Dark horse, underdog, off the radar, and so forth. That is how I would characterize Noah Viney. The 17-year-old Morgan Hills, CA native is quiet, shy, and polite off the bike with an aura about him that suggests he’s listening to Pantera and old school Metallica in his headphones. Meanwhile, his style on the bike suggests that he has pent up anger moving around on the inside that fuels his aggression on the track. You take those attributes and couple it with his trainer Ryan “Ryno” Hughes and you have yourself a unique recipe that I would like to have a copy of if you don’t mind.
Until April or May of last year, I had never heard the name Noah Viney. Now, this is partly due to the fact that (for better or worse) I really haven’t been too clued into the amateur scene for some time. I would argue the last iconic crop of amateurs was that of Trey Canard, Nico Izzi, Austin Stroupe, Wil Hahn, Phil Nicoletti, PJ Larsen, Darryn Durham, Taylor Futrell, Kyle Keylon and others. During that era, it felt like all of them would be the guy once they came into the professional ranks. However, we all know how that panned out. Since then, there wasn’t much of an interest in the amateur scene from myself. It felt flat and uninteresting to me. But, why do you care about my subjective feelings on little kids riding dirt bikes? Sheesh. That sentence just sounds plain weird. Don’t call Chris Hansen, okay? It ain’t like that.
However, now with kids like Take-Uh-Chance Hymas, Ryder DeSanFranscico, and Matt LeBlanc from FRIENDS I do feel like there is some intrigue to see how these kids pan out. And then there is the curious case of Noah Viney.
Like I mentioned, I had no clue who the kid was until last year when I saw him ride in person. And, upon seeing him ride, I was very impressed. For myself, working with Ryno on some client work and then watching Noah at Loretta’s last year, I’ve had the chance to watch Noah do his thing in person enough to know that I am a fan of how he goes about his business.
“At Loretta Lynn’s I started slow (bad gate picks and some crashes), but by the end of the week I had two second place finishes and a first with a head-to-head battle against [Haiden] Deegan,” Viney explained to me when asked about his 2021 campaign at Loretta’s. Looking at Viney’s LL results as a whole (starting from 2015 to present), they don’t scream anything too wild on paper. However, I’ve always felt that basing a kid’s career off of a single event is a bit naive.
Noah continued: “Even though many did not believe in me to win, I came very close to a championship with a second place.” And, the kid isn’t wrong. While he did start slow, by the end of the week Viney was a major thorn in the side to the sports premiere amateur prospect, Haiden Deegan.
Last year, Viney was racing the Supermini class at Loretta’s, clinching a second place overall in Supermini 2 (13-16). Personally, I felt that him not winning a championship at Loretta’s was the best thing for him. Why, you ask? Because of that burning fire I see in the kid. You learn a lot more from your defeats than you do your victories. At the end of the day, what does any amateur championship truly mean in the long term vision of dirt bike racing? It (most likely) earns you a ride, but beyond that, nothing is guaranteed. Look at Mike Alessi to Ryan Villopoto. Adam Cianciarulo to Cooper Webb. Or, Austin Forkner and Sean Cantrell to Chase Sexton. RV, Coop, and Sexton spent their amateur careers as second fiddle to the stars of the amateur scene at that time and then, when it mattered most, turned pro and things changed. Dramatically. Now, Alessi, AC, and Forkner, have all had very successful professional careers. But, did they garner the accolades we all thought they would have based on their amateur statistics? No.
Now, let’s fast-forward seven months later (March, 2022) and both Deegan and Viney are on big bikes. However, Deegan took the traditional route of moving from the Supermini class straight into the B class. Meanwhile, Noah came flying in from left field with the decision to go from Supermini to the A class, literally skipping the B class all together. Traditionally, that’s not exactly a move we see top level amateur kids make. The path has always been that the top Supermini kids move to the big bikes in the B class. So, when Viney showed up at the 2022 JS7 Spring Championship at Freestone County Raceway in Wortham, TX in the A class, many of us were caught off guard. But, when Ryno is involved, you know things are bound to be unorthodox, yet with intent and purpose.
