Burnett eager to race at Hangtown

By: Matt Long Telegraph Sports Editor
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There?s a reason why grown men descend on Hangtown to compete in droves year after year. ?When you strap that helmet on, you?re a kid again,? said Folsom?s John Burnett, who competed last year and will do the same again in this week?s amateur races on Thursday and Friday. Burnett, 48, is one of about 450 amateur riders who will race at Hangtown prior to the professional riders, who will compete on Saturday. Burnett began riding motocross as a teenager and competed at Hangtown for the first time as a 19-year-old in 1983. He began riding again five years ago and has been competing regularly ever since. Last year was his first year back at Hangtown. ?I remember the excitement of it, having the pros come here, back when I was a kid,? Burnett said. ?Competing last year brought back memories. I?ve come full circle.? After not riding for more than 20 years, Burnett bought his child a bike five years ago and had to buy himself one to ride along. He was then introduced to Vet Motocross and that got him back into competing. He?s now a member of the Over the Hill Gang and races every two weeks at Marysville. He recently won the Old Timer National, while competing in the novice class at Marysville. This week he will be riding his KTM 450 in the 45 Novice division, which has become quite popular. His goal is a top-10 finish. ?We?ll have a full gate of 40 riders and there are people from all different backgrounds out there,? Burnett said. ?Last year I place 20th or 23rd out of out about 40 riders. It?s as strong or even stronger than the kids divisions.? The thrill Burnett gets from competing is what keeps him going, despite suffering numerous injuries over the years including two broken ankles, a dislocated shoulder and a broken nose, which he?s still recovering from. ?Two weeks ago I was clearing a triple and I was in the air and it hit me; there?s nothing else other than being with my family that I?d rather be doing. Just being on the gate with 1 ½ inches between your competitors is exhilarating.? The fact that he will be riding in his back yard at the Prairie City State Vehicular Recreation Area, a day before the pros race, makes competing even better. ?This is the premiere amateur and professional event in the area,? Burnett said. ?This is a prestigious event and is a big challenge. That track is brutal.? Hangtown Motocross Amateur races: Thursday & Friday Children 5 years and under free Children 6-11 years $15 12 years and older $20 Pro races: Saturday Children 5 years and under Free Children 6-11 years $20 12 years and older $40 Schedule Amateurs race Thursday and Friday with pros racing Saturday. Track opens at 7 p.m. Saturday. Opening ceremonies begin at 12:30 p.m. with racing following at 1 p.m. Tickets/info: