Pro-Ready Brooks, 14, Wins Pres­ti­gious AMA Award

Escalon Times - - SPORTS - By JONAMAR JACINTO Spe­cial to the Times

Hunter Brooks is ready to turn pro. And for high school. Only 14 years old, the Escalon teen who lived most of his young life in Man­teca raced as an am­a­teur for the fi­nal time dur­ing the week of Fourth of July. Brooks cap­tured the 251-500cc DTX championship in the Am­a­teur Mo­tor­cy­clist As­so­ci­a­tion Dirt Track Grand Na­tion­als in Du Quoin, Ill.

It’s the third straight year that he’s re­turned home with a na­tional No. 1 plate, but along with it came an even big­ger prize — the Nicky Hay­den AMA Dirt Track Hori­zon Award, which rec­og­nizes a pro-ready rider who ex­hibits a good at­ti­tude and en­thu­si­asm as well as merit.

John Brooks, Hunter’s dad, likens it to the Heis­man Tro­phy for NCAA foot­ball.

“It’s a pretty big deal,” John said. “It’s spe­cial that he won it this year be­cause there’s some mean­ing to it.”

Nicky Hay­den was among the in­au­gu­ral win­ners of the Hori­zon Award — which also go to the top am­a­teurs in road rac­ing and mo­tocross — back in 1997. Hay­den went on to be­come one of the most suc­cess­ful Hori­zon win­ners in the pro ranks, claim­ing the 2002 AMA Su­per­bike championship and 2006 FIM Mo­toGP world ti­tle. Hay­den died in May af­ter he was struck by a car while train­ing on his road bi­cy­cle in Italy.

The AMA voted unan­i­mously to name the Hori­zon Award in his honor.

“I didn’t think I was in con­tention for it, but it meant a lot to get it,” Hunter Brooks said. “Nicky Hay­den is huge for the sport. To get it ex­actly 20 years af­ter he did is spe­cial.”

Brooks won four of 12 races over three days, com­pet­ing in the half-mile, am­a­teur TT and in­door short-track events. Af­ter win­ning na­tional ti­tles in the 12-15-yearold 85cc DTX and 201-250cc classes in con­sec­u­tive years, he grad­u­ated up to the big­ger bike with in­ten­tions of turn­ing pro af­ter the 2017 na­tion­als.

“Be­fore my last race my dad said, ‘These are the last eight laps of your am­a­teur ca­reer” Brooks said. “Hear­ing that kind of shocked me for a sec­ond, but I’m happy to move on with my ca­reer.”

While ever con­fi­dent in his grow­ing son’s abil­i­ties, John was a lit­tle con­cerned about the move to a 450cc bike. At about 5-foot-9 and 165 pounds, and still grow­ing, the younger Brooks has proven he could han­dle the load and hang with the big boys.

“Be­tween the 250 and 450 there’s about 20 more horse­power, which isn’t much, but it’s also heav­ier,” John said. “My con­cern was if he’d be able to mus­cle the bike around and he’s been able to do that and use the ex­tra horse­power to his ad­van­tage. He re­ally took to them well.” As for turn­ing pro? “He’s been bug­ging me about it and I was a lit­tle skep­ti­cal,” John said. “Since na­tion­als we — with Hunter as the rider, me and our other me­chanic (Robert Orozco) — just de­cided to keep our pro­gram mov­ing for­ward. He’s ran some proam events around here and done very well.”

Brooks has taken first in pro-am com­pe­ti­tions in TT and short track in Lodi. On Satur­day, he’ll com­pete as a pro for the first time in Ven­tura. While he is a li­censed pro in the Cal­i­for­nia Flat Track As­so­ci­a­tion, he won’t be able to ob­tain a Steel Shoe Na­tion­als li­cense un­til Dec. 27 when he turns 15. He’ll be a fresh­man at Escalon High by then.

“I’m def­i­nitely ex­cited about high school,” Brooks said. “I would like to stay in a public school, but if I have to do home school that’s fine. I want my ca­reer to go as best as it can go.

“I’ve ran some pro-am stuff lo­cally, but when you get to the na­tional level that’s the big time,” Brooks said. “I want to fin­ish my first year with points. It would be nice to win a championship, but top five would be re­ally good.”

PHOTO CON­TRIB­UTED

Hunter Brooks shows off his big­gest prize, the Nicky Hay­den AMA Dirt Track Hori­zon Award, earned af­ter win­ning a Grand Na­tion­als ti­tle in Illi­nois.

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