Miles Thornton, a 15-year-old motorcycle road racer from West Point, Ga., says that lining up against the best amateur riders in the country is inspiring. Enough so that it pushed him to win the prestigious AMA Road Race Horizon Award for 2009 at the AMA Racing Road Race Grand Championships held Sept. 10-13 at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington, Ohio.
Thornton's performance was impressive all weekend. He won the Middleweight Superbike class, finished second in Middleweight Supersport, and took first in the 250GP class that ran as part of the U.S. Grand Prix Riders Union (USGPRU) program. By winning the 2009 AMA Road Race Horizon Award -- which honors each year the amateur road racer poised to make an impact in the pro ranks -- Thornton demonstrated that has what it takes to excel at the professional level.
"It's crazy," said Thornton, who was thrilled to win the same award previously won by the likes of former AMA Superbike Champion and current World Superbike racer Ben Spies. "I can't even believe it. I never thought I'd go this far racing as a little kid. I'm so happy, and I hope to follow in (Spies') footsteps."
The field that Thornton raced against didn't include solely amateurs. Some pros competed as well. While their results weren't included in the amateur national championship tallies, the No. 1 plates that go with them, or the AMA Horizon Award, the pro-licensed riders were welcomed at this year's AMA Racing Road Race Grand Championships because the event also served as a regional round of the Championship Cup Series (CCS).
One of those pros was Brian Stokes, the 2003 AMA Road Race Horizon Award winner and grand marshal of the 2009 event. Stokes won several classes at the event, doing battle with Thornton in both Middleweight Superbike and Middleweight Supersport.
Other special awards presented at the event included the Vet/Senior Award, the Youth Award and the Top Novice Award.
Sam Gaige from Rochester, N.Y., won the Vet/Senior Award. Gaige won Unlimited Grand Prix, Middleweight Supersport and Unlimited Superbike. He finished second in Unlimited Supersport, Middleweight Supersport and Middleweight Grand Prix.
"The competition was pretty good, and the award was a surprise," Gaige said. "I'm older, and this is a hobby for me. We may not always be fast, but we try to look good."
Jake Lewis was the top youth rider at the AMA Racing Road Race Grand Championships. The 13-year-old from Princeton, Ky., won the Expert 125 GP class, finished third in Lightweight GP and finished second in the 125 GP class in the USGPRU program.
Lewis said that one lesson he's learned early is how to handle the challenges of racing.
"I just try to put it behind me and look ahead," Lewis said. "My dream is to go to MotoGP. I'm going to work hard and train hard to get there. I'm pretty happy to be the best youth rider this weekend, and I'm going to keep trying hard to get better."
Lewis added the 2009 AMA Racing Road Race Youth Award to an impressive and diverse trophy case that also includes the 2006 AMA Racing Dirt Track Fast Brain Award.
Scott Stall from Huxley, Iowa, won the Top Novice Award. Stall had a stellar weekend at the AMA Racing Road Race Grand Championships, bringing home first-place trophies in the novice divisions for Heavyweight Supersport, Middleweight Supersport and Middleweight GP. Stall also finished second in Middleweight Supersport and Unlimited Grand Prix and third in Unlimited Supersport. His weekend also included a 13th in Unlimited Superbike.
"This award is a pretty big deal," Stall said. "The competition out there was fierce. It was a lot tougher than what I experience back home in Iowa."
The AMA Racing Road Race Grand Championships are the country's annual amateur national championship meet for amateur road racers. Class winners earn AMA national titles and expert riders claim national No. 1 plates that they can defend at next year's event. All winners are invited to the AMA Racing Championship Banquet, which will be held Dec. 4 at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas as part of a weekend celebration that also will include the 2009 induction ceremony for the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame.
Tickets to both the AMA Racing Championship Banquet and the 2009 AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony can be purchased from Ticketmaster.