URBANA — For most 6-year-olds, being a daredevil is making a ramp out of wood in your dad’s shop and you and friends having fun in the street in front of your house doing jumps on with your bike.
Zaydon McCabe, Urbana, is taking his dream a step further. Earlier this summer he qualified for the largest amateur motocross race in the world, the 39th Annual Monster Energy AMA Amateur National Motocross Championship, to be held August 3 – August 8 at the historic Loretta Lynn Ranch, in Hurricane Mills, TN.
The son of Kurt and Megan McCabe took on nearly 20,000 hopefuls from across America to earn one of the 1,512 qualifying positions.
A first grader in the Center Point-Urbana school district, McCabe has been riding dirt bikes since he was 3 years old. However, “he didn’t actually start racing until he was four,” Megan stated.
He qualified to attend the event at the Ranch by winning a spot in the 4-6 age group at a race in Casey, Illinois. “There were over 50 competitors in his class,” Kurt explained.
With the help of his parents and other sponsors, Zaydon has had the opportunity to win multiple races the past couple of years and competes nearly every weekend at Hawkeye Downs, Cedar Rapids, and other surrounding tracks.
The McCabes, including older sisters Presley and Kinley, will be camping onsite at the Ranch. While competition is the name of the camp, participants and families will have the opportunity to participate in many non-racing evening events as well.
Megan explained that qualifying for the big event this year was a little different than in the past.
“Because of the Covid pandemic there were races that were cancelled,” she explained. “With fewer opportunities the competition was that much tougher at the area qualifiers and regional championships.
“There were people from all over the country who had traveled to the race Zaydon competed in trying to win a spot at the Ranch,” Kurt added.
Zaydon is competing in the 50 shift shaft class. “This is a highly competitve class,” Megan explained. There is a wide variety of classes that riders can enter. There is a minicycle class for riders as young as 4, and a senior division for riders, over the age of 50.
“In all there are 36 different classes of competition,” Kurt said.
Racing runs in the McCabe family. Kurt competed at the Ranch 25 years ago.
The track is built on a section of Loretta Lynn Ranch and Campground in Hurricane Mills, Tennessee. The course contains a variety of jumps, corners and other obstacles designed to test the skills and stamina of the racers.
The motocross track is used only once a year for motorcycles, so there is no hometown advantage. Racers compete in three 15-20 minute races over the course of the week per class, sometimes in grueling temperatures. Proper training and preparation are paramount.
The length of the race may be daunting for some, but Zaydon has his favorite spots which makes it that much more exciting.
“I really like the straightaways” he explained. “That’s when you can really go fast.” Another favorite part of the race track is the whoops. A series of short bumps placed close together, “its really fun to go over those,”he added.
With the caliber of racers competing at the ranch, Zaydon and his dad have spent many hours the past few weeks practicing. “We’ raced here at home and have made some different types of jumps and trails for him to practice on,” Kurt explained.
But the prep time is spent just on the track. Kurt stated that he will disassemble the entire bike, cleaning and replacing parts and then putting it back together. “He has his practice bike and then his racing bike that I’ll prepare,” he added.
The race action will be broadcast live daily at www.RacerTV.com, August 3-8, for a total of 40 hour of live coverage. In addition, highlight shows featuring the event will be aired on NBC Sports Network in the fall.