There will never be another Danny “Magoo” Chandler. His go-for-broke riding style earned him a legion of loyal fans. But while his boldness endeared him to the fans, it wasn’t a formula for success. In truth, it eventually led to tragedy for Magoo. For the first few years of his AMA career, the Sacramento-born Magoo was an oddity. The first time he showed up at Hangtown to race a 125 National, he had to stand on a milk crate to get on his bike. At the 1976 Super Bowl of Motocross, Magoo finished 16th in the 500 support class. He ran much higher than that but flew off the track several times at full speed, often reentering the track without shutting off.
It wasn’t until 1978 that Magoo made his first official mark on the AMA circuit. He earned three top-10 finishes in the 125 Nationals and got his first-ever podium finish—a third—at the Escape Country 125 National in Trabuco Canyon, California.
Maico signed Magoo for 1979, and the unreliable Maico and the out-of-control Magoo were a match made in Hades. No one in the history of the sport crashed as many times as Magoo did in 1979 and 1980, but his Maico rides had not been for naught. Magoo caught the eye of Team Honda manager Roger DeCoster who, although not impressed by Magoo’s antics, saw something special in the NorCal wild man. When there was a support class opening at Team Honda for the 1981 Trans-AMA series, Magoo got the call. He made the most of it, winning and moving to Team Honda full-time in 1982.
During his time at Team Honda, Danny Chandler won four 500 Nationals, finished third in the 1983 500 National Championship and shocked the world by winning the 1982 USGP at Carlsbad. And he did it after being stung by a bee, in spite of the fact that he was extremely allergic.
Chandler iced his reputation when he rode like a man possessed at the 1982 ABC-TV Superbikers race. Magoo’s victory earned him a spot on the 1982 American Motocross and Trophee des Nations teams. At Gaildorf, Germany, and Wohlen, Switzerland, Magoo became the only rider in motocross history to win all four motos. Magoo couldn’t have been a bigger hero, but it was all about to change for the likable redhead.
Chandler was injured in the off-season leading up to the 1984 season and only made the top 10 twice all year long. Honda dropped him. With no other offers, Magoo agreed to ride for Team Kawasaki in the 500 World Championships. Magoo couldn’t believe it when Kawasaki told him that he would have to let their star rider, Georges Jobe, pass him if the two got close to each other. Magoo said that he wouldn’t take a dive for anybody and quit Kawasaki. He was quickly picked up by Team KTM and won the 1985 French 500 GP.
Unfortunately, three months later, Magoo went to the Paris Supercross and his life was changed forever. After being paralyzed that day in Paris in 1985, Magoo reinvented himself as a mountain bike race promoter, motocross trainer, motivational safety speaker and D.A.R.E. coordinator. He loved the idea of helping people less fortunate than himself (and often during those times there were few people less unfortunate than Danny) by running the International Riders Helping People (IRHP) organization. At the age of 50, Danny was finally at peace with who he was and what he could achieve. Sadly, Danny passed away suddenly after a brief illness on May 5, 2010.