HURRICANE MILLS, Tenn. – After a memorable week of the best and most captivating amateur racing in the world, the 41st running of the Monster Energy AMA Amateur National Motocross Championship came to a thrilling conclusion on Saturday from Loretta Lynn Ranch.
The gate dropped on the final set of motos of the 2022 event, where the remaining 17 classes crowned their respective AMA National Champions.
On Saturday evening the 29 different athletes who became newly crowned titleholders of the event’s 36 classes were celebrated at the awards ceremony, where their efforts from the past week were recognized in front of their family, friends, teams, and peers. Additionally, GASGAS Factory Amateur Team rider Caden Braswell received the prestigious honor of the Nicky Hayden AMA Motocross Horizon Award as the most promising talent in amateur motocross, while NSA Yamaha Factory Amateur Team’s Avery Long earned AMA Amateur Racer of the Year honors and Husqvarna Factory Amateur Team’s Casey Cochran was named AMA Youth Racer of the Year.
With a two-point lead entering Saturday’s final Open Pro Sport moto, all eyes were on Monster Energy Kawasaki Team Green’s Ryder DiFrancesco as he looked to overcome his hardship from the 250 Pro Sport class and end his amateur career with one of Loretta Lynn’s most high-profile championships. Unfortunately, another challenging third moto resulted in additional heartbreak for the California rider. When the third and final moto got underway it wasn’t a surprise to once again see Phoenix Racing Honda’s Heath Harrison out front with the STACYC Holeshot, followed closely by Monster Energy/SlamLife Racing Honda’s Cole Martinez and Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing’s Talon Hawkins. DiFrancesco, meanwhile, started his moto in 16th place, but crashed in the early laps and dropped outside the top 30, which added an insurmountable amount of pressure with his championship rival battling for the lead. Out front, Harrison and Martinez duked it out like the veteran racers they are. Martinez was able to make the pass for the lead after a couple laps and then slowly started to build a gap. Harrison then asserted his hold of second. As the moto wore on, GASGAS Factory Amateur Race Team’s Caden Braswell was on a torrid charge through the field after starting in 11th place. Braswell’s climb up the running order moved him into third late in the moto and allowed him to put pressure on Harrison in the closing stages. Martinez never faced a serious challenge the rest of the way and took an unexpected moto win, which resulted in a surprise Open Pro Sport title. Braswell fought to the end and earned a runner-up finish, while Harrison followed in third. In his first appearance at the Ranch in over a decade, Martinez captured one of the most coveted Loretta Lynn’s class championships with 4-3-1 moto finishes and seven total points.
Braswell finished with a quiet runner-up effort in Open Pro Sport with 7-1-2 moto finishes and 10 points. That, combined with his championship effort in 250 Pro Sport ultimately brought him the Nicky Hayden AMA Motocross Horizon Award.
While things didn’t necessarily work out in his favor in 250 B, Monster Energy Star Yamaha Racing’s Haiden Deegan was certainly on point all week in Schoolboy 2 (12-17) B/C. Entering Saturday’s finale, the second-generation racer handily won the first two motos and once again stepped up when it mattered the most in Moto 3. Deegan was one of three riders jockeying for the lead as the field exited the first turn to start Moto 3, but he showed some early aggression to assert control of the top spot. The clear track allowed him to push the pace on the opening lap and build an early gap on KTM Orange Brigade’s Daxton Bennick. A confident Deegan continued to add to his advantage with fast and consistent lap times that were simply too much for his competitors to overcome. In his debut with the Star Yamaha effort Deegan complete the moto sweep in Schoolboy 2, several seconds ahead of Bennick, while Monster Energy Kawasaki Team Green’s Preston Boespflug rounded out the top three.
The first “big bike” title for Deegan put the finishing touches on a challenging week in which he showed he’ll be one to watch as he continues his progression. He now has seven Loretta Lynn’s championships to his name.
Fresh off a triumphant outing on Friday in the 125 Jr. (12-17) B/C class, all eyes were on Husqvarna Factory Amateur Race Team’s Casey Cochran entering the third and final moto in Schoolboy 2 (12-17) B/C. The Florida rider sat in a three-way tie with BJ Stevens KTM’s Noah Stevens and NSA Yamaha Factory Amateur Team’s Logan Best atop the overall classification as the gate dropped on Moto 3, which set the stage for a dramatic final showdown. Fittingly, the leading trio emerged from their final gate drop at the head of the pack, with Stevens earning the STACYC Holeshot. Stevens and Best were side-by-side through the opening turns before Best grabbed hold of the top spot with Stevens second and Cochran third. In his pursuit of the lead Stevens had a slight bobble that briefly stalled his momentum after his KTM got stuck in a rut. That caused contact with Cochran as the Husqvarna rider attempted to avoid his rival and fell to the ground. Stevens was able to resume and dropped one spot back to third, while Cochran lost four positions. That incident put Best into a comfortable spot out front, but he too encountered misfortune and went down, which handed the lead to C & G Drilling KTM’s Jeremiah Willoughby. After pacing the field for a couple laps Willoughby lost the lead to Stevens and crashed a short time later. Stevens became the race’s third different leader and enjoyed a multi-second lead as the moto passed the halfway mark, but he soon had company as Cochran was on the charge. After moving into podium position, he wasted little time in making the pass for second to set his sights on the lead. Cochran laid down the fastest lap of the moto to erase his deficit to Stevens and after a brief battle for the position, Cochran seized control of the moto and quickly checked out. The Husqvarna rider stormed to fourth straight moto win of the week, with Stevens second and Best third.
