The Mike Brown Debacle At Loretta’s
By:
Kris Keefer

Age divisions have always been somewhat of a controversy in amateur racing, but this year it was the older guys getting the heat.

Lead Photo: Mike Vizer

<--break- />I spent over $6,000 of my own money to go race Loretta Lynn’s this year knowing that I would have to go race some of the fastest old dudes there is. I knew it wasn't going to be easy at all. After my third place finish in the first moto (in the Senior 40 class) I heard rumblings (some riders, but most from non-riders) about how Mike Brown and Nathan Ramsey shouldn't be allowed to race in these age division classes. Of course when I signed up and I see guys like Nathan Ramsey, Mike Brown, Buddy Antunez and even a guy I don’t know much about John Grewe, I know it is going to be a tough event. However, not at one time do I think that it’s bullshit that they are racing. Just because they have more experience and maybe a couple titles doesn't mean that I am not able to beat them (or anyone else for that matter)!  

When you sign up for a age division class at Loretta’s you know beforehand that you will have to deal with the best riders there are in the country. For example, my 11 year old son Aden had to race the 9-12 mod division and he has only raced four times in his life! We knew qualifying to would be a stretch, but we decided to try anyway. At best he is novice speed, so knowing this we knew that his chances were still slim to make it to the ranch with me. However, we didn't bitch about this as these are the rules that we KNEW beforehand. Key word here is “KNEW”! It wasn't like MX Sports changed the rules when we arrived. We knew that we were at a disadvantage, but making it to Tennessee as a family would be a win in itself. I can see how a kid or an older racer in these age division classes could get frustrated, but look at the big picture. You are racing with the best of the best and getting to line up with these fast racers will only make you a better racer. Hell, just because they are fast doesn't mean you give them the trophy before he or she even races right? Correct me if I am wrong, but isn't this why we drop the gate? To see who the best guy or gal is? What about crashes? What about mechanicals? Why about just having a shitty day? Trust me I had a lot of these this year at Loretta’s!  All of these things can come into play once the gate drops and we go racing. 

You can't expect a born winner to not want to WIN!  Photo:Derek Garcia

At this year’s Loretta Lynn’s National Mike Brown was asked by Husqvarna to come race the age division classes for them. They do this for marketing purposes and for possible Husqvarna owners to see the bike underneath a great rider like Brownie. It wasn't like Mike obsessed about these classes all year and needed to take home these amateur titles to hang on his mantle. He raced within the rules he was given and won fair and square. This dude just loves to race anything on two wheels and gives it his all when he does. Like we all should! He even was quoted on the podium saying that “if anyone wants to race and get these titles they are here for the taking, come and get them”. I and so many other younger guys got smoked by Brownie last week and we should now go back to work. Well you say what about the 9-5 guy who maybe looks forward to possibly getting a title (in his class) and these top pros show up and ruin it for them. Well to that I say you have the 30 and 45 classes that you can ride that Brownie and others can’t. Aden got his ass kicked at the regional in his younger 9-12 age division class and it’s up to me (the parent) to let him know he needs to go home, go back to work and not give up. It doesn't matter where or what class you ride as there will always be one or two guys that will be noticeably better than the others. It’s always the “others” that will complain about those couple riders. Instead of learning and going back to work it is easier to bitch and complain about the situation. 

What about creating a class for “past champions” to race in for a Loretta title of their own? I think that is a cool idea and maybe Davey Coombs could look into this. My fear however is that there wouldn't be a full gate for those racers to compete in. I don’t think there is enough of a draw to fill a 40 man gate for these riders. Only a hand full of those type of guys get the drive to come back to Loretta’s and race for a week. That is not the norm with top pros, trust me. Ricky Carmichael, Jeff Emig, Robbie Reynard among others all have been there at one time, but there has yet to be more than five to six riders at a time, at the ranch, per year. I feel like we as fans and riders should appreciate that these past “heroes” of our sport are there wanting to go race with all of us mere mortals. I think its bad ass that I can sit on the line and bullshit with Brownie, Ramsey and Antunez before we are about to go do battle. Let’s all be thankful that we are able to go race, ride and have fun on our dirt bikes. Because when I see this bitching and complaining it’s hard not to think about guys like Jessy Nelson (among others) who would love to be able to ride/race their dirt bikes again. It’s dirt bikes! It’s fun! That is why we started doing this stuff right?  I think we get caught up in the Loretta hype so much that we somehow lose focus on the big picture. Having a good time, twisting the throttle, spending time with friends/ family and being able to enjoy the adrenaline rush of coming into the first corner with 39 other riders.  

I had a great time at Loretta Lynn’s racing my dirt bike even though I got worked by a 45 year old red neck like Mike Brown. If you don't like the rules, you can always go back to your local track and be “The Man” again and save yourself some headache and money. Its your choice!    

Comments

Brownie

I can't believe there was a debacle over Brown racing. I think it's awesome. My friends and I raced in the same class in the 2014 LLMX. We got smoked but we qualified and made it there. Raced against Barry Carsten, Larusso, Sheak etc.... We are from California and had to qualify against Emig. Did we care no? The whole gate was empty and I chose to line up next to him. You don't line up next to 4 time champs very often. He crushed us but it was great experience. Just have fun riding and racing your dirt bike. I look back on 22nd overall at the ranch with fond memories.

Glad you brought up the 40+ class

I'm glad you brought this up. But one thing for sure... if you're able to get 4th at Loretta Lynns in the 40+ class, then you're probably not the one to be writing this article. Why? Because you are faster than 99.99% of us 40+ riders out there, and you can admittedly hang with the ex-Pros.... I also think it's great to see the ex-Pros. But I certainly shouldn't be racing against them. The point is this. The 40+ class has a very interesting talent gap. If you are racing the 45+ class right now, the talent is very evenly matched for the most part, and hardly ANY ex-Pro's are in that class at the moment, at your local track. However, if you are 40-42 years old right now, then you are getting your ass destroyed by the old local Pro riders from 1990 and 1991. It's great that they kept riding. I mean last weekend, I raced against one of Georgia's old Pro riders in Brian Stokes and he hasn't lost any speed from 1991. Trust me he hasn't. It was awesome to see him. He was impressed with my full on Ron Lechien dalmation gear and helmet and we had a great conversation. I got destroyed but had a fun time as it was my daughter's first time seeing me race. What everyone needs to remember is the 40+ class is the class with the parents who are paying for this sport to remain alive. Just because I race 40+ does not mean that I have the talent to race against the old Pro riders. It shouldn't be a "well you need to get faster" atttitude for this class. There is no reason in the world why the 40+ shouldn't have a D and C class at the local track or at a National event. We are missing out on SO MUCH money from this sport by ostracizing the 40+ class into one group. We don't want to race that hard anymore. Us not-as-good-40+ riders shouldn't be lumped into those top groups. We still want to have fun. But it's not fun when there's no point, and your little daughter is going to see you get last. Someone has to be last. But when the top 12 are ex-Pros, you drive home thinking "should I just sell my bike at this point?". There are millions of dollars to be made from us D and C riders in the 40+ Class. Personally I'm not a quitter. But there needs to be an option for us older guys at every single race. Even Loretta Lynns. We used to laugh at the 40+ class in the 1990's. But let me tell you, we had no idea that the same local Pros we'd line the fences to watch back then, would be handing our ass to us STILL 30 years later. I still line the fences for them. But I don't need to race them. I still love this sport, and I still deserve to have fun and to have a chance out there. I'm not a bad rider at all.