Next stop, Loretta Lynn’s Championship: 19-year-old pursues Motocross dream
Published 12:05 am Wednesday, June 17, 2020
LAPLACE — Nineteen-year-old Dalton Heltz of LaPlace has broken both his wrists, his femur, his humerus and his pelvis in an unrelenting pursuit to accomplish his dreams.
Through broken bones and blown up bikes, Dalton has never lost focus of his goal to make it to the Loretta Lynn’s National Motocross Championship in Hurricane Mills, Tennessee. He’s climbed back onto his bike after every injury, and all those years of hard work have paid off.
Dalton earned his ticket to the Loretta Lynn’s Championship when he captured third and fourth place finishes at the regional qualifiers in Ponca City, Oklahoma. A top 6 finish was required among 42 bikes in each class to advance to nationals.
Dalton returned home to St. John the Baptist Parish this week ready to take on nationals the week of August 3-12.
“Sixth was like first to me, but when I crossed and knew I got third place, I couldn’t explain it. It was a good feeling. It was the best feeling I’ve ever had when I pulled off the line and saw my mom and all of them right there,” Dalton said. “Top 6 is what you need, but top 3 gets your name out there and lets people realize you mean business and you’re out to win that championship.”
Dalton’s motocross journey started when he was 12 years old. His neighbor took him out to a track, and it only took one look for Dalton to see his destiny. He returned home begging his parents for a dirt bike. His wish came true the following Christmas, and the rest is history.
Dalton achieved fourth place in his first race on a beginner track. The first motocross video he ever watched on YouTube showcased the Loretta Lynn Championship, and that experience planted the seed for a nearly decade-long goal.
“Ever since then, that’s where I wanted to go,” Dalton said. “The last eight years of my life I’ve spent trying to punch a ticket over there. Through all the broken bones and broken bikes, all the bad luck, it finally happened this year.”
Before advancing to the regional qualifiers, Dalton had to place top 8 in the area qualifiers. This year has been big for him, as his recent accomplishments include a second place finish at Daytona Speedway.
After competing at Loretta Lynn’s in August, Dalton’s next steps will be to move from C class up to B class and eventually make it to the pros.
Dalton has spent countless hours practicing on the dirt track on Airline Highway near the Spillway, just minutes away from his LaPlace home. He now spends a lot of time getting into top shape with Rob and Sherry Burkhart at their training facility in Kentwood.
Dalton said the most important skill in the world of motocross is persistence. Fitness is another priority since motocross is a physically demanding sport.
“Some kids have God-given talent when they get on a dirt bike. I have some talent, but everything came to me from hard work. I think hard work, no matter what sport you play, can get you anywhere in life,” Dalton said. “If you’re not dedicated to do this, you might as well give it up.”
Dalton’s father, Darren “Killah” Heltz, is impressed by his son’s self-motivation. He can tell when Dalton is giving it everything he’s got.
“You’re not going to win every race. Nobody in the world can win every race. When he goes out there, gives it 100 percent and doesn’t quit, that makes me proud,” Darren said.
The nerves got to him at first, especially when he saw Dalton end up in the hospital time and time again.
“Now, I pretty much go with the flow,” Darren said. “You still get worked up, but you watch all the work that goes into it.”
Darren jokes that his wife, Jaime Heltz, watched the regional qualifiers this past weekend with her back turned to the track for 90 percent of the race.
Jaime’s nerves are beside themselves and her stomach ties into knots as she paces back and forth during the motocross competitions. Yet, she understands how important it is to her son, and for that reason, she is always by his side.
Jaime was filming her son when he suffered the crash that broke his femur. It was the toughest injury he recovered from. Between two surgeries, he was off of his bike for a year.
Jaime remembers running to Dalton on the practice track after the crash. He looked to her and said, “Mom, I think I broke my femur. Please do not be mad and take my bike away from me.”
“I realized this is what he wants to do. He has goals in life, he works so hard for all his achievements and he just has a good attitude, dedication and love for the sport,” Jaime said. “I decided, as a mom, I have to stand by his side and support him in all his decisions on this.”