The latest installment of the Good Times and Dirtbikes Tour diaries.. read all of the entries at vurbmoto.com/roadtrips.
Even though I didn't grow up in motocross, Loretta's is something I knew about years before I somehow stumbled my way into the sport. Still, the excitement, pressure, and drama surrounding the amateur national is something I have only experienced second hand. I've never worked my way through the area and regional qualifiers, I've never felt what it's like to get a legendary bib, I've never experienced the triumph and heartbreak that comes with the Ranch. I've never done these things myself, but I have witnessed it all. This year was the first time I got to cover Area Qualifiers and Regional Championships, and although I may never truly know what it feels like to make it through either, I was able to experience another step on the road to Loretta's this year through other riders' stories.
Maybe I've never done the math, or maybe I just never really saw anything that put the numbers into perspective, but there was something about seeing Luke Renzland line up at High Point for his second regional that made me realize how small of a percentage of the sport makes it to the Ranch, and it hit me hard.
The 2013 450 A Champion lined up at Muddy Creek earlier this month for his first regional. The A class was no joke that weekend. The top 10 was a list of who's who in the A class. Among Luke was a slew of title contenders - Aaron Plessinger, Keith Tucker, RJ Hampshire, Jordon Smith, and that impressive list is only a handful of guys from that race. It was a true preview of what's to come next month when the gate drops at Loretta's. I’m willing to bet money that the Horizon Award will go to a rider who qualified through this specific regional. After some pile ups at the start mixed with standard bad luck anyone can have at any race, Luke was among those who was unable to qualify in through Muddy Creek. The 2013 Champion would have to go to another regional to earn the chance of repeating his success from last year.
Luke was in his true form at High Point as he dominated his classes. Even if a bad start put him mid-pack during the first lap, Luke charged to the front and earned his tickets to Loretta’s in 250 and 450 A. But had something gone wrong, it would have ended the extremely talented rider's chances of ending his amateur career on top.
Unfortunately that's what happened to most of the riders at the track this weekend. A quick look at the qualifying list compared to those who showed up to race shows just how many people had their dreams crushed over the weekend. And that was at only one regional.
It was heartbreaking to talk to riders who felt that all the hard work they put forth throughout the year was a waste. I have witnessed this on the West Coast as well with a few riders who were injured at their regional, one being Gage Schehr. Gage was looking to make this his breakout year and prove that he could hang with the likes of Supermini favs such as Austin Forkner, Sean Cantrell, and Mitchell Falk. He was able to qualify through the Southwest Regional at Comp Edge, but a broken arm put his dream on hold for the time being.
Whether or not all the people who deserve to go to the Ranch get to be there for the gate drop, the show must go on. Racing isn't about always being the fastest, it's also about who makes the least mistakes. Loretta's is a beast that waits for no one, not even a former champ. The drama that unfolded at the regionals is setting the stage for an epic week of racing in Tennessee, and I'm counting down the days until it begins.
Read more about our journey and find out how you can be part of the Good Times and Dirtbikes tour at vurbmoto.com/roadtrips.