Cochran’s emphatic victory put the exclamation point on 3-1-1 moto finishes, which resulted in his second Loretta Lynn’s championship of the week and the fifth of his career. Those performances made him an obvious choice to receive AMA Youth Racer of the Year honors.
All week long the Supermini classes featured head-to-head battles between KTM Orange Brigade’s Jeremy Fappani and Rocky Mountain ATV/MC KTM’s Leum Oehlhof and that continued in the deciding moto for both Supermini 1 (12-15) and Supermini 2 (13-16). The third and final Supermini 1 moto saw both riders put themselves in the mix off the start, where Oehlhof had the edge initially starting a couple positions ahead of Fappani. What followed was an exceptional race in which the title combatants had to also battle against GASGAS Factory Amateur Race Team’s Tiger Wood and Monster Energy Kawasaki Team Green’s Landen Gordon. Wood controlled the race early, as Oehlhof and Fappani fought for second. Fappani made the pass happen and then found his way into the lead. Oehlhof, meanwhile, encountered brief misfortune and dropped to fourth, which proved to be the deciding factor in the title fight. While Fappani appeared to have the moto in hand, a hard charge by Gordon in the late stages of the moto saw the Kawasaki rider move into the lead. Fappani fought back but endured some miscues that caused him to lose touch with Gordon. The Kawasaki rider brought home the moto win, but Fappani’s runner-up finish was enough to wrap up the championship. While he missed out on a sweep of the motos, Fappani’s 1-1-2 finishes were enough to give the Arizona native his first Loretta Lynn’s title in what has served as a breakout event for the young rider. When Fappani and Oehlhof returned to the track to kick off the final Supermini 2 moto, both riders sat a single point behind Wood in the overall classification. That ultimately set the stage for a winner-take-all moto between the three riders. When the racing got underway Wood did exactly what he needed to do and put his GASGAS at the head of the pack. The same four riders occupied the top four spots on the track as the moto took shape, where Oehlhof soon emerged as the fastest of the group. After starting fourth, Oehlhof charged up to second and stalked Wood for half of the moto before he made the winning pass. In his effort to fight back Wood encountered misfortune and crashed. While he held on to second, he lost invaluable ground to Oehlhof. Fappani, meanwhile, endured some misfortune of his own and dropped to 10th place before putting in an impressive rebound effort. However, it ended any hopes of a Supermini sweep at Oehlhof took an emphatic and championship-winning moto victory.
Oehlhof (1-4-1) and Wood (3-1-2) completed their Supermini 2 journey tied atop the overall standings, but with his Moto 3 win Oehlhof earned the all-important tiebreaker to secure his first Loretta Lynn’s title in just his second appearance at the Ranch.
When he entered Saturday’s action Monster Energy/SlamLife Racing Honda’s Cole Martinez had most of his focus centered on closing out an impressive week in Junior (25+) where he had won the first two motos and came into Moto 3 in control of the championship battle. A fierce battle with SmartTop/MotoConcepts Honda’s Mike Alessi meant Martinez would have his work cut out for him on the final gate drop, and he was forced to dig deep to pull out a deserving championship. When the race got underway Phoenix Racing Honda’s Heath Harrison and Alessi duked it out for the lead while Martinez had one of his worst starts of the week and slotted into fifth. The battle out front was short lived as Harrison encountered misfortune and dropped out of the race, which gave Alessi a comfortable lead over the field. With his rival out front, Martinez went to work and picked his way forward. He fought his way up to third and rode in podium position for most of the moto. In the closing laps he took advantage of misfortune for Crosley Radio KTM’s Jacob Baumert, which moved the Honda rider into second and effectively wrapped up the title. Alessi carried on to the Moto 3 win, while Martinez followed in second.
Martinez’s impressive 1-1-2 moto finishes allowed him to edge out Alessi by a single point and earn his first Loretta Lynn’s championship, in what would be the first of two titles in a memorable return to the Ranch.
The battle for the WMX crown is always among the most competitive at the Ranch each summer and this year’s title fight was no different. After Fasthouse KTM’s Viviana Contreras made the opening statement of the week with the Moto 1 win, defending class champion and Rocky Mountain ATV/MC Kawasaki rider Sophia Phelps responded with a moto win of her own to move into control of the title fight. As the field entered Saturday’s final moto, Phelps sat tied with KTM Orange Brigade’s Tayler Allred, who had been the most consistent rider of the week. As the gate dropped on Moto 3, various fortunes faced all three riders. Contreras emerged with the best start in eighth, while Allred followed in 10th. Phelps was nowhere to be found, mired outside the top 20 in 22nd place, but despite the early adversity, the Utah native’s quest had only just begun. Trail Jesters KTM’s Korie Steede controlled the majority of the final moto and managed to open up a healthy lead that surpassed five seconds. As she led the way, the attention shifted to Phelp’s incredible climb through the field. The Kawasaki rider broke into the top 10 after just a couple laps and laid down the fastest laps on the track to continue picking off riders. She first closed in on Allred and made quick work of her main championship rival in a pass for fifth. Phelps then closed in on Contreras for a spot on the podium. She showed patience and made her move and ultimately climbed from fourth to second with a pass on both Contreras and Troy Lee Designs GASGAS’ Hannah Hodges. On the final lap of the moto Steede lost her hold of the lead in a moment of misfortune that ultimately saw her drop to fifth. That opened the door for Phelps to assume the top spot and bring home an emphatic championship-winning moto victory that seemed unlikely on the outset of the moto.
Phelps’ impressive resiliency proved to be the hallmark of her successful defense of the WMX crown, with 3-1-1 moto finishes that easily helped her earn back-to-back Loretta Lynn’s championships.