JAMESTOWN — It’s like the super bowl of amateur motocross racing and a Jamestown teen is in the starting lineup.
Griffin Maxwell, who will be a senior at Greeneview High School, qualified for the largest amateur motocross race in the world, the 38th Annual Rocky Mountain ATV/MC AMA Amateur National Motocross Championship, to be held July 30-Aug. 3 at the historic Loretta Lynn Ranch in Hurricane Mills, Tenn., about 75 west of Nashville.
The 17-year-old was one of nearly 20,000 other racers from across America earning one of the coveted 1,512 qualifying positions in the multi-class series of races.
“It’s pretty exciting when you get to qualify,” Griffin said Wednesday while taking a break from training. “I was confident in all the work we put in. I felt pretty good. (But) I was pretty excited. I had some difficulties, which made me have to do pretty good to get in.”
Griffin will race in the 450B and 450B Limited classes. In all there are 36 classes open to children as young as four and all the way up to 50 and over.
Qualifying is an arduous, four-month process that features through area and regional events where only the best of the best make it to the big race. Maxwell, who has been riding dirt bikes since he was 4-years-old, turned in a pair of top-15 finishes in his regional in Michigan in June to advance.
Griffin credited new trainer Steven Squire from SSR Rider Development.
“He put us to work and got us feeling confident and ready to go for this regional,” Griffin said.
It’s Griffin’s second trip to Loretta Lynn’s. He qualified in 2014 but crashed in each one, finishing 22nd and 33rd in his class.
While a victory would be nice, Griffin just wants to “put our head down and work.”
“We always would like to win,” he said. “We’re just going in with a clear head. Honestly when we start racing here it’ll be a relief.”
The course contains a variety of jumps, corners and other obstacles designed to test the skills and stamina of the racers. The motocross track is used only once a year for motorcycles, so there is no hometown advantage. Racers compete in three 15-20 minute races over the course of the week per class, sometimes in grueling temperatures. Proper training and preparation are paramount.
“The Amateur National at Loretta Lynn’s is the best of the best motocrossers in America and around the world, said Tim Cotter,” director of MX Sports. “Just being here makes you an elite racer and a top athlete. A solid finish at Loretta’s would you give you instant national recognition and a possible professional career.”
Most of America’s top professional motocross racers, including James Stewart, Ricky Carmichael, Travis Pastrana and Ryan Dungey, have won AMA Amateur National titles at Loretta Lynn’s.
The race action will be broadcast live daily at www.RacerTV.com for a total of 40 hours of live coverage. In addition, highlight shows featuring the event will air on NBC Sports Network in the fall.