Matthew Hannah said his decision to enter his first motocross five years ago was a “spontaneous action” when his dad entered him in a local event.
Young Hannah surprised himself with a second-place finish.
“I thought it was pretty cool,” Hannah said of his first taste of the action-packed, two-wheel sport. “I was hooked immediately. It just kind of went on from there.”
Pretty soon, the former baseball and basketball player turned his full competitive attention to motocross. Now one of the nation’s leading amateur riders, the 17-year-old senior at Fair Play High School gets to compete in a big-time “home” event this weekend.
Hannah will be part of the inaugural Lucas Oil Speedway USA Pro-Am Motocross at Lucas Oil Speedway’s Off Road track. Practice got under way Friday with racing on Saturday and Sunday.
Hannah is in the midst of a successful season, despite breaking his wrist earlier in the summer practicing for a major motocross event, the 36th annual Loretta Lynn AMA Amateur National Motocross Championship, in Hurricane Mills, Tennessee. A few months earlier, he won the Amsoil National Arenacross Championship in Las Vegas, riding in the 250 C class main event.
“It was extremely difficult,” Hannah said of racing with the injury. “I had a custom wrist brace built right before which helped tremendously. But it was extremely painful, because the track is not smooth. But I had to deal with it because it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to race that race and worth it in the long run.”
Injuries are part of a sport that Hannah accepts. He’s also broke a femur bone in a leg, fractured multiple ribs, his collarbone and hand.
“It’s a high-risk sport,” Hannah said, adding that his competitive juices counteract any fears when he’s racing. His dad, Lane, introduced him to motorcycle racing in 2012 on a bike trail near the family home and he’s raced all over the country since.
“There’s nothing more competitive than sitting on that (starting) gate with 40 of the other fastest guys in the world, knowing how special that feeling is,” Hannah said. “You’re not playing basketball at the (YMCA). You’re at the top of the sport. It’s a motivating thing being on that stage and seeing all the fans and the cameras.”
This weekend, on the Lucas Oil Speedway Off Road track, there will be plenty of cameras and spectators. He said winning so close to home would be special, if he can pull it off. Fair Play is planning a field trip from the school with dozens of classmates expected to attend on Saturday.
“This is the first time a lot of them have had a chance to come and watch,” Hannah said. “Winning in front of them would mean a lot.”
Hannah is hopeful that the many first-time motocross fans attending this weekend will be impressed by everything they see in both the motocross and utility vehicle classes.
“It’s going to be an action-packed weekend,” he said. “Not just motocross, but the UTVs and ATVs as well. There’s going to be a lot of fast guys there.”
Jay Reynolds of Motorhead Events said at least 400 entries in about 40 classes of both pro and amateur divisions will be racing motorcycles, ATVs and UTVs this weekend. Activities opened with Friday check-in and practice with full day-time programs set for Saturday and Sunday.
The outdoor national style Pro-Am event is sanctioned by the AMA and promoted by the Nitro Arenacross Tour LLC. Go to www.motorheadevents.com for more information.