The biggest event in amateur Motocross racing occurs in August at country music star Loretta Lynn's Ranch in Hurricane Mills, TN.
Dirt bike racers and their families simply call it Loretta Lynn's (or Loretta's!) but the official title remains the AMA Amateur National Motocross Championship. Many of tomorrow's would-be Motocross stars try and prove themselves at Loretta Lynn's as worthy of sponsorship and, most importantly, a factory ride which often results in a near straight ticket punch to the pro ranks.
Loretta Lynn's hosts 36 racing classes ranging in age from four years old to more than 50 years old and expertise levels from the local "C" rider to the regional fast guy in the Open Pro Sport. Riders sometimes get name recognition as young children and work their way into headlines as teenagers by taking podium spots in the competitive 250 and 450 classes.
But before you can even think about winning a class title at the Amateur National Motocross Championship you have to get there. And not everyone gets an invite to Loretta Lynn's. Only a select few get to ride on the once-a-year Motocross track that doubles as a horse pasture for the other 51 weeks of the calendar.
How To Qualify for Loretta Lynn's
The road to Loretta Lynn's starts between April and June every year when race tracks around the country host area and regional qualifiers, often at the very Motocross tracks used on the pro circuit. Eight "Area Qualifiers" graduate between eight and 12 riders (depending on the location) to eight "Regional Qualifiers." The locality remains the same for area and regional qualifiers but the track usually differs:
- N. Central
- S. Central
Regional Qualifiers take the Top 6 in each class, except the Northwest, Mid-West and Southwest regions only take the Top 4, and move them on to Loretta's. All told, only the best 42 riders in each class get their ticket stamped to compete at Loretta Lynn's the first week of August and race in three 20-minute Motos for a class Championship.
How To Prepare for Loretta Lynn's
When it comes to preparing for Loretta Lynn's, let's skip the riding tips as you should already know how to ride a dirt bike at this level. That said, preparing for Loretta's, in terms of the weeklong event at the ranch, is a whole nother race day that often takes the uninitiated by surprise.
It will be the most miserable best time of your life.
Don't expect heat. Expect oppressive hot weather with lots of humidity. If you have never experienced August in the Midwest you'll wonder why anyone bothers living there during summer. When it rains, and it almost always does during Loretta Lynn's week, you might think what welcome relief. Unfortunately, it often just makes things worse leaving your dirt bike caked with mud and you a thoroughly dirty, sweaty and hot mess.
Therefore, you need to get and stay hydrated. Start drinking in the days leading up to the race and while taking sips from your water bottle read "How To Stay Hydrated on the Motocross Track" for additional tips on preventing dehydration.
Spending the night means setting up camp (preferably in an RV) at one of the 300 available sites at the ranch or heading out of town to various motels that range from a lodge to a more "upscale" Holiday Inn Express. If you wait too long for reservations, you will have to look elsewhere, like 30 minutes or more from the ranch - which feels more like 90 minutes if you have an early gate drop. But that might work in your favor because...
Get there EARLY
If you mosey in late morning you might expend all your Moto energy just getting to the starting line. The ranch resides on 6,000 acres, and with the mass number of campers and people flooding the property prepare to walk a mile if you don't get a spot close to the entrance.
Bring lots of spare parts. You can't run to the dirt bike store for a last minute fix and while you can buy extra parts at any number of on-site companies selling their wares, you may or may not get a reasonable deal. You might luck out and get a freebie from one of the OEMs but remember, though some riders qualify for more than one class, you have the potential of more than 1,000 racers and their dirt bikes all possibly needing spare parts.
Cash is King
The cashless society might be on its way, but you need cash at Loretta Lynn's to pay for parking fees (if not paid in advance), food, beverages and any number of contraptions available for rent to make life a bit easier on the ranch including golf carts (especially helpful if you moseyed on in). By the way, expect to pay above and beyond retail so bring a fistful of dollars.
Race Hard but Have Realistic Expectations
You expect to win but guess what? So does everyone else lined up at the gate. Only one winner per Moto and one class Champion crowned. Getting to Loretta Lynn's is a feat in itself and already makes you faster than 99 percent of riders out there. Ride your race but don't let last place get you down.
Attending Loretta Lynn's tests the most patient of people. It's hot, dusty, muddy, you wait around a lot and the gobs of people make you never want to attend ever again. But the week after you can't wait to return.
Enjoy the moment, have fun and make lifelong racing friends. There's a river there too you can sit back and relax next to or take a dip to cool off. If you plan to camp, expect a week long party that goes late into the night and starts early in the morning. Get your rest for your Motos and when done, walk around, meet new faces and watch the races.
And check out Nashville if you can. It's pretty neat.