Byron, Illinois - The Loretta Lynn’s North Central Regional kicked off at Byron Motosports Park in Byron, Illinois. Riders who have succeeded through the Area Qualifiers arrived from across the country to earn a ticket to “The Ranch” of the biggest amateur national championship race in the world, Loretta Lynn’s. The early regionals usually attract the elite competition, and this weekend was no different. All classes were stacked and ran two divisions on Saturday with LCQ’s to set the stage for the remaining two motos on Sunday. Byron Motosports Park has been getting upgraded all spring to prepare for the massive influx of riders. Improvements include more parking on the property and placing mulch on the track to help keep the track conditions prime for racing. Operations went smooth, especially after factoring in every class with full gates of riders that ripped the track all weekend. The track held up well and had many line options in every turn.
The racing was electrifying all weekend. Several classes certainly stood out with some great performances from many riders. It’s certainly a joy to get that ticket and be finished with regionals early in the season so riders can turn their focus and time to train for the Loretta Lynn’s Amateur National Championship.
The Vet 30+ had a great battle between the top riders with everything coming down to a tie. Justin Kelly, of La Moille, Illinois, and Huntsville, Missouri’s, Josh Mast fought all weekend long. After three motos, the points were tied with Kelly putting down a 2-3-1 and Mast with a 3-1-2. Kelly’s last moto win broke the tie giving him the overall win. Ryan Lewis, Eric Feuillerat, Mike Mercer and Kyle Dangler also earned tickets to the Ranch.
“First moto I had a bad start, was sitting in fifteenth. I caught up to second, had a killer race,” said Kelly. “Then the second moto had a similar start and caught all the way up to third, so I was two - three coming into the last moto. (I) pulled a fifth place start, the best of my weekend in the last moto passed for the lead on the first lap, and ended up getting the overall with the tie breaker being winning the last race.”
The pressure to qualify and do well at Loretta’s is as high as ever, even for a Vet rider like Kelly, who trains with Geico Honda’s future star, Chase Sexton.
“I’m just gonna train. Luckily, Chase Sexton is in town for the next month, so I have a training partner. We plan to hit some local races and get out there on the road bike every day and get some good training in. I had a great time this weekend and a lot of support in my corner from my wife and friends coming out to help me get this far. I’m looking forward to hitting up Loretta’s this year,” said Kelly.
Speaking of Chase Sexton, he was another big story of the weekend securing his tickets to Loretta’s. Practically racing in his backyard, Sexton swept every moto in Open Pro Sport, 250 All-Stars, and 250A. But it did not come easily; he had some intense battles with Rock River Yamaha’s Lorenzo Locurrcio. Sexton was relieved to get the regionals over with so he can concentrate on his training.
“It went great. I was out running 250A, Open Pro Sport and 250 All-stars. I was getting good starts, and I won all my moto’s. I couldn’t ask anything more. I’m really happy with my bike, and I’m getting ready for the big race,” said Sexton. “I’m going to be staying in Illinois training and hitting up some local races. I’ve been out in California, and we are planning on moving to Florida either a week before or a week after Loretta’s. I’m actually going to be training at the Nest, it's where Kenny, RJ, Davalos all those guys train down there, Mike Grundel one of the team owners owns it, and it’s going to be a lot of fun being out there riding with all those guys. I’m looking forward to Loretta’s for sure.”
Perhaps the biggest story of the weekend was the B class and Chris Fortier. The Canadian has been living in Florida for the last seven years and now the whole family is up in Byron training with Brad Jerominski at Club 57 MX. Fortier was on a mission running all four B classes on a bone stock practice bike with only suspension fitted to it. He ran away with every class winning a combined total of twelve motos. Fortier actually fell on the start of 250 B, got ran over, managed to hold the clutch, get up in dead last, and took the lead on the third lap. It’s for certain that he is going to be a dangerous force to deal with at Loretta’s this year.
“The track was definitely rougher this weekend and a lot more lines which is always fun. I ride here a lot obviously, and this was a great time with all the bikes out here this weekend. The track conditions were really great out there actually,” said Fortier. “I’m going to stick with the limited classes, 250 Limited and 450 Limited. I’m going to run them both on my 250. I actually have a 450 right over there. I’m good on the 450 in practice, but I get tired on it because I’m so small. It starts to get kinda sketchy. I was supposed to race my new bike that I’ll be riding at Loretta’s. My dad wanted to set it up for this weekend, but I always ride this bike, and I’m really comfortable on it so I might as well race it.”
Fortier continued, “I definitely have some great sponsor. Brad here at Club 57 helps me out a lot. Fuel Clothing, Fly Racing takes care of all my gear. Decal Works is getting me all of my graphics. Ryno Power, Active Ride does my suspension. FMF helps me. The track by my house in Florida, WW Ranch helps me out a lot. Triangle Cycles, Scott, Ethika. Obviously, my Mom and Dad, and my girlfriend, Danielle. I’m looking forward to Loretta’s I think I should do really good out there this year.”