to get up front early benefitted both Hymas and Leblanc, as both riders were able to soon distance themselves from the field, setting the stage for a head-to-head battle for the win. Behind them, Thrasher and Romano duked it out for third. Just past the halfway point of the moto, Leblanc began to apply pressure on Hymas for the lead. They engaged in an exciting battle for the position, with Hymas putting up a valiant fight. Eventually Leblanc made the pass stick, while Romano was able to get the better of Thrasher and move into podium position.
Leblanc piloted his Yamaha to the Moto 1 victory by just over five seconds over Hymas, but drama unfolded on the final lap in the battle for third. Romano, who appeared to have the position in hand, encountered misfortune that also involved Thrasher, which dropped both riders out of contention for a strong result. The opened the door for Reynolds, who started ninth, to steal third and claim the final spot on the podium.
The two most talked about riders coming into the week for the 125cc B/C title were Troy Lee Designs/Red Bull/KTM’s Max Vohland and Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing’s Talon Hawkins. When the first moto got underway, neither of these two riders were in the mix. Instead, EBR Performance KTM’s Crockett Myers earned the STACYC Holeshot before giving way to MTF KTM’s Gage Linville, who moved into the early lead over Myers and GasGas’ Matti Jorgensen Jr.
With the holeshot Linville was able to establish himself comfortably out front, but all eyes were on both Vohland, who started fifth, and Hawkins, who was back in 14th. Despite not starting in the lead group, Vohland had his KTM dialed in and quickly charged up to second place.
With Linville in sight, he tracked down the leader and made an exceptional pass to seize control of the race just past the halfway point. Linville did all he could to stay in touch, but Vohland charged to the moto win by over six seconds. Yamaha rider Larry Reyes Jr. rounded out the podium.
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