People always say you are becoming a mini parent like it’s a bad thing. For me, I’ve been around mini parents a lot. During my 14-year career at KTM I worked on multiple youth activations including the KTM Junior Supercross Challenge, RC Cup and the Orange Brigade Amateur Motocross Team. I have witnessed some crazy parents from time to time, but overall, everyone is there to share a great family experience and encourage their child to progress and have fun in their racing. I could not wait to be a mini parent!
Emerie is 6 years old. Her dad, Gary Sutherlin, is the reigning WORCS & AMA National Hare & Hound Champion, and I have been involved in racing my whole life. Needless to say, racing, is all she has known. Yet, it was not something she desired to do until two weeks ago. She and I were at dinner when she said to me, “I want to race.” She continued, “I will probably win my first race because my bike (KTM) is so fast.” I exploded with laughter and excitement. “I can’t whip the bike if I win like daddy though, because I’m not strong enough to turn it over.”
And with that, I called her dad and said, “We are going racing.” Gary was already planning to race the first Big 6 that Saturdayso he began to prep her bike and then signed her up for the Pee Wee Jr (4-6) class after his practice on Friday. She randomly received race number 25, which we considered good luck as one of my long-time friends Nathan Ramsey had earned that national number during his professional racing career.
We needed to arrive at 9:00am to secure parking for Gary on pit row, although Emerie’s race wasn’t until 12:30pm. All the tension and anxiety for Gary’s first race immediately shifted to us both worrying about Emerie and getting everything sorted for her first race. That was the longest three and a half hours of my life.
The Adelanto Big 6 round is the highest attended of the year. Gary had just recently switched to Suzuki which was big news in the pits. Multiple media members and friends were coming over to his pits to ask about the new bike, but once they saw Emerie’s bike sitting there, she immediately stole the show. Our good friend, Kelsey Abbott, did a mini photo shoot with Emerieand I set out on a mission to figure out the track. Off-Road racing is different than moto in the fact that you cannot see the entire track your child is on as the loop is much longer. Parents are also not allowed to run out onto the track to help their child during the race. The track officials are responsible for picking them up (and did a great job) if they fall and parents can simply stand on the sidelines and cheer.
At 12:00pm Gary hopped on his bike and had Emerie follow behind as he showed her the way to the start line. Reflecting back on this moment, Gary told me, “It was such a powerful moment to watch his little girl sit on the start so confident and content showing no sign of nervousness.” She jokingly made funny faces and kept showing us her stern race face.
Moments before the start Gary calmly explained to Emerie how the start would work. At this particular race all racers started on the pavement, and took off in separate rows based on class/skill level. The start indicator was a light that shifted from red to green when it was time to race. Gary and I were both calm until the first row took off and one of the riders looped out on the pavement. That’s when Garyfrantically started to tell Emerie to take it easy and to not go fast on the pavement while simultaneously getting his first gray hair.
The light turned green, and thanks to her dad’s advice, she crept off the line at a snail’s pace. She eventually gave it some gas heading into the first corner and away she went. We had friends in multiple cheering sections across the track that encouragedher the whole way. The riders went from the pavement start, to a long off-road section, to an abbreviated version of the motocross track and into the stadium before looping back around. It took Emerie approximately 14 minutes per lap.
On her second lap, another rider fell in front of Emerie and the flagger stepped in the way of her going around resulting inGary’s first overactive mini parent moment. Immediately yelling and telling the flagger to move so Emerie could go around. Mind you, it was the 4-6 class and nobody was about to pass her. I had to tell him to calm down and stop being crazy and he smiled and laughed and realized how easy it was to get caught up in the moment.
They let Emerie go three laps for a total of 41 minutes on the track. She finished 4th of 7 riders in her class. When she crossed the finish line she rode over to me, took off her helmet and said,“That was fun.” as if she had done it a million times. A Big 6 representative came over, handed her a paper crown and led her to the podium with the approximately 60 other youth riders that all wore crowns and took a group picture. It was a very nice touch to the end of the race.
I was happy to see the amount of youth riders at this race as it has been declining at the moto races I attend normally, and this was reassuring to see so many families encouraging their young ones to ride. Motorcycling has given Gary and I so muchincluding our careers and our relationship. We want nothing more than for Emerie to find the same joy in it and couldn’t be prouder to share her first race experience with her and look forward to many more days ahead riding together and enjoying racing as a family.
Story written by Christy LaCurelle
Photos and Video from Kelsey Abbott and Christy LaCurelle