Remembering Ryan Dungey’s First and Only Loretta’s Championship

I made my first $20 filming dirtbikes at the end of 2002, so I’m going to claim that’s when my professional career sprung to life. That’s nearly 22 years in the ring, and typing that makes me feel some type of aged. However, I’ve got a few years to go before I hit 40, and here we are still pursuing the love of motocross coverage. As you can imagine, I’ve seen and filmed some pretty epic moments and projects throughout my career, most recently every iteration of Red Bull Imagination, Moto Spy, Jett & Hunter Flight Plan series, amongst many, many others. My brain floods with two decades of memories when I think what truly stands out to me, but this one right here is something that’s undoubtedly in my top 3:

Ryan Dungey’s First and Only Loretta Lynn’s Championship.

The Start of the Final 125 Mod (12-15) Moto of 2005 Loretta Lynn’s

Let me backtrack to a moment in 2004 that’s still very vivid in my brain. It was Saturday afternoon at Loretta Lynn’s Ranch after the motos finished, and I found myself standing in the ice cream line behind the entire Dungey family; Troy, Michelle, Jade, Blake, and Ryan. I’d been onsite all week shooting a segment for our In the Ranks 2 movie, and my partner at the time, Richard Crosby, had been telling me – for the better part of that year – to watch out for these three Dungey brothers. Given they all three raced and put in some impressive results that week, I definitely recall thinking they had something special. As I watched Ryan take down a Banana Split (yes I’m making that part up) I took the opportunity to introduce myself and mention I wanted to fly to Minnesota and film a segment with them for our movie.

Ryan Dungey Edging out the Field enroute to the Holeshot

Insert the kick myself in the balls moment. I never capitalized on my self-invite (because they did say yes) and it’s one of the rare moments in my career that I regret. 

Ben Lamay #11 vs Ryan Dungey #12
Thanks to Pink Hat Guy Billy Browder for Shooting Back in the Day

On a high note, because of that, Ryan and crew were officially on my radar heading in 2005. Aboard a Suzuki 250f, Ryan would clinch his first ever championship at Lake Whitney that following March and I was right there to capture it, and luckily, most every big moment thereafter that season (and truly his entire career). But the memory that still means the most to me is running up with on the podium after he clinched the title for the 2005 125 Modified (12-15) Loretta Lynn’s title. The excitement, emotion, and elation are the ingredients I still dream of capturing today, and frankly, this was the most “real” win I’ve ever experienced (Jadon Cooper last year was the only one that’s ever come close). 

In his podium interview he says, “I can’t believe I’m doing this. A year, two years ago, I was taking ninths, tenths…” This moment for him was literally a dream come true, and being there to capture it would’ve been the same for me. This instant was the beginning of two careers that have spanned decades in the sport and while Ryan definitely has significantly more zeros than me, it’s fun for me to think we started in the same place, chased parallel dreams in the same sport, and through a ton of hard work have been graced with amazing careers. 

And that’s why this moment still means so much to me. It’s the epitome of realizing a dream, a goal, a vision. While I’ve shot countless 250 and 450 title celebrations, none of them hold a candle to this one for me.

See you all in a few weeks at The Ranch; I’ll be at the podium as much as I can in hopes of capturing this same magic, 19 years later.

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Written by Vurbwes Chilidog

Been 'round these parts making dirtbike movies since '02; a weathered veteran with moto and camera related back issues, the hearing equivalent to my great-great grandfather's, and a dirt tan that will literally never come off. But I'm still in way better shape than every other dog in this joint, but that's because I use Chili and no slaw.

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