Even racers with glorious careers have inglorious moments they would like to forget. Sometimes a brain fade costs them a championship, but they always cinch up their pants and come back the next weekend.
Perhaps one of the best-known inglorious moments was at the final round of the 1982 AMA 250 National Championship, the race where Ricky Johnson jumped a big double and exploded his front wheel, throwing away the 250 National Championship in the process.
Here is how Ricky Johnson remembers it: “I had a 20-point lead going into the last round of the championship in Castle Rock, Colorado. I went to pass Kenny Keylon in the first moto, and I jumped way too far. I landed and broke my wheel, so I had to push the bike to the pits. My mechanic changed the wheel, and I finished just out of the points at 21st.
“Donnie Hansen had the points lead going into the last moto. I had to beat Donnie in the second moto to win the 1982 AMA 250 National title. Glover took off and won the second moto, and I was in third place right behind Hansen. I tried to crash him, but he wouldn’t go down. We crossed the line in second and third. Donnie won the championship by two points—the exact difference in points between second and third [editor’s note: Ricky actually lost the championship by three points—300 for Hansen, 297 Johnson and 294 Glover]. I was miserable. The whole 45-minute moto I couldn’t believe what was happening. That, by far, was the biggest mistake of my career.”
But, Ricky would have a long career, winning a combined total of seven National titles in the 250 Nationals, 500 Nationals and Supercross. Ricky was philosophical about what happened in 1982: “If you get a bad start, then you make the best of it. If your bike breaks, then you survive. When you have a bad day, you get fifth. When you have a good day, you destroy everyone. You must be able to endure pain and still forge ahead and race for the championship.”