August Rossi’s right shoulder has been completely rebuilt.
The Grand Junction resident has 12 screws in his shoulder blade that came after a motocross accident, then nearly lost his arm after a separate accident. There’s also some pins in his ankles from earlier accidents.
All of this came not long after he resumed motocross racing with the aspiration of reaching the Rocky Mountain ATV/MC AMA Amateur National Motocross Championship at Loretta Lynn’s ranch in Hurricane Mills, Tennessee.
It was Rossi’s childhood dream to race there, but one he put on hold after the birth of his 11-year-old son. After his son got into motocross racing and had success in the sport, it inspired Rossi to resume the pursuit of his dream — one that came true when he recently qualified for the prestigious motocross event.
Now that his dream is a reality, it has more than just an emotional tie to it.
“I consider going as a win,” said Rossi, who’ll compete in the 30-plus veterans classification when the event begins today. “I feel like my dad did something for all of those years taking me to the races that it paid off. After all of those thousands of dollars he put into taking me to the races, something finally came of it.”
THE CHURCH OF DIRT
Rossi’s dad, David, took his son to motocross venues all over as the youngster grew up racing. Originally from Iowa, August Rossi grew up in North Carolina and raced competitively until he moved to Colorado when he was 21, one year after the birth of his son, Clayton. Before he got to Colorado, David Rossi made August choose the sport he wanted to participate in and he chose motocross over football, baseball and wrestling, and Sundays went from being a day to go to church to a day to race motocross.
August was always thankful for the opportunity.
“I’d have people come to me and say, ‘We are at church! This is the church of dirt!” August Rossi said. “And I looked up church in the dictionary, and it simply said it’s a sanctuary and a place to give thanks. That’s what I try to do every time I’m out there.”
Rossi, 31, has treated the time with Clayton on motocross weekends as his sanctuary time, which includes August’s girlfriend, Charlie Chambers, and her son, Brayden. In between August Rossi’s construction jobs, they’ve driven from Grand Junction to tracks in Utah, California, Arizona, Mississippi and, Thunder Valley Park in Morrison, outside Denver.
Clayton has had his share of success on the motocross track as well, and it was his success, along with August’s brush with permanent disabilities, that motivated the older Rossi to get back into competitive motocross.
August Rossi was out riding at Skinny Ridge near Grand Junction off 27 1/4 Road one year ago when he wrecked his motorcycle, which led to 12 screws being set into his right shoulder blade after the bones had shattered. Not long afterward at a practice in Mesquite, Nevada, he took another bad tumble but only thought the injury on his left elbow was a nasty scratch.
Close to one week later, his left arm and hand were severely swollen. Doctors treated his arm for a staph infection and drained fluid out of the arm, and even entertained the possibility of amputation.
But instead of dampening his resolve to get back into racing, the injuries actually strengthened it.
“I had already decided (after the shoulder blade injury) that if I was going to do this, I needed to have a goal to reach to motivate me,” he said. “I even told Charlie afterward that if I didn’t lose my arm and got out of the hospital, we were going racing. I wasn’t about to wait … to get back to that starting line to have it taken away.”
And he made the most of it, finishing fourth in the 30-plus classification at the Thanksgiving Nationals at that same race track in Mesquite. That paved the way for him qualifying for the Loretta Lynn nationals with his fourth-place finish at a regional at Pala Raceway in Pala, California, on June 11.
Part of Rossi’s success has come thanks to his willingness to learn and improve. Instead of going out and aimlessly racing like he did in his late teens, he analyzes each race to look for weak points and places to improve. Chambers, who admitted she’s turned herself into a travel agent and a racing liaison for her boyfriend, also throws in feedback from time to time, letting Rossi know what she thought went wrong if he had a bad race.
How much of a difference has it made?
“I’ve taken close to 15 seconds off some of my race times,” he said. “That’s huge.”
Rossi, Chambers and the kids headed to Tennessee on July 21, so Rossi could ride the course and get to know it well before he competed.
“There’s people like Jeremy McGrath and Ricky Carmichael who have gone through those gates,” Rossi said. “People idolize them.”
The long road to get to this point also made for an emotional phone call to his dad. There were tears of joy when David Rossi heard that his son had qualified for the Tennessee race.
It will be the first, and last time Rossi will go through those race gates. Before this year, all of the time and money August Rossi spent going to races went into his son’s racing. That’s where the money will go back when he stops racing.
And he’s OK with that. After all of the broken bones, surgeries and life events that got in the way, he’s just happy for the opportunity to realize his racing dream.
“I guess you could say I’m thankful and lucky,” he said. “I kind of lucked into it, but thankful is a good word. So thankful.”