Have you got what it takes to compete with the best in the world? Most riders only dream of the chance to race the coveted Loretta Lynn’s amateur week and for a select few, it has become reality. The 35th Annual AMA Amateur National MX Championship at Loretta Lynn’s took place last week in Hurricane Mills, Tennessee and a number of our FXR athletes rode qualifiers and earned their ticket to ride at the ranch. This is the sacred ground that has brought many a young athlete to the forefront and for some lucky ones, straight to the pro ranks. All eyes are on you during this week and scouts and sponsors are scattered throughout the track keeping watch on the next big thing. The pressure of performing can be overwhelming. On the line, you quickly eye up your competition and put your head down and get things done. Sounds easy enough right? This year not only were competitor’s up against themselves but throw the weather in the mix and you are fighting against a whole new track that has now turned into a mud bog. We caught up with some of our athletes who were there to experience the LLMX week first hand.

 

Jerry Robin #54

Classes:

250A, 250 All-Star A/B (14+)

Results:
250 A  #54  YAM  8th  DNF  DNF  31st
 250 All-Star A/B (14+)  #54  YAM  2nd  3rd  3rd  1st

“Loretta Lynn’s is always a fun place to come with the atmosphere of the riders, families and fans! No matter what time it is, there is always something going on so it’s always a blast. Sometimes being there for so long gets kind of old so I’m excited to get to Unadilla for my first pro national for Blue Buffalo/Slater Skins/Yamaha team. I think my week was pretty solid all-in-all. I led laps, showed speed and consistency and best of all, that earned me a Loretta Lynn’s title, so I’m really pumped on that! 250 A didn’t go as planned but I had a good time running with the factory guys. I can’t wait to see what the future holds! I’ve been on the bike for only 2 weeks since February. I had a broken L5 vertebrae and healed up from that right before regionals and ended up getting fasciatomy done to both my arms. I wasn’t actually suppose to be riding until mid-August but as soon as I got my stitches out I went down to south of the border to ride for barely 2 weeks and then raced at the ranch! I would like to say that’s a pretty impressive comeback story and I hope to keep getting better and better every week. I hope to get used to the pro schedule by the last pro national and those gnarly motos!”

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Robin went home with the 250 All-Star A/B (14+) championship. Photo by Rob Koy

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Not the first time Jerry Robin has lined up at Loretta’s. He came to the ranch in 2014 with a 1985 CR 250 2-stroke.  Photo by Rob Koy

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Waiting on the line with Jerry Robin. Photo by Eric Shirk

Nolan Heppner #44

Classes:

250 B Limited, 450 B Limited

Results:

250 B Limited  #44  YAM  6th  3rd  20th  5th
 450 B Limited  #44  YAM  7th  2nd  3rd  2nd

“Loretta’s is a one of a kind race. It’s a super fun week with many activities to do. You can feel the tension in the air between racers and everyone is very serious and ready to race. You only get three motos per class and being only allowed to ride 2 classes, you only get 6 motos that week. You know that if you mess up one moto you have to wait a whole year to redeem yourself. Unfortunately I was hurt the past 6 weeks leading up to Loretta’s and was only able to ride 4 times before then. Aside from that I had an alright week going 7-2-3 for 2nd overall and 6-3-20 for 5th overall. I felt unready going into the week but ended it with a few strong motos.”

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Heppner landed himself on the podium in the 450 B Limited class with a second overall. Photo by Rob Koy

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Coming off the injured list so soon from LLMX didn’t give Nolan the time he really wanted to prepare for competing at the ranch. Watch out for a healthy Heppner if this is considered an unprepared result! Photo by Rob Koy

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Dad doubles as wrench and umbrella girl. Photo by MX Matt

Brandon Hartranft #47

Classes:

Open Pro Sport, 250A

Results:
 Open Pro Sport  #47  YAM  10th  6th  7th  7th
250 A  #47  YAM  12th  5th  DNS  29th

“My week at Lorreta’s was pretty good. I had some up and downs. First moto of the week in Open Pro Sport, I came from last to 10th which was okay. Second moto I got 6th which was a solid ride. Third moto, I came from mid pack to 7th. My fitness has been awesome so after the half way mark I was able to keep pushing while everyone got tired and faded. 250 A class first moto, I went down in the first turn pile up, and came from last to 12th. Second moto, I got a better start and got 5th which was very good. Third moto my bike blew up going to the gate. So it was an learning experience had to work for my finishes every moto. Definitely put my self out there. Last year I won 450B Limited we wanted to do the same in A class but the level from A to B is way harder. I was the only rider in the top 7 with no ride so we were happy .”

