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Hunter Hobbs woke up in a hospital bed not knowing what had gone on.
The 18-year-old Johnson City resident was knocked out after crashing his No. 82 motorcycle at Muddy Creek Raceway. It was a scary feeling when he regained consciousness, the uncertainty of not knowing the extent of his injuries.
“I knew I had crashed, but I didn’t know what had happened between the time I crashed and when I got to the hospital,” said Hobbs, a senior at Daniel Boone High School. “I wanted to know what was wrong with me.”
The diagnosis was a punctured lug, severe bruising and a concussion. It would been enough to slow most down riders or even park them for rest of the season.
As for Hobbs, he came back from the September accident just a few weeks later more determined than ever. It resulted in no less than three Mega Series championships.
He rode his 125cc KTM to School Boy 1 and 125 Amateur titles, and his 250 to the College Boy championship. In fact, he was the only rider in the Mega Series to win titles in three separate divisions.
Those accomplishments, which also included 10 race wins and 25 podium finishes, came in a year which was trying even before his big crash.
“I had a lot of ups and downs,” Hobbs said. “At the beginning of the year, I got sick, but I ended up recovering from that. I tried for Loretta’s (Loretta Lynn National Championships) and ended up breaking my thumb at the area qualifier. I had to wear a brace for six weeks with no training.
“My most recent crash here at Muddy Creek. I was going where they call the spectator tabletop and there’s a double-jump after that. I went to hit it and something happened going up the face of the jump. It slung me off, the handbars went the opposite way and the bike broke in half. That’s when I ended up in the hospital with a punctured lug, severe bruising and a concussion.”
While it was scary to go through it, Hobbs knew the dangers existed from the time he started racing five years ago.
He had heard the stories from Mike Brown, the two-time X-Games Gold Medalist and former 125 National Champion, who was then his next door neighbor. Brown, who recently was runner-up in the GEICO Endurocross Series at age 42, still has a tremendous influence on Hobbs.
“I want to be like Mike because he’s one of my biggest idols in motocross,” he said. “He’s so diversified and can do so many things. That’s the way I want to be.”
The first step, however, was simply getting started. Luckily for Hobbs, one of the top tracks in the nation for amateur riders, Muddy Creek, was literally just a few miles away.
He started out racing/ 85cc bikes on the same patch of dirt and hills which Brown, Ricky Carmichael and Bubba Stewart all competed on as young riders.
Getting real serious about a racing career after finishing third in the beginner class point standings, Hobbs attended the Trey Kelly riding school in South Carolina to get his basic skills down pat. He also had Brown take him under his wing and ride on a practice track built on the family farm off Carroll Creek Road.
In 2010, Hobbs won two championships in the Dunlop Summer SX Series, and in 2011, he added two more titles in the Carolina Winter Series, racing at such venues as Wide Open MX.
There was also a visit to the West Coast where he visited the KTM shop, had the bike set-up for him thanks to Brown. He also rode tracks of different terrains and different surfaces for nine days in California.
As he moved up the ranks in 2012, Hobbs kept winning, piling up eight victories and 22 podium finishes. This past season was the biggest jump yet, as Hobbs moved closer to his goal to ride at the pro level..
“To get to the front level, it comes down to the nitty-gritty things,” he said. “You’ve got to limit your mistakes. I’m listed as a B-Class rider and on the verge of going pro, but I have to limit my mistakes.”
It’s something stressed by his father, Lynn, who serves as his crew chief. He describes Hunter as a very smooth rider and added other riders, including Brown, have commented on his style as well. Hunter’s challenge now is giving the proper feedback to make the bike go faster.
“Hunter is very easy to be a mechanic for,” Lynn Hobbs said. “He will change his riding style to overcome what the bike is doing. We’ve had to work on that the last couple of years because there are so many things you can work on with the suspension to make it feel better for him. He wants to be adaptive to it and overcome it.”
Hunter also got an education back in June when he went as a spectator to the AMA Tennessee Nationals at Muddy Creek. He saw just how fast that riders like Ryan Dungey and Ryan Villopoto were, and how they were able to attack the track.
He knows to get where those riders are at, he must walk a fine line between being aggressive, but not too aggressive. There is also a commitment of truly giving the sport all he has.
Hobbs played football, basketball and baseball growing up, but the endurance training he does now with weight lifting reps, running and riding the bike all out to simulate the 30-minute motos is more intense than anything he’s ever done.
While Brown serves as an inspiration still winning races in his 40’s, Hunter understands he’s an exception, not the rule. He knows the time is limited if he is going to make it as a professional rider. With one of his goals in the rear-view mirror, he and his family will now
move on to the next phase of their plans.
“As a family, we’ve sat down and put out goals for me to try to achieve,” he said. “One of those was to get my name on the boards heading into Muddy Creek, and that came from winning these championships. We did that three times in one year. I’m going to try for Loretta Lynn’s next year, and hopefully if I do well there, I will get picked up and go pro.”