Photo by Ken Hill
Standout Performances at AMA Amateur National Motocross Championship
Tim Cotter, event director for promoter MX Sports, breathed a sigh of relief when the 2020 AMA Amateur National Motocross Championship, held Aug. 3-8 at Loretta Lynn’s Ranch in Hurricane Mills, Tenn., was one-third complete.
After the 51cc 4-6 Shaft Drive Limited class took its first checkered flag, Cotter knew, no matter what, he would crown 36 AMA National Champions. Every class had finished at least one moto.
MX Sports’ exhaustive COVID-19-related preparations and protocols paid off. Even in the midst of a global pandemic, the event ran uninterrupted for the 39th consecutive year.
The gate dropped, and the checkered flag flew for 108 motos. In the end, Cotter’s biggest problem came two days before practice began: He ran out of parking and had to find space for 220 more campers.
The prestigious amateur motocross event, colloquially known as “Loretta’s,” is a logistical behemoth in normal times, with two tiers of qualifying rounds in eight regions of the country.
When racing went on pandemic pause in March, the future of the annual meet looked grim. But Cotter said he believed the races would take place.
“MX Sports doesn’t make business decisions,” he said. “They make sporting decisions.”
After five months of writing and rewriting plans and hosting countless Zoom and Facebook Live meetings with sponsors, OEMs, race promoters, local governments, riders and parents, Loretta’s did everything it always does. It crowned champions, graduated young prospects to the Pro Motocross Championship and offered a great motocross vacation.
Cotter even found those extra parking spots.
Nicky Hayden AMA Motocross Horizon Award Winner
Hometown: Bakersfield, Calif.
250 Pro Sport: 1st (2-1-1)
Open Pro Sport: 1st (1-2-1)
With his sixth and seventh career titles at Loretta’s, the first of the three “Bakersfield Boys” graduated.
Stilez Robertson first came to Loretta’s in 2007 and, in 2011, riding companions and Cobra teammates Jett Reynolds and Ryder DiFrancesco, who also lived in Bakersfield, Calif., joined him. The trio dominated the 51cc (7-8) and 51cc (4-6) classes that year.
Combined, they’ve won 24 Loretta’s titles.
Robertson, competing on a Husqvarna FC250 in Open and 250 Pro Sport, won both classes and set the fastest lap time for every single moto.
“It’s crazy,” he said on the podium, “you start here on a 50 and you’re like, ‘Oh, I want to race the pro class one day.’ And then you’re here and you’re like, ‘Wow, it seems like yesterday.’”
Robertson knew he was headed to the Pro Motocross Championship in the 250 class in 2020, but didn’t know how soon. His first clue came before the race when he was asked to pose for a headshot.
His Rockstar Energy Husqvarna team surprised him on the championship podium with entries for at least the first three rounds of the national series, which, due to the pandemic, kicked off seven days later at the same track for the first time ever.
On August 15, Robertson finished 39-17 for 22nd overall at round one.
Mason Gonzales, who bested Robertson in one Open Pro Sport moto at the amateur national, topped the short list of Loretta’s graduates with ninth overall (8-12).
A week later, at round two of the series, also held at Loretta’s, Robertson placed eighth overall (12-7).
AMA Amateur Motocross Rider of the Year
Hometown: Washougal, Wash.
250 B Limited: 1st (1-1-1)
450 B Limited: 1st (1-1-1)
In his 13 previous class appearances at Loretta’s, Levi Kitchen finished in the top five twice. He had one moto win, which came in the 125cc (12-17) class in 2019.
He wasn’t just under the radar, he wasn’t even on the watch list.
When he was 17, Kitchen moved to Louisiana with his mechanic to train at the Real Deal MX Training Facility. Being on his own, he learned self-discipline.
“Once I put in the work, the speed and results followed,” he said.
While Kitchen wasn’t the only rider to sweep all six of his motos, his performances were the most dominant. Riding four-strokes for the first time at Loretta’s, he competed in the 450 B Limited and 250 B Limited (stock) classes.
His average fastest lap in the six motos was a half second slower than that of his Yamaha teammate, Matt LeBlanc, who won the 450 B and 250 B divisions.
Kitchen’s average moto win margin of 32.6 seconds raised eyebrows but also drew criticism.
Despite the fact that he was competing in the B classes for the first time, some believed he should not have been in Limited.