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Brandon gets in his zone on the gate. Photo by Rob Koy

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Overall, a solid ride that Hartranft was very pleased with. Photo by Rob Koy

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The mud was definitely a game changer for race day. Photo by Eric Shirk

 

 

Austin Watling #42

Classes:

450B, 450B Limited

Results:
450 B  #42  HON  9th  6th  31st  13th
 450 B Limited  #42  HON  8th  7th  11th  7th

“Loretta’s went pretty good for me, considering it was my first year in B class!  Expectations were really just to stay within the top 10 and I did just that every moto besides one. I ended up 7th in 450 B Limited and 13 in 450 B with some bike problems. Loretta’s atmosphere is like nothing I’ve experienced before. Everyone here is there for the same reason and feels like we’re all a big family.  When people aren’t racing, they’re having fun in the river or on golf carts and when it’s racing time, people crack down and focus!  Coming from Loretta’s, it taught me a lot. Racing with the top amateurs in the world really shows where you stand and you learn to stay consistent because you need 3 good motos for a decent overall, so starts and consistency are key.”

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Austin showing off his well earned 7th place trophy for the 450B Limited class. Photo by Eric Shirk

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Watling met his goals for Loretta’s and is ready to take on next year. Photo by Eric Shirk

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Airing it out with time to grab another tear off. Photo by Eric Shirk

Shayne Mercieca #17

Classes:

250C, 250 C Jr. (12-16)

Results:
250 C  #17  HON  36th  23rd  17th  28th
 250 C Jr. (12-16) Limited  #17  HON  20th  16th  13th  16th

“This was my first year qualifying to race at Loretta’s.  Overall my experience was challenging at times.  My first moto of the week was 250C Jr. (12-16) and was a mudder due to the crazy amount of rain that we had.  I came in 20th place and fell multiple times.  My second moto was better but ended up 16th. My last moto of the 250C Jr. class was my best one of the week and came in 13th place which gave me an overall of 16th in the class.

My other class was 250C.  My first moto was really bad getting a 36th place as well as falling multiple times.  My second moto I came in 23rd and fell in that race as well.  My last and final moto of the week placed me in 7th and after falling on the third lap then fell back to 25th position and then worked my way up to 17th position.  My overall for that class was 28th.

Had a few challenges that week.  Bikes were breaking down. My Mom spent 5 days in the hospital in Tennessee and just overcoming different things definitely made me want to push myself harder.  Getting familiar with riding in heavy mud was a new challenge for me.  I look forward to doing better next year in the B Class.”

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All business at the gate with Mercieca. Photo by Eric Shirk

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Off the gate for the 250C Jr. (12-16) Limited. Photo by Rob Koy

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Merceica pushing through the pack off the start. Photo by Rob Koy

Preston Dickson #84

Classes:

250C Limited

Results:
 250 C Limited  #84  YAM  38th  31st  21st  29th

 

“Not only was Loretta’s was the most fun and challenging race I have ever competed in, it was also my first national.  Between driving 37 hours across the country and taking in the madness that is Loretta’s, I was able to make memories I will never forget.  Over the course of the week I met tons of cool new people and hung out with friends from home as well.  The rain delays on Tuesday and Thursday made for some interesting scheduling, although it only made rallying in the golf carts that much more fun.  Fortunately I had great track conditions for most of my motos; by great, I actually mean the roughest track I have ever ridden, but at least it was dry.  I definitely wasn’t satisfied with my results, but I was able to use this race as a humbling learning experience that I won’t take for granted.  I know exactly what I need to do from now on and I’m ready to come back next year stronger than ever. #LL17

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Preston getting levers aligned before heading out for his moto.

