He didn’t realize it at the time, but getting that bike would start him on a journey with a goal of becoming a professional motocross racer.

“It was just kind of a hobby at first,” Thompson said. “Then I wanted to race, and they finally took me up to Chattanooga to race, and then I kept doing it every weekend for a while.”

A decade after his parents Joseph and Lori Thompson made plans to build a track near his house for him to train on, the 18-year-old Roman will get a shot at a national championship when he competes this week in the 37th annual Rocky Mountain ATV/MC AMA Amateur National Motocross Championship at Loretta Lynn Ranch in Hurricane Mills, Tennessee.

Jase has raced at different tracks all across the country, even finishing eighth at the 2017 Arenacross National Championship in Las Vegas, but his time this week on the track at Hurricane Mills will be a first for him.

The course, built on a section of the famous country music singer-songwriter’s estate in Western Tennessee, is opened only once a year for the national event, which features 1,446 riders in several classes out of 22,000 hopefuls who have qualified through area qualifiers and regional championships.

The event starts Monday when racers will be able to get a feel for the track through a practice run. Thompson will then compete in three different races over Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday.

He qualified for the prestigious event by taking third in the 450C class at the Mid-East Amateur Regional Championships in Michigan last month. But it was a close call for the young rider.

Thompson almost missed his chance in competing in the outdoor season after he wrecked at the 2018 Monster Energy AMA Supercross event in March at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. The injuries he sustained were severe. Both of his lungs were bruised and had blood in them. He broke a shoulder blade, cracked three ribs and had a severe concussion.

“It’s part of it. You’ve just got to go with it I guess,” he said.

His enduring attitude allowed him to get back to racing in time to qualify for nationals. Two months after the wreck, he was back on the track trying to achieve his goal.

This week’s championship is a key race for young riders looking for a shot at going pro, and Thompson understands the impact finishing in just the top five of his class could have on his career.

“This is the top of the top, the best of the best,” Thompson said. “If you go there and you place high you’re going to ride with somebody or turn pro.”

Tim Cotter, director of MX Sports, echoed Thompson’s thoughts about what this race means to the riders who make the cut.

“The Amatuer National at Loretta Lynn’s is the best of the best motocrossers in America and around the world,” he said. “Just being here makes you an elite racer and a top athlete. A solid finish at Loretta’s would give you instant national recognition and a possible professional career.”

The largest amateur motocross race in the world, the event has been seen some of the top pro motocross racers in the country win titles, like James Stewart, Ricky Carmichael, Travis Pastrana and Ryan Dungey.

“I’m excited,” he said. “Hopefully I’ll do good. I won’t know until that gate drops.”