ATV Motocross

Site Lap: Loretta Lynn's ATV Dirt Days Finale

Site Lap: Loretta Lynn's ATV Dirt Days Finale

Friday, August 7, 2015 | 1:15 PM
Friday, August 7, 2015 | 1:15 PM

Another big season finale is staged to take place at Loretta Lynn’s Dirt Days as he 2015 Mtn. Dew ATV Motocross National Championship comes to an end. Many classes have been wrapped up but there are still several on the line. Two championships that fans will be paying attention to will be for the Pro Am and AMA ATV Pro classes. The writing may be on the wall for the Pro title but who’s to say that there could be a new coat of paint on the wall and the possibility of a fresh new champion lurks. The Pro Am on the other looks to be a little more sealed, but again this is Loretta Lynn’s and Dirt Days always seems to have some excitement up its sleeve.

Whose ready for the final gate falls of the 2015 season?!
Whose ready for the final gate falls of the 2015 season?! Photo: Ken Hill

First the Pro class, it has produced some very exciting battles and moments this season. We have seen 4 different winners including the ATVSX at Daytona Speedway. Chad Wienen has 4, Joel Hetrick has 4, Thomas Brown has 1 and John Natalie has 1 (ATVSX). The expectation is that Chad will win his 4th championship but many feel Joel Hetrick may take the win and leave a statement to his incredible season. Joel isn’t expecting anything crazy to happen and is satisfied that he learned more this season than ever and feels he will be an even bigger factor for the title next year. Chad has shown consistency in both mechanical and physical realms and no one expects anything to be different. Regardless if Chad wins the race he will ride to win the title and he doesn’t have win the race to make this happen. But don’t think the champ will lie down. He may have a point to prove too. And remember, this is Loretta Lynn’s. 

The Pro Am class appears to be all but sewn up by Nick Gennusa. Nick is riding on an amazing high after last season low. He has to be one of the most improved riders in the ATV Racin’ Nation. He not only looks to win the Pro Am title but also will be the AMA Pro ATV Rookie of the Year. Last season he struggled but was able to rebound back better than ever and don’t be surprised if Nick isn’t a bit of a factor in next season’s title chase. 

Nick Gennusa is looking to capture the 2015 Pro Am championship at the close of ATV Dirt Days.
Nick Gennusa is looking to capture the 2015 Pro Am championship at the close of ATV Dirt Days. Photo: Ken Hill

As the season winds down and we look back on the many things occurring we have to admit the highs were more than the lows. However we did have some lows. John Natalie’s injury at Muddy Creek, the fortunate crash that may have saved Logan Tremellon’s life at High Point and most recently the unfortunate crash of Matthew Keesee in Minnesota. Matthew’s story like the others have turned out to be miraculous and each one of these riders have a long road ahead. 

I received a message from Mathew’s mother earlier this week and wanted to pass along what she shared with me:


I am Matthew Keesee's mom. We are still in Minnesota after he wrecked at Spring Creek. I would just like to know if you would please tell everyone at Loretta ' thank you for all the support through cards, donations thoughts and prayers that we have received. It has allowed us to be here with him through all of this. Matthew is getting better every day and hopefully we can return home soon. We love ATV motocross and the friends we've made along the way. The ATV racing nation is the definition of family. Please send our thanks to all. Good luck to everyone this weekend. Have lots of fun and be safe. 

I know expenses are tremendous for Matthew and his family. Friends in the ATV Racin’ Nation are working this weekend at Loretta Lynn’s to help out selling raffle tickets. Joe and Stacy Scherer are set up across the road from the pool here at the ranch and welcome any donations. All proceeds go to Matthew and his family. I haven’t been notified of anything to donate online to but if you want to help I would say you could contact D’Lynn Keesee on Facebook.

Chad Wienen is looking to win his fourth ATVMX championship this weekend.
Chad Wienen is looking to win his fourth ATVMX championship this weekend. Photo: Ken Hill

Next thing is the annual 88 Live To Ride Spaghetti Dinner and Auction will take place on Friday night at the Amsoil Arena. ITP Tires' Big Daddy Stan Digby and crew will start serving spaghetti at 6:30 p.m. There is no cost for the dinner as it is free for all but a free will offering will be taken if you choose to do so. If you honestly can't or don't want to donate that is fine, but still come break bread with your fellow ATV Racin' Nation family.

Proceeds from the spaghetti dinner along with the auction proceeds will go to 88 Live To Ride which supports the Mobile Medical Unit with supplies, RN, transporting the unit and everything it takes to offer this great free service. The foundation also helps other things in ATV riding and racing with education and often times helps fallen riders with supplies, bills and expenses. It is an awesome and great organization and Debi Bartosek and all the staff appreciates any and all donations. Debi's son Matt was tragically killed in a racing incident and 88 Live To Ride was started in his honor.

