FARMINGTON — Bryson Buller is only 8 years old, but he is already making big waves on his 50cc dirt bike.
Buller, a third-grade student at Ladera Elementary School in Farmington, won the Monster Energy Supercross/ KTM Junior Challenge on Saturday at Chase Field in Phoenix, the home stadium of the Arizona Diamondbacks baseball team. The win qualified Buller for the Monster Energy Cup in Las Vegas, Nev., in October.
"It was very exciting, and it was really fun to get to ride on the big track like that," Buller said. "I am really glad to go to Las Vegas, and I am going to try to go kick some butt out there now."
Buller shot out to a lead right out of the gates as he earned the holeshot. He handled the course and the pressure of racing in front of 40,000 spectators to take first place.
"I was just fast in the corners and got the inside position and hit all the jumps," Buller said.
His parents, Josh and Yvette Buller, registered their son for the race. Riders were required to have good grades in school, along with at least one year of race experience. Riders who qualified were then entered into a lottery, and Bryson was fortunate enough to be selected.
"You can only draw it once in your lifetime. It was pretty lucky for him to be able to draw it," Josh Buller said. "They took care of us and hooked him up with a bunch of new gear. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and, luckily, he did good enough we all get to experience it twice."
Josh and Yvette Buller got their son on his first dirt bike when he was 3 years old. Later that year, Bryson Buller entered his first race.
"I am comfortable on the seat. It is like home to me," Bryson Buller said. "I play a lot of other sports. Dirt biking is by far my favorite."
Bryson Buller was able to interact with professional riders during the day in Phoenix. He said his favorite riders are California's Ryan Villopoto and Eli Tomac of Cortez, Colo.
"I felt like a professional. They treated me very well," Bryson Buller said.
Yvette Buller said she felt pure excitement when her son got out to an early lead in the race.
"It was intense. You are excited the entire time, but you know at any given time he can lay his bike over. Anything can happen out there," she said. "The whole time you are praying and crossing your fingers while cheering him on. It is a tear-jerker."
The Bullers recognize the dangers of dirt bike racing. In November, 12-year-old Farmington racer Sammy Cordova crashed during a race in Aztec that left him in critical condition.
"For a mom, it is kind of scary. You have your moments. I have confidence in (Bryson), but you never know. We had that incident with Sammy Cordova in town, and you just never know what can happen," Yvette Buller said. "We just make sure he is wearing his protective gear at all times. It is very important."
The family hopes Bryson Buller can enter a few national races this year to prepare for October's Monster Energy Cup. He gets a lot of practice in Farmington, but even Josh Buller is having a hard time keeping up with his son these days.
"I got Bryson into it so I would have someone to ride with. Now I have someone to try to chase because he is getting faster than Dad pretty quick," Josh Buller said.
Bryson Buller said he was optimistic when he arrived in Phoenix that he would win the race. And he doesn't doubt that he'll repeat that success in Las Vegas.
"I am going to practice my turns a lot and practice the jumps. That is pretty much it. I am very confident," he said.John Livingston can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org; 505-564-4648. Follow him on Twitter @jlivi2.