Loretta Lynn's has become the most prestigious amateur national event in the U.S. Learn about how it all began here!
With the AMA Amateur Nationals quickly approaching, everyone is in crunch mode. Getting the RV ready, stocking up on groceries, and of course getting in as much seat time as possible. While everyone prepares to head to The Ranch for a week of racing, it’s a great time to look back at where it all started. Dave Coombs Sr. is where the idea came from, and how it all began.
Coombs was a visionary, as well as a racer, and wanted to grow the sport he loved from the time he started riding. After sustaining an injury later in his career, he decided to shift gears from being a professional racer, to getting behind coordinating the actual race events. He was trying to improve how races were run, and started promoting them at the local track before taking on the profession full-time.
Coombs promoted his first regional in 1973, and then hosted the Amateur Nationals at Appalachia Lake circuit located in West Virginia the following year. Coombs would go on to start many ventures, not only looking at the big picture, but creating it. Thinking so big and executing the plan takes a special person; just imagine the logistics around starting a race event of Loretta’s magnitude. It is without a doubt turning dreams into reality and on a large scale.
Read Dave Coombs Sr.'s bio from the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame here.
In the Late ‘70s and early ‘80s, Coombs saw a large disorganization in amateur racing, so he went full swing into building his business. Along with starting the Blackwater 100, Highpoint Raceway, and Steel City Raceway, Coombs reached for the stars and turned the Amateur Nationals into what they are today; which is now simply referred to as Loretta Lynn’s.
The push to make everything happen started when Coombs wanted to see a national race where everyone would be on a level playing field. There would be no local riders with a home field advantage, and all the classes would race at one event instead of having separate national events for youth riders. It came down to meeting up in a central location to see who the best really was, and that’s how Loretta’s still stands today.
The location came to be the host of the largest amateur national event of the year after a long search for a location large enough to hold an event that size. The Ranch was mentioned to Coombs by a fellow promotor in the early ‘80s. Loretta Lynn’s Dude Ranch sits on over 6000 acres with 300 plus campsites, offering many events and special entertainment. When Coombs met with Loretta Lynn and her husband to pitch his idea, they were in full support of the project. Shortly thereafter, the first ever AMA Amateur National debuted in 1982.
As a rider, it is a special opportunity to be on your way to Loretta’s. The track only gets ridden once a year, which is during the races. Not only can you never practice the track, but you also have to qualify to earn the opportunity to race Loretta’s. This process involves going to multiple regional qualifiers and finishing with consistent results. Earning a ticket to line up on the gate at Loretta’s is that next big step for many young racers and their careers.
Being able to leave Tennessee with the National number 1 plate brings great things as well. This of course is not the only route to success, but looking back at all the big names of the pro ranks that have won Loretta’s titles, you start to see a pattern. Kevin Windham is just one example of this, as he went on to win every moto for 4 years straight at Loretta’s. Add to that the stories of the fences being lined to capacity whenever Ricky Carmichael would go out for a moto. The list goes on, including legends like Brian Swink, Ryan Villopoto, Travis Pastrana, Ryan Dungey, and James Stewart.
The experience for the people who aren’t racing is also a big part of Loretta’s. Back when things started, there was no social media, or any event of this scale. Showing up at Loretta’s to watch racers from across the country was a huge draw to the event. Fans were able to come out and see riders they had only heard about from other areas of the country.
Sustaining such a big national event with 1400 racers and 5 days of racing takes a lot of help and contribution. Rocky Mountain ATV/MC is currently the title sponsor for the event for the fourth year in a row, and contributing a lot to moving things forward. Many other companies that contribute to the event will fill up sponsor village to support the racers and share their passion for the sport.
Wiseco is proud to be one of the few sponsors that have been there since day one. Wiseco’s support actually began with their support of Racer Productions, which dates back to the early 70’s. This relationship was carried through to Loretta Lynn’s when the first riders lined up on the gate in 1982. Wiseco was started with a passion for riding and racing, and it’s truly an honor to have seen so many talented riders come and go through Loretta’s as Wiseco has been there watching, supporting, and helping every year.
Find Wiseco products and information for your bike or ATV here.
If you’re a motocross fan, Loretta’s is a must-experience. The friendships made, the lucky and unlucky moments, and the glory of winning a coveted National number 1 plate sets the stage for an emotional week. The history books will continue to fill up year after year, and everyone’s time at Loretta’s will never be forgotten.
Photos courtesy of RacerX and their contributors.