The Purther family is no stranger to the struggles of amateur motocross. For years, they've kept Luke in the national scene, month after month, year after year. What they lack in resources Luke makes up for in heart. Sacrificing the normality of "home life", Ronnie, Tina, and Luke invest every cent and every emotion into pursuing his racing career. We had the chance to sit down with them at Ponca City, and to say the least, I was shocked. I've seen Luke come up for quite some time, but never sat down to do the math on his previous success. At 13 years old, he holds 23 national titles. That statistic was staggering to me as I looked out the window at his 2009 KTM 85 against a sea of 2012 near-factory race machines. Their program is backed by Mom and Dad, as well as a few sponsors that literally keep their show on the road. Lukes talent is rare, but his in becoming a professional motocross racer was flat-out inspiring. It's families like these that embody what motocross should be - pure, unadulterated passion for motocross, no matter what he has to give up to make it happen. I was lucky enough to have a candid conversation with the Purthers and find out more about the Oak City, CA shredder and his humble keys to success.
You've got a lot of heart out there man. You're ripping up against some of the fastest kids on mini's and sticking it to them. What's your secret?
Luke: More heart probably, I guess. I like to try harder…just like in school or whatever, I might not be the best but I put more into it so I can be the best. It's hard sometimes but I just love being out there riding.
Tina and Ronnie: I think too he sees how much we struggle so every time he's on the track he puts 110% out there. I always tell him that at the end of the day no matter what we do, he's the one that's going to have to go out and perform. Just after today he has 23 national titles with no factory backing. But we have a lot of good sponsors backing us up - FMF has really helped, and if it wasn't for Fly and Spy's contingency, we probably wouldn't even be here. There are kids on the line with $4,000 motors, his is $800 bucks! Against top of the line stuff, we just have to tell him this is what you're working with so do your best. We can beat the kid, we just can't beat the bikes.
Tell us about how the week's going so far.
It's been pretty good. It started off good, but then 2nd moto I was having some trouble with the heat but I adapted and now I'm not having too much trouble. My head would start getting really hot but now I'm good, before that I could do about 4 laps and start fading.
You cleaned up in the Mod class but had some troubles in Stock. What happened?
Tina and Ronnie: We raced 1 stock race to see if the bike was running because it didn't run in the first moto. We did a hot lap on it and the bike wasn't running right so he pulled off. We did a second moto in 85 Stock to test the bike. He rode with Sean (Cantrell) but Sean pulled away from us easily.
Well the Mod bike is definitely running well for you, you were one of the first guys to huck the infield triple. How was that?
Haha it was good, it was steep!it was nice for sure. The first time I did it I figured I'd make it but I wasn't really sure but I knew if I cased it, it wouldn't be too bad. I actually cased it twice on my stock bike like an idiot, haha I could barely ride the bike after that.
You went out and really turned some heads with some big rides. What kind of work did you have to put in to get here and do as well as you're doing? (Ron: Yeah, tell him about that Luke!)
Ok I'll admit, I didn't train too hard on the bike! But I've been riding my bicycle a ton and did a lot of endurance training. I didn't do what other kids do, like riding every single day. When I can't ride my dirt bike I ride my mountain bike a lot.
Mom and Dad, let's talk about the work you guys had to put in to get him here.
Tina: Well first, thank God for all the sponsors that got us here. A big thing with us, as you can see, is that it's just harder for us. We put everything we have into this because he's so talented. So we make do with what we have. I don't know if you know this, but we're on all old bikes out there. We aren't on any new 12 or 13's, we have an 11 and an 09. The reason that Luke doesn't get to train a whole lot is just because we can't afford to be at the track all the time. So in the times we don't train (on the bike) he does ride his mountain bike, works out, stuff like that. I'm sure if we could put out more and be out there taking him to the tracks he'd do even better, but we do the best we can. His dad has been his trainer since he was little, but most of these kids have trainers to prepare for all of this.
Ron: He doesn't train like normal kids, that's for sure. We're lucky he's got the talent he has otherwise we couldn't be out there against those kids.
Do you think being able to ride and train in California helps?
Out here it doesn't haha! Like if you live in Texas you get the heat and you get tracks. but in Cali, everyone's down there dude.
Who do you watch for or try to pace off of when you're practicing?
Definitely guys like Sean Cantrell and Justin Hoeft for sure. Max Miller….there's too many dudes to think of all of them but it definitely helps. Every track you go to you're going to find someone.
Has racing in the heat this week helped you prepare for Loretta's?
Yea definitely, I'm a lot more acclimated than I would have been. This is my favorite track besides Mammoth so it's been a good week. I like the triple and the dragon back after the start, they're sick.
What's the game plan for Lorettas? Where do you want to be?
I think if I can handle the heat I can do good. But if I'm hurtin' in the heat, it's not gonna be good. It's all about starts for sure but it's hard to get to first if you get a bad start. My goal at Lorettas though is to win.
Who do you watch in the pros or, who do you remember watching as an amateur?
Man, who did I used to watch…Jason Lawrence. He used to come in and hit the corners so frickin' hard.
Tina and Ron: When we were out a qualifier back on 60's, the kids were giving Barcia a hard time and saying that #94 kid is going as fast as you! Barica was really cool though, he came up and even told Luke he was watching him and saying "You're going as good as us!" It was really cool to be out there with those kids.
So do you think you're at a big disadvantage because of your bikes?
I mean dude, the new 2012 and 2013 SX's are out of control man. Their way past Kawi now in speed and suspension, it's the best bike out there, just pulling holeshots every time. Yeah it's frustrating, but it's motivating to go out and beat the factory riders on those kids.
Ron and Tina: He's been doing that for years on used bikes, but as you go up, the harder it becomes. We're going to start needing better bikes through this year. I mean, you'll see the SXS coming confidently into the first turn first and now we've got to run them down.
Luke: Win the lottery dude, that's what we need to do.
So last question…when you finally get there and have that factory ride, what's that day going to be like?
Emotionally it'll be the best day of my life. I won't believe it at first…my mom will be crying her eyes out. They can come home and tell me that I have a factory ride, but I won't believe it until the crates are sitting in the garage. When I see it, whatever those bikes are, then I'll know I got my shot. Look - she's crying right now!! (pointing to his mom)