Joel Hetrick has his sights set on the championship!
Joel Hetrick has his sights set on the championship! Photo: Ken Hill

The annual 88 Live To Ride fundraiser is on Friday evening including the auction. Registration for the auction opens at 7pm and auction starts at 7:30. There will be a professional auctioneer there once again, and it should be a good time for a good cause. 

We will be accepting donations until 7pm the evening of the auction. If you'll like to donate items feel free and all support is appreciated. Jeremy Edwards, auctioneer, will start the fun at 7:30pm.

Also again this year the popular Youth Contingency Program will be back with great prizes for all registered youth participants. It is the 9th annual “ATV YCP” scheduled tentatively for Saturday evening immediately following races at the Amsoil Arena. All youth class riders are invited. This year the grand prize will Kymco donate a Kymco ATV. Also “Quad-Nana” Freida Rozelle, who helped get the whole thing started will be back in attendance, so be sure and give her a hug and say “thank you”.

Let’s check in with Ken “Tennessee is Hot” Hill. Till next time, God Bless Your Heart and All Your Vital Organs.

Keeping up with Ken Hill

Wow, the past two weeks was  one wild ride for many of us that work throughout the different series! Many had to go set up and get ready for the Loretta Lynn's Amateur nationals as the rest of us headed to Redbud for the ATVMX event. Lots of driving/flying and general hustle to get everyone where they needed to be!

Josh Upperman has proven he can ride at the front of the pack on his Root River Racing backed ATV
Josh Upperman has proven he can ride at the front of the pack on his Root River Racing backed ATV Photo: Ken Hill

A few years back when I first made my trip to the Loretta Lynn's Amateur nationals, I was bombarded by questions asking how it compares to one of our ATV motocross races. The simple answer given then and now is sheer numbers. I also thought maybe I could learn something magical that could transfer to the ATV side of things and in someway help us grow but that numbers thing just keeps rolling back to slap me in the face.  I also looked for things or actions that would be hampering the ATV side from growing to equal its motorcycle counterparts and yep, numbers again rule the day. And by numbers, I mean they limit the field at the Amateur bike national to roughly 1000 or so! This year there were 1442 entries if memory serves me correct.

So fast-forward to now and I ask myself if anything has changed? Well, one thing we all know is the fact that track access for quads is pretty sketchy and only gotten worse. I believe this fact along with the cost to practice, set up a quad and travel just keeps us going backwards. You cannot bring new riders into this if they can't find good places to practice and can't afford to have a machine that is capable of competing. Those who run the nationals have set the bar so high on the track that even C classes require such a large investment in equipment that it is self destructive to growth! For someone who has watched ATV racing for well over 30 years, it amazes me to this day the talent it takes to go fast and be in the upper tier of each class. Sandbaggers aside, you all are pretty badass riders and it is so frustrating to do everything you can a not get the world dialed into what we all love.

Thomas Brown has earned an overall victory this season, along with some moto wins.
Thomas Brown has earned an overall victory this season, along with some moto wins. Photo: Ken Hill

One positive I have been noticing on social media is the attempt to get tracks to allow a set day for ATV's to practice. From the Pro ranks on down it is a grassroots effort that has mixed results but worthy of the effort being put forth. A motorcycle racer does not face this issue beyond the disdain any off-road facility faces, they show up, pay their fee and turn it loose. In my area, one could easily hit 3 or 4 tracks in a week on a bike, but only one location where quads are openly allowed and without restrictions. It will take your hard work and efforts to get places receptive to allowing ATV's and you’re hard work will be needed to try and get new riders in the mix. It is a tough deal, maybe too little too late but still worth trying. You race a quad, you know all about the odds so this is just another challenge we all face. I do apologize if this seems like doom and gloom, it is not meant to be! It is reality and if we do not take the steps needed to try and rebuild our ranks there will be no growth for the racers who are just now getting into the racing world!

Now for some good news, John Natalie just came out of surgery on his damaged lung and his outlook is pretty bright. The Ironman is living up to his name and then some! At Unadilla, I spoke with John and man he was so passionate about racing one could not help but feel sympathetic! He stated that he got amped up when they were pulling in and then reality hit him that he couldn't race. You could see it in his eyes, it was killing him! I watched throughout the day as he walked trackside to support riders and cheer them on. You may not be a Natalie fan but I think everyone can agree, the dude has heart and refuses to quit! John is in for a long road to recovery and it is still uncertain if he will every be able to race again but I know I for one sure hope to see him back out there as soon as he is capable! God bless John and his family and please say a prayer for them as they face the uphill road to living their dream!

