Archive for August, 2009
There were a lot of motorcycle racing celebrities at the Indy Mile Saturday night, but one I was surprised to see was Hall of Famer Jeff Ward. Wardy was in town to do expert commentary for the IMS Radio broadcast of the MotoGP (he did an excellent job by the way). Ward revealed at Indy that his final motorcycle race would be the Supermoto finale next weekend in Utah. He’s moving on to off-road truck racing. Ward is certainly one of the most versitile racers ever. His test at Daytona a few years back proved he could have done well road racing as well. After 30 years motorcycle racing will be missing one of its all-time greats when Wardy hangs up his helmet.
Saturday night’s Indy Mile was just one of those events that will live in your memory for years to come. By far the highlight of the night was Kenny Roberts taking a couple of hot laps on the infamous Yamaha TZ750-powered flat track machine that he won the Indy Mile on in 1975. The near capacity Indy crowd roared when Roberts and the beast of a machine emerged from the pits. It was one of the most fantastic moments I’ve had the privilege to see in motorcycle racing.
Robert didn’t play around either. He actually ripped around the turns at Indy in a full slide. When he stopped the bike in front of the grandstand Roberts was mobbed by a horde of photographers and fans that included several current Grand National riders.
If you were there you were part of an amazing night of racing history. If not you missed it!
Now that the Indy Mile is back and part of the MotoGP weekend in Indianapolis, the race has become the best attended on the AMA Grand National Championship. It’s a great event and if you’re anywhere near Indy you should come out Saturday. In honor of the race here’s a photo of the Indy Mile podium in 1986. There’s Ronnie Jones, who was second, winner the late great Ricky Graham and third place Scott Pearson.
Ben Thompson must have thought that if was good enough for AMA Superbike champ Ben Spies than it was good enough for him. Here Thompson, on the Millennium Technologies/KWS Motorsports Suzuki shows his best elbows-out cornering style that looks suspiciously like Spies.
Thompson is surely the fastest motorcycle road racer ever to come out of Alaska.
My old buddy Jim Sublet was race director for WERA in the North Central region back in the day when I covered those races for Cycle News and now defunct American Roadracing. I’d heard rumors that ol’ Jim was a pretty good road racer in his day, but he rarely talk about it.
In 2000 Jim came back and raced in the AMA Road Race Grand Championships at Mid-Ohio and lo and behold, Jimbo won his class and became an AMA National Champion! I was so happy to see Jim do so well. Here was a race official who ran road races for WERA and it turns out the rumors were true, Jim was indeed a fast man.
Josh Grant was an unknown rookie when the 2004 AMA Motocross season got underway at the Hangtown Classic near Sacramento. He shocked the 20,000-plus fans there by getting the quick jump in the 125cc class and leading for three laps before crashing in a corner and taking forever to restart his bike.
Despite having issues and not getting a good result, leading three laps of your first national was quite a way to launch a career. For years after that Grant was known as the rookie who nailed the holeshot and shocked the world in his first pro race.
Here’s a shot of a young Kenny Roberts, Jr. racing a Yamaha 250GP bike at Road Atlanta during a WERA National in March of 1991. Kenny Jr. was only 17 at the time, learning the ropes and getting the experience that would eventually lead him to the world championship.