Baker rides way to nationals

12-year-old heading to Loretta’s Ranch for Moto Championship

By JOHNATHAN BENTLEY, Eagle Sports Editor
Posted 7/29/17

ARLEY — Jack Baker is pretty much a natural when it comes to motocross.

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Baker rides way to nationals

12-year-old heading to Loretta’s Ranch for Moto Championship


ARLEY — Jack Baker is pretty much a natural when it comes to motocross.

A quick timeline tells the story.

Jack’s first dirt bike motorcycle race came at just 5 years old.

By the age of 9, the youngster was getting the best of his dad on their homemade track.

Now, at 12, Jack is among the best-of-the-best, earning a spot in this week’s prestigious Rocky Mountain ATV/MC National Motocross Championship at Loretta Lynn’s Ranch in Hurricane Mills, Tenn.

“Well it started on my 5th birthday,” Jack said of his racing career. “I got one of the smallest bikes, a Honda 50, and that’s pretty much where it started. I started racing and I loved it.”

His parents smile at the memory of 5-year-old Jack pushing his bike to the limit to climb a hill during his first race at Warrior.

“He was pretty scared about it, and so were we,” Jack’s father Brad Baker said of that first race.

“I was scared to death he was going to fall,” added Jack’s mother Jen Baker.

The soon-to-be 7th grader at Sumiton Christian has made a name for himself on his dirt bike over the last few years, but he reached his pinnacle recently.

“Jack was always pretty good. He won a lot of Alabama state championships around here, but this really put him on the map to where now he is good on the national scene,” Brad Baker said. “He’s the fastest kid in Alabama (in his age group), and probably Mississippi too, but that doesn’t mean anything when you start competing against everybody in the country. All the big names, when they were his age coming up, they went through Loretta’s. This is the funnel that they all go through toward the pros.”

Making the field at Loretta’s is no easy task.

First up is an area qualifier. The area includes riders from Alabama, Georgia and Florida. The top eight from eight area qualifiers head to the regional round with the top six advancing to the nationals in Tennessee.

After winning his area qualifier, Jack punched his ticket to the nationals with a sixth-place finish at the Mid-East Regional in Ohio. The finish didn’t come without its share of drama with Team Baker holding its collective breath as the final results were posted.

“It was very close for me to make it,” Jack said. “You have to be in the top 6 and I was either sixth or seventh so were waiting on them to post the results. I was tied with one other kid so whoever finished ahead was going to make it. I beat him, but I didn’t know until they posted it.”

“We cried,” added his mother.

Next up are this week’s nationals at the home of country music star Loretta Lynn. Her ranch has hosted the Motocross Nationals since 1982. Practice will be held on Monday and Jack will compete in races on Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday.

“My expectations for the nationals — if I could get top 15 or top 10, that would be amazing,” said Jack who will race against 42 competitors in the ages 7-11, 65cc modified division.

Jack will race for 20 to 22 minutes at the nationals. That a big change from his usual 10-plus minute races at a typical course.

“Loretta’s is a little different. They will do laps, usually five laps. That’s about 10 minutes on the track. At Loretta’s, they do what the pros do, 20-minute motos,” Brad Baker said.

Mike Daley, Jack’s trainer at Chad Ward’s Southern Supercross Park in Cleveland, Ala., has helped the youngster improve his time, and make the jump to nationals. Daley has three of his young riders making the trip to Loretta’s Ranch for the first time.

“He pretty much doubled my speed. He’s an amazing guy,” Jack said. “These guys are the top ones in the country/world. I’ve never seen guys go that fast. I’ve gotten a lot closer to people I’ve never dreamed of beating.”

Jack, who spent a week training in Georgia recently, has been preparing for the nationals by running 25- to 30-minute runs in the midday heat.

While Jack may be taking part in his first national championship, Jen Baker has faith in her son’s ability. She’s seen him defy the odds before.

“We had a qualifier. He was on an 85 (cc bike) and they took off. I was standing on a hill and there was a big tree. He was second as they came around the tree. Then I couldn’t see them. They all started coming around and there was no Jack. They had all left. He was the last kid. I’m not joking, in five laps he went from 42nd to 8th. He just picked them off. He was angry because a kid had taken him out in the first turn. He passed them like he was standing still,” she said.

Through all the training and traveling, Jack still enjoys being on his bike.

“I love this sport. I’ve done T-ball, and I’ve done soccer. I just love how much fun (motocross) is. You get to go out there and ride as hard as you can. These big races are stressful, but when I get on the track, it’s just all fun for me. I don’t even think about the competition, I just go ride.”