Ronnie Higgerson has had some bad luck, but also has had his ups this season. 
Ronnie Higgerson has had some bad luck, but also has had his ups this season.  Photo: Ken Hill

I also ran into Joel Hetrick Friday evening at Unadilla and listened intently at what he was saying. Just small talk but his demeanor and attitude have changed as we draw near the end of the season. He is now on an equally footing with Chad Weinen and he knows it. If not for a few small mistakes, he could easily be heading for his first championship and he knows this as well. He has publicly turned his emotion to fun and carefree but we all know he just wants to demolish anyone who gets in his way but the change is refreshing! In the pits, on the podium, we get a Hetrick that is smiling and doing what he loves! The main thing I took away from his words was he now enters each moto ready to win and with that confidence, he is talking about or planning a strategy to win and that makes him dangerous in the fact that calculating things may just put him where he needs to be for the 2016 season. 

There is still a mathematical chance he can take this years number one plate but down the road, Kid Dynamite is going to be very hard to beat!

Now Redbud seems like it was eons ago with all the hoopla and hustle surrounding the week long event at Loretta Lynn's. Throw in that my father in-law suffered a heart attack mid week during the busiest week in motocross and my brain was shot. It was so bad that I tried multiple times calling the wife only to realize it was Saturday and she wasn't at her desk, she was home! Stress does wild things at times but it all worked out. Everyone is doing ok, me, well I am just going to climb into a cave and sleep for a few weeks once we knock out the final round! I had written just about everything above the day before Redbud and had to change a few things due to Rodney and Gloop not having time to get their part of Site Lap together and in the end, no Site Lap was published. No worries, all these people are swamped and I was sort of ready for it and did not put to much emphasis on being specific  so I could reuse the content! 

Redbud was everything I figured it would be and then some. Hetrick and Weinen slugging it out with Thomas Brown having yet another podium finish. As a fan having things close is great, as a fan of one rider or another you are either cursing one rider over the other or cheering like mad! The battle for me was watching Rastrelli and Higgerson go after each other, it was some of the most intense and close racing I saw all weekend! These two are great ambassadors to our sport and I am stoked to see them both doing well on and off the track! I was in a conversation the other day and I described Rastrelli as one tough firecracker who will never quit which may be needed in an upcoming race he plans to attend!

Now back to Loretta Lynn’s and what I learned this year. Well, there are differing forms of hot and Loretta Lynn's has its own special kind of sweltering heat and humidity. Last year spoiled everyone, lower temps. low humidity and the rain never impacted the facility in a negative way. This year, well you woke up, stepped outside and began melting, literally. I think the ATV racing nation will be in for some that this weekend so stay hydrated no matter what you are doing! Many riders and others had to be treated for dehydration in the first few days so if you see someone not guzzling fluids get on them! Dizziness, slurred speech, passing out and loss of motor control are all signs you need to look out for! And please check that your RV has a working carbon monoxide alarm and multiple fire extinguishers! 

After suffering an injury, Rastrelli has come back and proven he can run up front and battle.
After suffering an injury, Rastrelli has come back and proven he can run up front and battle. Photo: Ken Hill

This year I got to see how a team works social media on the bike side and learned a TON! Yes it was cool seeing my work used but more importantly I learned some things that I plan to bring to the ATV side to help get more exposure or us even better. Gloop and I get out what we can during race days but it is a tough deal when we are both neck deep in it with little time during the day to get content out of the track so we need to discuss how to attack this and make it work by using whomever and whatever we can. It falls back to those numbers again with having more bodies to get things done but rest assured it is one area I know Gloop and I really wish to do more. I think at any given time there were 20 or 30 photos and video guys on the track for most of the week as well as live coverage from Racer TV so content was rolling out due to their support folks in the pits or at home ready to send info out as fast as they could get it. 

The finale is upon us as this weekend will conclude the 2015 Mtn. Dew ATV Motocross National Championship Series!
The finale is upon us as this weekend will conclude the 2015 Mtn. Dew ATV Motocross National Championship Series! Photo: Ken Hill

So there it is, the last Site Lap before we lay the 2015 season to bed. The championship comes down to the wire and two motos is all that remains. Who will take it all is really anyone’s guess but Weinen doesn't usually crack under pressure so don't be alarmed if you see that man ride out of Loretta’s with another number one plate! I hope everyone has a great time and safe travels to and from the ranch! It is almost time to go racing one more time!


Don't forget, this Saturday, August 8, RacerTV will be live streaming from the ATV Dirt Days at Loretta Lynn's Ranch. The live broadcast will begin at 3:30 p.m. EST and run until 6:30 p.m. EST. Tell everyone you know to tune in, because who knows what could happen at the ATVMX Finale!