Kitchen heard the chatter.
“But, at the same time, I don’t really care,” he said while fishing for bass on a Washington Lake, his favorite non-moto hobby.
Kitchen said he was exactly where Yamaha wanted him to be, and his time in the B class is now finished. He’ll move to A and Pro Sport going forward.
Hometown: Bakersfield, Calif.
250 B: 39th (3-DNF-DNS)
Schoolboy 2 (12-17): 3rd (1-2-5)
After seven surgeries across 30 months, Jett Reynolds just wanted to line up in Tennessee.
From 2013-’17, the Team Green Kawasaki rider won nine championships. A series of injuries—ankle, arm, collarbone, nerve damage, pelvis, wrist, shoulder—that started in April 2018 caused him to miss not only Loretta’s in 2018 and 2019, but most of the AMA majors, too.
“All his prep leading up was cautious,” said Kawasaki Team Green Manager Ryan Holliday.
“Because, in his head, he’s thinking, ‘If I don’t show up again, then what?’”
Reynolds was nursing a banged-up shoulder coming into Loretta’s 2020, but he started strong, with a third in the first 250 B moto and a win in Schoolboy 2.
While leading on Lap 9 of the second 250 B moto, however, Reynolds went over the bars spectactularly in the famed “Ten Commandments” whoops section and suffered a DNF.
He also threw away the Schoolboy title in the final moto with a fall. Leaving Tennessee intact, though, is a positive.
Reynolds will compete in the A and Pro Sport classes in 2021.
Hometown: Pocatello, Idaho
250 B: 3rd (2-5-4)
Schoolboy 2 (12-17): 1st (2-3-1)
Chance Hymas returned to Loretta’s after a broken arm kept him away in 2019. He won his first championship, which didn’t surprise Holliday.
In fact, Holliday felt Hymas had more to show, especially in 250 B. At a regional qualifier in June, Hymas beat Reynolds, Nick Romano and LeBlanc, the eventual 250 B champion.
Still, Hymas put in a clutch performance in the final Schoolboy moto to beat 17-year-old Nate Thrasher, who is moving up to Pro Sport in 2021.
Hometown: Temecula, Calif.
Mini Sr. 1 (12-14): 1st (1-1-1)
Mini Sr. 2 (13-15): 1st (1-1-1)
Better known as “Danger Boy,” Haiden Deegan might become the first amateur motocross rider to be bigger than the sport by the time he turns pro.
With more than 1.5 million combined followers/subscribers on his Instagram and YouTube pages, a merchandise line and an agent, Deegan might already be there. Context: Robertson has 33,600 Instagram followers; Deegan has 732,000.
American motorsports might soon be dominated by Deegans. Haiden’s sister, Hailie, is NASCAR bound, and their father, Brian, is an action sports legend.
But Haiden isn’t a product of clever marketing. He’s really fast, and his six-moto sweep of the Mini Sr. 1 and 2 classes proved that.
He set the fastest lap time in every moto, led 57 of 60 laps and earned his fourth and fifth Loretta’s titles.
AMA Motocross Youth Rider of the Year
Hometown: Bakersfield, Calif.
Supermini 1 (12-15): 1st (1-1-1)
Supermini 2 (13-16): 1st (1-1-1)
Team Green riders don’t have a 125cc two-stroke to bridge the gap between the Supermini and 250 classes. So, they try to stretch the transition to big bikes, especially with A-list talents like Ryder DiFrancesco, the youngest of the “Bakersfield Boys.”
But that didn’t stop DiFrancesco from asking for a KX250F the moment he returned from sweeping the Supermini classes at Loretta’s, his seventh and eighth career titles.
Kawasaki’s Holliday told him to enjoy some time off. He responded with a picture of a bathroom scale display that showed “126 lbs.,” proof that he met Team Green’s 125-pound minimum weight requirement to compete on a 250.
“Until they get to that point, it’s not a conversation for us,” Holliday said. “The biggest thing for us is building their strength.”
DiFrancesco doesn’t turn 16 until March, but his mini-cycle career is over. Look for DiFrancesco to compete in the 250 B and Schoolboy 2 classes at the Mini O’s in November.
For a complete list of 2020 AMA Amateur National Motocross Championship results, go to resultsmx.com/lorettas/class.asp.