“After Loretta’s, I took a few weeks off and then my dad, myself, and Ryno all discussed what our next steps should be,” said Viney. “First, I rode off-road for two months and then I started racing off-road to help me develop bike control skills on the big bike. Through that, we also realized that the longer motos the pros race would benefit me because of my fitness. Plus, moving to the B class meant big pressure on winning. But, if I race the A class, nobody expects anything out of me, so it keeps me as the underdog, which helps my confidence.”
At Freestone, we did hear some chatter suggesting Noah being a mid-pack guy in the A class would probably hurt his confidence. But, as Noah explained, for him, it’s quite the opposite. This was further echoed to me when I spoke with Ryno at Freestone. He explained to me that these top A class kids have all kinds of pressure on them to win and/or be the guy because they are riding under the factory Honda tent, the Team Green Kawasaki tent, the Husky tent, or one of the 482 riders under one canopy at Star Racing Yamaha. Yet, Noah has no pressure because he’s not signed by any teams. Instead, they can focus on doing their own thing, on their own timeline, without any added pressure from a factory.
While Noah struggled with bike issues in multiple motos at Freestone, he was able to show some of his potential a few days later at the 2022 Spring A Ding Ding at Underground MX where he finished 6th overall in the 250 A class. “If I can keep improving into Loretta’s, perhaps I can be a dark horse to win [the A class].” Pretty impressive for a kid coming straight out of the Supermini class.
So, what’s the goal moving forward for the 17-year-old youngster? Simply put: Supercross. “I’ve been riding SX since I was on 85s because we have a SX track at home, and we want to line up under the lights sooner than most. So, again, it’s that idea of going into SX without the expectation of having to win (like most AM kids coming into SX have on them), I can ease into it early and then get better and improve before the pressure is there,” explained Noah.
And, let’s be real. The kid and the team of people around him have a valid point. When we see these top factory AM kids “graduate” from Loretta’s and into the pro ranks, the entire industry and the fans alike are guilty of (whether they admit it out loud or not) thinking the kid will come out and win. The reality is that doesn’t happen often. RC didn’t win his first race. Travis didn’t win his first race. And James didn’t win his first race. Is it possible? Yes. Trey Canard won his first-ever SX race he lined up for and Eli Tomac won the first-ever national he lined up for, and AC did the same as Canard. So, it is possible. But, often times, the pressure and expectation is too much and the kid gets shot out the back and never truly has the opportunity to find a solid foundation.
Remember what I said earlier? Asking how imperative these amateur titles really are for these kids? Well, Noah shared his thoughts on just that. “Also, Ryno believes that the top riders in the Supermini class are experts, not intermediates, so that is another reason he believes we should be skipping B and moving straight into the A class. The factories stack the B class for championships. Our goal is progression and development, not collecting amateur championships.”
It’s a curious situation that Noah and Ryno have embarked on. It’s not the traditional path we see so many amateurs traverse, but I think that might be a good thing. Our sport tends to have a hard time with accepting a different approach to things, and in hearing some of the gossip, I can see the chatty Kathys have their reservations about the approach Noah and Ryno have adopted. But, why is that? Most likely it’s because it’s “not the way things are done.” Change and thinking for oneself in this bubble is ostracized from time to time. It makes the “traditionalists” of our sport uncomfortable because they can’t see exactly how this path will pan out. In my opinion, what Noah and Ryno are embarking on is the first step in a positive change to amateur motocross racing and bridging that gap from A class to Supercross. Will others follow suit? Potentially, no. But, it is opening up a new avenue for others to explore if they don’t feel this “one size fits all” approach works for them. Call Ryno crazy, but the guy wants to see the best for everyone and make arguably the most dangerous sport in the world as safe and successful for everyone. In my opinion, what these two are doing is step one in achieving positive change for the future of our sport and the longevity of its athletes.