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Common Tread

Rocco Landers clinches MotoAmerica title, gets one-off ride in Spain

Sep 07, 2019

Rocco Landers has had a very good week.

The 14-year-old racer became the youngest MotoAmerica champion ever on Saturday by winning his 11th Liqui Moly Junior Cup race of the season and clinching the title with three races left. He also got an invitation to compete in at least one of the remaining rounds of the CEV Repsol Junior World Championship in Spain before the end of the season, giving him a chance to show what he can do against other top young racers in Europe. That opportunity came out of conversations Landers had with Dorna executive Oscar Gallardo at the previous MotoAmerica round at Pittsburgh International Race Complex, as described in the profile of Landers published a few days ago on Common Tread.

Details on the ride in Spain are still being determined, but the MotoAmerica title is in the bag. The deciding race was not one of Landers' runaway wins, however. Instead, the title was decided in a dramatic final lap.

Finish of Liqui Moly Junior Cup race
Rocco Landers (97) beats Jackson Blackmon to the finish line by inches. Photo by Brian J. Nelson.

With Dallas Daniels not competing in the final two rounds, Landers only had to finish ahead of Altus Motosports rider Kevin Olmedo to clinch the title. For most of the race, Landers battled for the lead with RiderzLaw Racing's Jackson Blackmon with Olmedo a few seconds back, fighting for third with Dominic Doyle and Damian Jigalov. By the last lap, however, Olmedo had closed the gap and the five riders were together in one pack.

In turn six, Olmedo attempted a last-ditch pass around the outside of Landers and Blackmon to try to get the win and keep the championship alive, and he almost pulled it off.

"I saw Kevin went by me and then high-sided and I thought, 'That sucks'," said Landers.

"Last year I did the same pass, but in the rain," explained Olmedo, a racer out of El Salvador. "I think, 'Well, I have to do the same'."

Kevin Olmedo crashes on last lap of Liqui Moly Junior Cup race
Kevin Olmedo crashes on the last lap of the Liqui Moly Junior Cup race at New Jersey Motorsports Park on Saturday. Image from MotoAmerica video.

But when he got off the racing line, Olmedo was out in the dirtier part of the track, lost traction with the rear tire and high-sided, falling right in front of Doyle and Jigalov, ending all three riders' chances at a podium. Olmedo was lucky not to be injured, either from the crash or being hit by the other two, and came away with nothing worse than a bruised arm. Landers then drafted past Blackmon at the finish line to deny him the win by inches.

The entire Junior Cup race, including the eventful final lap, can be viewed for free on the MotoAmerica YouTube channel.