This weekend in Hurricane Mills, Tenn., Tyler Lang will be racing for some crab legs, or video games or perhaps a date with one of the flag girls. Tyler, a seasoned motocross racer, is just like any typical successful racer - he loves speed, girls, winning and the finer things in life. The only difference is, he's 7.
"Every time he races, every single week before he gets on that line, we say 'Tyler, what are you racing for?' Its either crab legs, a game, whatever. If he wins all four of his races that's what he gets. It pushes him to win," Tyler's mother, Theresa, said.
"We eat a lot of crab legs; I think we still have some in the freezer. It's either that or hot chicks. He is all about the hot chicks now. He's terrible with girls."
This weekend's date is with Loretta Lynn and her ranch, site of the Loretta Lynn National Championship. The road to the big race started with an area qualifier in Reddick. Tyler, who had to break the top eight to move on to a regional qualifier in Tennessee, won.
But the regional qualifier conflicted with another race so Tyler and his parents decided to run another area qualifier, this time in Kentucky. After winning that area, the Langs went to Ohio, where Tyler placed first and earned a trip to nationals.
"He has absolutely zero fear," Theresa Lang said. "There is nothing you can't tell him to do and he won't try. Watch him jump this stuff, he's all about jumping, he even sticks his foot out - he's a maniac."
The race will be held over three days. Practice starts Monday, then Tuesday, Thursday and Friday Tyler will race in three 20-minute, plus an additional two-laps, races.
Tyler was at Sunshine Motocross last Wednesday, squeezing in a few practice laps on his favorite bike, which he dwarfs. He then switched bikes to the one that will be used at nationals.
"He races on a Honda - that is what he started on, that's what he's always done. He loves that Honda," Theresa Lang said. "But just to do Loretta's we had to switch him up and put him on a smaller bike."
Tyler's father, Tony, said they try to avoid using the smaller bike when they can because of how much wear and tear Tyler puts on it from his size. This year, however, is the last year in the 4- to 6-year-old division. Next year Lang will be on a bigger, faster machine.
"I actually watch him race, and I need pills," Tyler's mom said with a laugh. "I am more worried about the next size up."
Born to bike
Riding a regular bike without training wheels at the age of 2, Tony Lang, a former racer himself, bought his son his first motocross bike at age 4. His parents also looked to a pro for help.
"When he was 4 years old we gave him lessons with the owner of Dade City Motocross, Randy Yoho," Theresa Lang said. "It was probably the best thing ever because if you don't have the proper technique on a bike you are not going to do well."
Yoho, who has trained many prominent figures in the motocross world, continues to work with Tyler and his father, who reapplies lessons learned from Yoho.
"We take lessons and ride three days a week," Tyler's father said. "When we are done with Dade City we go to another track and ride all day Sunday. And if we aren't racing, we are at the same track riding for two days solid."
Asked if Tyler has ever expressed disinterest in practicing, both parents say it's just the opposite.
"He gets mad if we don't go," Theresa Lang said.
She also said Tyler has this innate desire to win no matter the obstacle.
"He wants to win, he has the drive," she said. "His whole thing, is that he doesn't want to just ride, he wants to race and win. If he is not winning he gets mad at himself. He is more hard on himself than we are."
"We try to make him have fun while he's out there," Tony Lang said. "That's the most important part, that he has fun at it. If he is not having fun at it, he's not going to be good at it."