Loretta Lynn: The Matron of Motocross

Loretta Lynn: The Matron of Motocross | RoadRUNNER Motorcycle Touring & Travel
Photography: Racer X Archives

Loretta Lynn was more than just a legendary country music singer and songwriter. The coal miner’s daughter stood as a symbol of hard work and resilience throughout her career, telling her inspirational story through her powerful voice and sometimes-too-real lyrics. She was an example of what it takes to beat the odds, overcoming obstacles in her path time and time again, from growing up in the rural coal mining town of Butcher Hollow, KY, to her controversial 49-year marriage to Oliver Lynn. If there ever was a woman who prevailed through hard times to turn her dreams into reality, it was Loretta.

That’s just the kind of inspiration that thousands of amateur motocross riders need as they make their way to Hurricane Mills, TN, each August to take part in the AMA Amateur National Motocross Championship. For the last 41 years, the event has taken place at Loretta Lynn’s Ranch just west of Nashville.

Lynn purchased the ranch in the late ‘60s and turned it into a destination for country music lovers, complete with a campground, restaurants, and shopping. The ranch caught the attention of Dave Coombs, a legendary race promoter in his time, who quickly began working with Lynn to bring amateur racers to this unique location. He didn’t have to twist her arm too hard—Loretta loved the idea and quickly became one of American Motocross’ biggest fans and supporters. Though she didn’t know it at the time, her ranch would become the location for one of the most iconic racing events in motorsports history.

Amateur riders from across the country dream of racing at Loretta’s. To get there, they must win a series of qualifying races. Only the country’s 42 best riders in each class are invited. For most, this is the pinnacle of their racing career. For some, it’s their ticket to professional racing.

Some of the best riders in the world have come through Loretta Lynn’s as kids. Ricky Carmichael, the most victorious motocross racer in history, holds nine championship titles from Loretta’s. Mike Alessi, James Stewart, Ryan Villopoto, Jeremy McGrath, and most other motocross legends also hold multiple championships from this track. Competing in the event is a rite of passage that every youth racer dreams of. Many say racing at Loretta’s is like playing in the Little League World Series of motocross.

Loretta Lynn: The Matron of Motocross | RoadRUNNER Motorcycle Touring & Travel
Photography: Racer X Archives

I never raced as a kid, but I did ride dirt bikes. One of my fondest memories is getting to ride at the ranch every spring and fall with my family and our local riding club. Mrs. Lynn not only hosted the AMA Championship each summer, but also other racing and trail riding events where adrenaline junkies like myself could come get a taste of the magic. I remember riding my Yamaha TT-R125 up to the starting gate of the motocross track in the early morning sun, dew still hanging and glistening on the blades of grass, and “Coal Miner’s Daughter” coming through the loudspeakers. The place was magical even to those who never got a chance to race there.

On October 4, 2022, Loretta Lynn passed away peacefully at her home on the ranch. She was 90 years young and still a great supporter of amateur motocross. She was inducted into the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame in 2021 due to her contributions to the sport. Her legacy will continue on, as there are no plans to stop riding or racing here anytime soon.

“Amateur motocross families have lost an iconic member,” lamented a spokesman for the AMA Amateur National Motocross Championship. “The Queen of Country Music has opened her home to thousands of motocross athletes for the past 41 years. The memories made at Loretta Lynn’s Ranch are indelible to our racing family.”

If you’d like to get a taste of the magic for yourself, spectators are welcome to attend any of the racing events held at Loretta Lynn’s. The Tennessee Motorcycles and Music Revival also takes place there each May and provides a great opportunity to visit the ranch.