By Dale Bohm
It all began in 1982, the first year that the Amateur Nationals were held at the Loretta Lynn’s Dude Ranch in Hurricane Mills, Tennessee. Prior to that, the US Amateur Nationals were held at different venues around the country, usually in the east where locals held an advantage so riders from the west would sparsely attend. The rational for creating Loretta’s was to have a neutral location used once a year where families could attend and enjoy the racing while having a fun summer vacation.
(Chris Cooksey at the Ranch in 1989)
Since then, Loretta’s has grown into the premier amateur motocross event with thousands of riders each year trying to qualify through area and regional events. Just to make it to the start line at Loretta’s means you’re one of the top 42 riders in the nation in your class. The list is long of riders who rode well at Loretta’s and moved on to successful professional careers. Names like Ricky Carmichael, James Stewart and Kevin Windham can all thank Loretta’s for helping them launch their careers.
The race became a stepping stone from local to pro and allowed riders to showcase their talents in front of the factory representatives and industry sponsors. But the real heart and soul of Loretta’s are the thousands of riders, mechanics, family members and friends that come from all over the nation and make it a special event. The campgrounds are full of people sitting in chairs telling stories, children wading in the streams, and music playing over the PA system. They all share one thing in common, a love for the sport of motocross!
My first visit to the ranch was in 1984, just as the event was starting to gain attention from the motorcycle industry and outside sponsors. It was a friendly, well run event and the Coombs family laid out the red carpet for the riders and their families. There was nightly entertainment and fun activities throughout the day for family members and those who had a day off of racing. After a week of racing in the Open A class, I left the ranch with a deep love for the event and returned five times over the course of eight years, bringing with me top Utah riders to compete and witness the best amateur motocross event in the nation.
As the event matured each year, more and more sponsors came on board and legends like Bob Hannah, Marty Smith and Roger De Coster could be seen walking around pit row and signing autographs. Team Utah was growing and getting better each year, placing 2nd in the AMA District competition in 1986. Since then, Utah riders kept getting better with Garrett Marchbanks topping the list, collecting eight Loretta Lynn titles and a Pro Circuit Factory ride. Garrett went on to win the 2020 Daytona Supercross 250 class and finish 4th overall for the 2020 Supercross season. Pierce Brown has two Loretta Lynn titles, runner up four times and is now a Troy Lee Designs/Red Bull/KTM factory rider.
(Nick Wey showing love to his kid, as he sends him off at the Ranch)
On August 15th, Loretta’s welcomed professional riders for the first time in history and hosted the first round on the AMA Outdoor National series. Dylan Ferrandis and Zach Osborne became the first pro champions at the Ranch on a tough, modified track that proved difficult for many riders. From what started as a dream of Dave Coombs Sr. in the early 80’s to the legendary event that it is today, Loretta’s continues to provide non-stop action and is the shining light of the motocross world.