Group of local motocross racers will compete in Las Vegas this weekend
Thursday, May 3, 2012
Editor's note: The story has been changed to correct the spelling of Courtney Cagle's name.
A group of local motocross racers will be hitting the big time in miniature style this weekend in Las Vegas.
Courtney Cagle, Kody Lorenz, Brian Huckstep and Keith Huckstep will test their motocross skills in the MiniMotoSX World Finals.
The riders make up the Campus Motoworkz Promotions team that is stepping onto the national stage in the 12-inch bike competition.
"They race them all over the world, and this is the biggest mini-bike race in the world," said Motoworkz team manager Andrew Steger.
The 22-year-old Cagle will be making her first appearance in a national competition and will ride in Sunday night's final with about 20 other women.
Lorenz, an 18-year-old senior at Jackson High School, and the 27-year-old Brian Huckstep will have to emerge from heat competition earlier in the day in 12-inch amateur and 12-inch expert to race in the final.
The top five in heat races will advance to the final, as well as the top five qualifiers from the last-chance-qualifier heats.
Keith Huckstep, 56, will race in the 35-plus category.
The bike sizes are classified by rear wheel tire size, and Steger has chosen the 12-inch class for his team.
"Basically we did that because of the odds," Steger said. "Last year they had 700 bikes entered. It's just a one-shot deal. We've been prepping this for seven months. We built a special track just for this."
Steger said about 100 competitors will be vying for 30 spots in the 12-inch expert final.
"Kody and Brian really have to hang it out because if they don't make their qualifier Sunday morning, they're out of the race," Steger said. "They're not even going to race that night."
Racers will start outside the stadium and burst into the arena that is set up like a miniature supercross course, complete with whoops, jumps and hairpin turns.
"It's a supercross track, but it's just scaled down a little bit," Steger said. "They're still flying through the air. It's intense."
Pit bikes are small motorcycles that first debuted at racetracks as utility vehicles. Competitors used them to commute from their trailers to the track or by pit workers to avoid long walks. Somewhere along the line they went from donkeys to thoroughbreds. The engines generally are in the realm of 160cc to 184cc.
"It was something to ride around to get from point A to point B," Brian Huckstep said. "They started making them a little better and they started making after-market parts for them. The whole industry has evolved. They went from a pit transportation to like an overdone hobby."
Steger said pit bikes have been around since the 1970s, but the racing didn't evolve until around 2000.
"Ever since then it's been pretty big and it's just grown," Steger said.
Steger, who used to race pro ATVs and pro quads, has played a role in the local growth. He has a mini-moto league at Sikeston Race Park on Saturday nights and other competitions in the area. He also has built a training facility on Brian Huckstep's property he refers to as the Motoworkz testing compound.
His team members compete at Sikeston Race Park but also ride at other competitions in the region.
"They all ride big bikes, too," Steger said. "They all ride legit supercross, motocross bikes."
Cagle, who has been racing 250cc bikes, took up motocross about eight years ago.
"I used to watch friends race and it looked fun, so I bought a bike and started racing," said Cagle, who will graduate from Southeast Missouri State with a degree in horticulture next month.
She's competed on bigger bikes as an amateur on a regional level and took up minis just a couple of months ago.
"This is probably the biggest one I've ever done," Cagle said about the Las Vegas race. "It's mainly for fun, but when you turn pro it gets pretty serious. There is a lot of money involved."
Steger said there will be about $18,000 total prize money in Las Vegas.
Brian Huckstep and Lorenz both are experienced motocross riders in 250cc and 450cc. They both hope to qualify for the Loretta Lynn championships -- the top national races for amateurs -- this year.
Brian Huckstep said he's been riding minis for five or six years and riding motorcycles for 13 years.
"It's not like regular racing," said Huckstep, an oncology assistant at Saint Francis Medical Center. "It's a little more close contact and little more bumping. It's more for fun and just having a good time. It's also good training for riding your big bike because you can do things on your little bike."
Lorenz, who has been racing larger bikes for three years and pit bikes for nearly two years, is going to get his first taste of national competition. He's been using the practice facility, which features tight corners and jumps, at least once a week.
"Andrew has been getting us ready for this so we can go out there and know what to expect," Lorenz said.
Lorenz said he likes longer jumps and the airtime of the bigger bikes but refers to the minis as "a blast."
"Everything that we've got to do on a pit bike is pretty much the same concept for a big bike," Lorenz said.
Brian said his father, Keith Huckstep, has raced motorcycles since he was 18.
Keith Huckstep has a dual role of racer and mechanic for the team.
"He's our wrench guy pretty much," Steger said.
They will be pooling their skills and hoping for a little luck on the sport's biggest stage.
"Las Vegas is like the Loretta Lynn of pit bikes," Steger said.