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All thumbs up in staging.

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Preston came away from Loretta’s with a humbling and rewarding experience.

Armando Fehr #95

Classes:

250C

Results:
250 C  #95  KAW  30th  36th  DNF  40th

“This summer was a battle of the mind and body for me. I made area qualifiers tougher than what they could have been with slow starts, but come regional qualifiers we made things count, with multiple holeshots and moto wins. We were headed to the ranch with the identity of a belief that we could get the job done, but life had a different plan. With just a few short weeks before the start of Loretta’s I overjumped a triple and ended up hurting my wrist. I put on the tough guy mask and decided to fight through the pain and continue training. Fast forward to moto #1 at the ranch, with my wrist in a brace and wrapped in tape I was as ready as I could be to give it the best shot I had. Moments before gate drop the bottom fell out of the sky and we had water standing all over the track, adding another challenge to an already challenging track. Started in the back this moto and ended up 30th. Second moto I fell twice and ended up 36th. My last moto was the final moto on the schedule for the entire week. With the track being at one of its roughest points, I knew it was going to tough to fight through it. The pain ended up getting the best of me. Despite the results of the week, I still found so many reasons to be happy. I had so much more support from my family and sponsors this year than any year before. I am excited to continue moving forward and see what life holds for me.

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Armando looking race ready to take on the track.

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Nothing beats having a solid crew with you to race at Loretta’s.

 

Cottew Motorsports Riders

Cole Cottew #21

Classes:

250C, 450C

 

Results:
 250 C  #21  YAM  21st  11th  12th  10th
 450 C  #21  YAM  4th  14th  2nd  4th

Mitchell Thelen #39

Classes:

250C Limited, 450C

Results:
 250 C Limited  #39  KAW  33rd  36th  37th  38th
450 C  #39  KAW  18th  34th  25th  26th

“When you arrive at the facility, you can feel the history, you can feel the energy.  You know that this place is important to the world of motocross.  What you aren’t sure of is how you fit into this world, only time will play that out.  Especially when you come from the world of snocross.

Practice went well on Monday.  By Tuesday morning, both riders were ready to get on the track.  The week officially started.  And true to form, it was a week full ups and downs.  The highlight of the week was Cole’s 2nd place finish in the 450 C class on Friday, placing him in 4th overall.  Riding down south since May definitely helped his adjustment to the heat.  Mitchell’s highlight was an 18th place finish in the 450C class, with an overall 26th place.  On this track, every racer is fast.  We are proud of the way our riders performed.  One of the lowlights was from racing action on Wednesday.  The two times it started to downpour just happened to be when both Mitchell and Cole were on the line for each race.  The racing action was interesting but tough on the boys.  

As an outsider to this experience, one thing we have learned, this race is not just about where you finish, it’s about the character you build.  It’s about getting back up after you fall down.  It’s working through adversity when everything tells you to quit.  I met families that have given up everything in order for their child to race.  I met racers that couldn’t participate this year, but still came for the Loretta experience.  I met racers that didn’t know if they were going to be able to race due to tragic family circumstances, but somehow found the will to come.  They are all amazing individuals.  The people I met this week have given me inspiration to keep going even when life gets tough—they live this every day.  I have found some answers as to why we do this.  Why we allow the danger of the sport to come into our lives.  What they get from racing and working hard to be the best they can be will help in all other chapters of life that are yet to be created.  Even though a select few will receive that championship, the world will be better for what each racers learns from this experience, and for that, we thank you Loretta Lynn AMA National Race 2016!”

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Cole having a chat with Weege on the podium after grabbing himself a 2nd place in 450C Moto 3.

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Is that you in there Cole? Definitely a day that separated the sand riders from the mud riders.

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All prepped and ready to go in the Cottew camp here at the ranch.

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An experience one can only truly appreciate in person. See you next year!