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Dalhart’s Thomas Ralston qualifies for national motocross championship

Posted by: tdt -

Dalhart’s Thomas Ralston qualifies for national motocross championship

By Bill Kelly


While many people may wait years or even a lifetime to reach the pinnacle of their career or sport or hobby, if ever, Dalhart’s Thomas Ralston has made it to the top of at least one mountain while still in high school. Ralston recently qualified for the Monster Energy AMA Amateur National Motocross Championship, also known as Loretta Lynn MX since it is held at the Loretta Lynn Ranch in Tennessee. This is basically the “Super Bowl” of amateur motocross.

Ralston lives in Dalhart but goes to school in Texline, and will be a sophomore this coming year at Texline High School. He has been both riding and racing motorcycles for about eight years. “Whenever I was about six years old we started watching this thing called Loretta Lynn’s MX on YouTube and that’s basically where it started.” Thomas Ralston said. His dad, Troy Ralston, said that Thomas’s first race was in August of 2013.

The Loretta Lynn MX started in 1982, just a year after race promoting legend Dave Coombs stopped by the country singer’s ranch and took to it. At the time, the American Motorcyclist Association’s (AMA) amateur racing circuit was not entirely on track and Coombs came up with an idea of creating a national amateur race competitive for riders of all ages by eliminating the “hometrack” advantage enjoyed by local stars of other year-round tracks.

Coombs told another promoter, Paul Schlegel, about his idea of creating amateur racing on a track with an even playing field. Schlegel further suggested holding the race annually in the middle of the country where no one had ever raced before. Schlegel then told Coombs to check out the ranch owned by Loretta Lynn and her husband Mooney. Coombs presented his plan to the Lynn’s, who liked the idea of dirt bike racing on their property and so the Loretta Lynn MX was born.

Making it to the Loretta Lynn MX is a multi-step process. Riders must first compete at an Area Qualifier and place in the top nine in their division to qualify to move on to a Regional Qualifier. The top six finishers at regional qualify to move on to the national championship, which is held at Loretta Lynn’s ranch in Hurricane Mills, Tennessee.

There are actually multiple Area Qualifiers that riders can compete in. Thomas competed at one in Amarillo and qualified to move on to a Regional in Mississippi. He then also competed at an Area Qualifier in Kansas since Dalhart is so close to that state, and moved on from there to a Regional in Millville, Minnesota. It was at the Regional in Minnesota that Thomas placed in the top six to punch his ticket to the Loretta Lynn MX.

Just as there are multiple Area and Regional qualifiers, there are also literally dozens of different classes of motocross based on the age and experience of the rider, size of the motorcycle’s engine, and whether the motorcycle has been modified or is “limited” or “stock.” Thomas Ralston had been racing in a youth class, but has now moved up and qualified for the Loretta Lynn MX in the 450 C Amateur Class. Only 42 riders qualify in each class for the Loretta Lynn MX.

Thomas Ralston went to the Dallas area to train earlier this month at a track called “Underground MX.” His dad Troy Ralston said that Thomas has a coach down there that he has been working with. He’s been training there for the past couple of weeks, and his parents will pick him up down there later this week to take him to Tennessee for the Loretta Lynn MX.  

It has taken Thomas Ralston eight years and multiple broken bones to make it to the Loretta Lynn MX. His family has been very supportive, and the whole endeavor has been kept going by several local sponsors who have helped with the expenses that go along with motocross. Those sponsors include Just-In Backyard BBQ, J&D Construction, AEG Petroleum, TKO Gas, Vital Health, Lone Star Lockout, State Farm Insurance, Full Circle Insurance, Tangle Wood Self-Storage, XIT Grills, Dalhart Cruzers and Twisted Elms Bar & Grill.

The Loretta Lynn MX is scheduled to take place next week, Monday August 2 through Saturday August 7, basically the exact same time as the XIT Rodeo & Reunion. The races, or “motos” as they are called, start on August 3. Just like XIT, the Loretta Lynn MX is always scheduled for the first week in August. 

Thomas Ralston’s father referred to the Loretta Lynn MX as the “Super Bowl” of amateur motocross, while others have compared it to the Little League World Series. Thomas described it in his own way. “This Loretta Lynn’s MX is where all the fastest amateurs go.” Thomas Ralston said. “It’s basically where you can prove your speed and try to be the best.”


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