Bad ‘break’ doesn’t stop Rogers dirt bike racer

by Aaron Brom
ECM Sun Publishers
Mateo Johnson, an 18-year-old dirt bike racer from Rogers, has qualified for the largest amateur motocross race in the world for his third consecutive year.

Submitted photo
Mateo Johnson, of Rogers, sails on his way to qualifying for the 36th Annual Rocky Mountain ATV/MC AMA Amateur National Motocross Championship in Tennessee, the largest amateur motocross race in the world.

He will be participating in the 36th annual Rocky Mountain ATV/MC AMA Amateur National Motocross Championship, presented by Lucas Oil, this August at Loretta Lynn’s Ranch in Hurricane Mills, Tennessee.

Johnson took on over 22,000 hopefuls from across America to earn one of just 1,446 qualifying positions. Johnson will be racing in the highly competitive 450B limited and 450B modified classes and will be piloting a factory-supported Yamaha YZ450F.

Johnson was fortunate to qualify for this event, as he broke his foot in the second set of motos at the regional qualifier at Spring Creek MX in Millville, Minnesota. Not to be denied racing the Amateur National, with sheer determination he finished the regional event riding his last two motos with a broken foot and placed third overall in each 450 class out of 60 of the top racers in the region. Racers must finish in the top six to advance to the Amateur Nationals.

“The Amateur Nationals at Loretta Lynn’s, which riders attend from all over the world, is the event every motocross racer wants to compete in,” said event director Tim Cotter. “A win at the Amateur Nationals gives a rider instant national notoriety and can serve as a springboard to a lucrative professional motocross career.”

Most of America’s top professional motocross racers, including James Stewart, Ricky Carmichael, Travis Pastrana and Jeremy McGrath, have won AMA Amateur National Championships at Loretta Lynn’s. The race is so prestigious that in 2013 race coverage was aired on NBC for the first time. In 2016, the coverage only got better as the Rocky Mountain ATV/MC National Championship aired live, streaming online from Loretta Lynn’s for 40 hours of live coverage throughout the week; it was also broadcast later in the fall on NBC Sports Network.

Submitted photo
Mateo Johnson, No. 67, far left, gets off to a fast start in the Motocross Championship qualifying event in Millville, Minnesota.

Johnson, who will be attending Arizona State University this fall and pursuing a business degree, has been riding since he was 3 years old. With the help of sponsors such as ASM Group Inc., Hi-per Sports, Powerband Racing, Western Powersports, Fly Racing, Larson’s Cycle, Yamaha, Heinen’s Motorsports, BDMX Graphics and family who help support his racing endeavors, Johnson has had the opportunity to pursue his dreams. He has won hundreds of races in the past 14 years and competes regularly at events around the country.

The track is built on a section of Loretta Lynn Ranch and Campground in Hurricane Mills, Tennessee. 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, 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 race action will be broadcast live daily at July 31 through Aug. 5, for a total of 40 hours of live coverage. In addition, two highlight shows featuring the event will air on NBC Sports Network in the fall.

The Rocky Mountain ATV/MC AMA Amateur National Motocross Championship is the world’s largest and most prestigious amateur motocross racing program. The national qualifying program consists of 57 area qualifiers (February through May) and 13 regional championships (May through June), hosted at select motocross facilities across the country.

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