Local motocross rider Dylan Osborne headed to championships in Tennessee
Dylan Osborne knows what it means to race at the Loretta Lynn Ranch in Hurricane Mills, Tenn.
For several years, Osborne, 15, has gotten on the Internet to watch videos and read stories about the annual motocross races on the property. This year, Osborne won’t be watching it on YouTube.
Instead, he’ll be competing against racers from across the U.S. in the 30th annual American Motorcyclist Association Amateur National Motocross Championships, Aug. 1-6.
“All the companies are at Loretta’s and they’re watching the top riders of every class, looking for somebody to sponsor next year,” Osborne said. “I’m kind of nervous because you’re basically racing for your next year’s sponsorships.”
It’s one of two national races Osborne will compete in before school starts. He’ll also be racing at the National Motosport Association’s Ponca City Grand National Motocross Championship July 24-30 in Ponca City, Okla.
They’re the first national motocross races for Osborne, who also races in the World Off-Road Championship Series, a series of off-road races around the western U.S.
Osborne first starting riding motorcycles when he was 5 years old because of the influence of his stepfather, Don Crum. Osborne mainly rode trails, but eventually progressed into racing.
“When he got started, we really didn’t have racing on the brain, to be honest,” Crum said. “I still was doing off-road type stuff, so, obviously, I was kind of an influence and probably leaned him toward trying some off-road events. That’s kind of where his heart was.”
Osborne started riding motocross at 12, using it as a training ground for off-road races. But the two styles of racing initially didn’t click.
“It wasn’t something he was a big fan of at first because it wasn’t something he grew up doing,” Crum said. “He was out on his own, and he wasn’t as competitive at it. He’d go and he’d be the kid in the back of the pack.”
Part of the problem, Osborne said, was the length of time. Off-road races would last roughly an hour and a half, but motocross races are only a few laps and last about 15 minutes.
Comparatively, it was the difference between a distance runner and a sprinter.
“It was so much different compared to off-road,” Osborne said. “I was used to trying to get in a groove. Off-road races are so long and motocross races are so short, and that was a big factor playing with me when I first started.”
Now, it’s a different story.
As Osborne continued riding motocross, he picked up on the nuances of the sport — coming out of corners fast, hitting jumps properly, seeing better lines around obstacles — and was able to improve not only in motocross, but in his off-road races.
“He started going to a desert race and he started attacking the course like it was one great big, long motocross track,” Crum said. “Now, all of a sudden, he was actually racing an off-road event rather than just riding it.”
Osborne said the change in his style was because of motocross.
“When I started riding off-road on little bikes, I was kind of trail riding, just taking my time. Getting into motocross and how competitive it was helped me get into racing at a race pace for as long as I could,” he said.
“On a motocross track, you’re sprinting the whole way, so you want to get into everything fast, come out of everything fast, and that really helps in an off-road setting, too.”
Part of the reason Osborne never made it to a national motocross race before is simply that he never tried.
Last September, while working with former off-road racer Steve Hatch in Arizona, he had to write down goals.
“I had both Ponca City and Loretta Lynn’s on there, trying to qualify,” he said.
At the beginning of the year, Osborne sat down with Crum and his mother, Rebecca, and the three talked about making it to the two national races. You don’t want to say ‘Well, that’s crazy’ but in the back of your head you’re thinking, ‘Well, I don’t know,’ ” Don Crum said.
Ponca City only takes the top 12 qualifiers in each event from five regions around the country. Loretta Lynn’s takes the top six from seven regional races around the country.
Among Dylan’s competition to qualify for Loretta Lynn’s, Rebecca Crum said, were racers from Oklahoma, Texas, California and as far away as Minnesota and Louisiana.
What didn’t help was abdominal surgery in late May, 12 days before the regional race in Lakewood.
The family nearly gave up on the idea of qualifying for Loretta Lynn’s.
“We had pretty much just ruled it out,” Don Crum said. “We wanted him to get over it and past the disappointment of not going. It’s like, OK, for whatever reason it’s not going to happen this year and it can just be a future goal. There’s next year.”
But as the qualifying races drew closer, they started discussing the possibility of going anyway.
“I was just really concerned about a week later, while that event’s taking place, and he’s sitting at the house in Grand Junction and he’s possibly feeling better and he’s going, ‘Why aren’t we over there trying?’ ” Don Crum said.
Osborne talked to his doctor a few days before the race, who told him, “You’re free to do whatever.”
“And that’s all Dylan heard,” Rebecca Crum said.
Off to the races
Normally, the family would spend the week before the race at the track preparing. Instead, the family made a last-minute decision to head to Thunder Valley Motocross Park in Lakewood.
Races began June 11, a Saturday.
“Wednesday came around and I felt that much better every day,” Dylan said. “I said, ‘You know what, Mom, why don’t we go out on Thursday?’ “
He practiced Thursday night and the family left at 4 a.m. Friday to get a day of practice on the course.
Despite having to ride a bit more over the seat and the difficulty of taking corners because of some discomfort after the surgery, he finished fourth in the 250 C Stock class to qualify.
At Ponca, he’ll be riding in the 250 C Stock, the 250 C Modified, and the schoolboy classes.
Both races could be the culmination of a dream, especially at Loretta Lynn’s, where professional riders, including Ricky Carmichael and Travis Pastrana, have gotten their starts.
Osborne knows what it will take.
“It comes down to you, your mental ability, your physical ability, and what you want to lay down on the track and give it your all,” he said.