Bentlee Walker asked Santa for a change of pace this Christmas.
The 9-year-old Pillager Elementary student asked for a pedal bike among many other things like jerseys, football pads, helmets and a mini rocker.
What makes Walker’s wishlist a bit strange is during most summer weekends, he’s going 30 to 40 mph on both 50 cubic centimeters and 65 cc motorbikes as part of the regional Amateur Riders Motorcycle Association. Walker mainly races in Staples and Little Falls, but he and his parents, Ricky and Amy Walker, are often loading and unloading the family motorhome for trips to Brookston, Minn., and other distant destinations. The ultimate family road trip didn’t happen this year, but it was one of Walker’s goals.
“I wanted to make it to Loretta’s and do better,” Walker said. “At the local tracks, I wanted to try to lap everyone I could because I was really fast.
“It was really disappointing that I didn’t make Loretta.”
The Loretta Lynn Ranch in Hurricane Mills, Tenn., is the site of the AMA Amateur National Motorcross Championship. Walker raced there the previous two years and tried qualifying a third time at the Byrons Motorsport Track in Illinois.
Walker was attempting to qualify in the 50 cc for ages 7-8 and the 65 cc 7-9 limited and modified divisions.
The Walkers cut the three-day event short when they realized Bentlee wasn’t going to have the points to qualify.
“It was disappointing,” Walker said. “I just learned I needed to do better on my starts and try to stay up front.”
The Walkers packed up the camper and arrived in Brookston at 3 a.m. The reason for the early departure and the late-night drive was so Bentlee could continue to compete in the Namura Challenge. Riders had to compete in six of the seven races in the series in order to win the ultimate prize -- a KTM 2019 SX 65 bike.
The gamble paid off as Walker won the series and the bike.
“I was really happy,” Walker said. “My parents never told me, but then I was putting a lot of pressure on myself so then they just told me.”
His parents were hoping to keep it a secret that Walker already wrapped up the points title before the final race. But they could tell their son wasn’t having as much fun as he should have been having.
It wasn’t the only thing Walker won last season. He claimed three class titles for District 23. He won the 50 cc 7-8 by just one point over Colin MeGaw. He clipped Lincoln B. Nielsen by 16 points in the 65 cc 7-9 division. And posted a 20-point win over Kyler K.Hagedorn in the 65 cc 7-11 division.
Walker said his biggest improvement from the year before was his corner work.
“Everyone that was helping me and the corners,” he said. “I’m mostly on my bike just on the weekends because I don’t really ride during the week. The sport is hard because you have to practice a lot of things to get better like corners and stuff.”
Walker also swept the local Motocity Series. It was a fitting end as Walker aged out of the 50 ccs and will exclusively ride 65s next season.
He said moving up will be sad, but for him racing is about being with family and friends. He likes the competing part. He loves the winning part, but he’ll likely remember the water-gun fights with his friends. Playing in the dirt between races and throwing around a football with one of his idols, Gavin Kadlec.
“It’s fun because you get to hang out with other people and other friends that don’t come to all the tracks that I go to,” Walker said. “I love it.”
JEREMY MILLSOP may be reached at 218-855-5856 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jeremymillsop.