Coveted. Elite. Extravagant. Unforgettable. The AMA Amateur National Motocross Championship at Loretta Lynn’s can be described as a lot of things, but “easy” is not one of them. Whether you’ve raced at the Dude Ranch since the first gatedrop in the ‘80s or just punched your ticket to the hallowed grounds for the very first time, you’re in for a wild ride. From a grueling three moto format, to uncontrollable environmental factors, to the balance of race and leisure, conquering the world’s largest amateur motocross event is tricky… but not impossible.
We talked with some of the industry’s seasoned Ranch-goers—like 23-time Loretta Lynn veteran and eight-time champion, John Grewe; a couple of the fastest women the race has ever seen, Hannah Hodges and Kaitlyn Morrow; Geico Honda’s professional motocross and supercross rider, Jo Shimoda; and more—to find out their top tips for not just surviving the week at Loretta Lynn’s, but making the absolute most of it.
Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate
When asked how to best prepare for the long week of motos at Loretta’s, the number one answer we received from nearly 10 riders was to stay on top of the H2O intake. Four-time national champ Hannah Hodges says, “It’s very challenging with the racing being so spaced out to not go run around with your friends and forget to drink. It’s typically hot and easy to become dehydrated!” That’s especially true for riders who hail from moderate climates and aren’t acclimated to debilitatingly high temperatures and humidity, as Shimoda adds, “Make sure your body is used to the heat. I live in California where it’s always dry, but in Tennessee the environment is so humid.” That combo creates the prime scenario for dehydration, so a general rule of thumb to follow is: divide your body weight in half and drink an ounce per pound of weight daily, while adding to that based on varying exercise and temperatures.
Study the Track…and Other Riders
Jesse Flock, 250 A class 2019 title contender, gets straight to the point. “The track at Loretta’s is the same every year: technical and rough.” With that said, it’s important to know it like the back of your hand and study it hard if you don’t. Kaitlyn Morrow, Girls 12-16 and Women’s 14+ 2nd overall finisher from 2011-2013, swears by walking the track before practice and even drawing the track on paper afterward to make sure your memory of every corner, jump, and roller is concrete. Colorado-based top-10 Loretta’s finisher, Alex Vestal, adds that watching YouTube videos of the track is another helpful way to prepare.
Getting the layout down is one thing, but knowing the ever-changing fast lines is another entirely. John Grewe, eight-time national champion in the Vet 35, 40, 45, and 50, advises to watch the faster riders and take note of which lines they’re using. Beware of your timing on this method though. If you watch for lines during the 9:00am moto and you don’t hit the track until the afternoon, the track will already look completely different. Try scouting the track for lines right before heading into staging, instead.
As much as the motos are physically demanding, they are equally (if not even more) mentally demanding. “The mental game is so important,” says Grewe. “Prepare yourself physically and mentally for some of the hottest, longest motos you will ride. You have to know that it’s going to be very tough and believe you can do it! Understand how hard it is just to get there and be thankful for the experience.”
Keeping calm can be difficult, but Flock’s advice is simple. “Remember that everyone else is just as nervous and don’t get overwhelmed by the hype.” For riders who are familiar with racing on a national scale, Shimoda piggy-backs on the idea of downplaying the hype, adding, “Everyone thinks it’s the final, biggest race—and I agree—but you’re racing against the same riders, just on a different track.”
Let’s also keep in mind that the unique nature of this race leaves lots of room for error, but also lots of room for possibility. Pro motocross rider Jake Masterpool grew up racing Loretta’s every year since his PW 50cc days and his advice is to maintain a positive attitude if (or more realistically, when) things don’t go as planned. Hodges adds, “With longer races and a three moto format, anything can happen. Do not give up.”
F is for Fun
In the wise words of 2019 50cc Limited champ, Ryder Ellis, “Keepin’ it fun is key.” Morrow sums it up best:
“Racing at Loretta’s is so different from any other race you will ever attend. The atmosphere is full of joy, nerves, and big names. . . Simply set a goal to have fun, make memories with your family, and of course stay safe. It is unlike any other track or event . . . So enjoy yourself on your off days. Float the river. Tour Loretta Lynn’s house. And make it a vacation. Not every day and minute has to be about moto and that’s where a lot of parents and racers make a mistake. Have fun and have non-moto adventures, too.”
What are some of your tried and true tips for surviving the AMA Amateur National Motocross Championship at Loretta Lynn’s? Let us know in the comments! We’ll see you all at the Ranch.