ASTERISKS & THE MEN WHO EARNED THEM!
An asterisk is a star-shaped symbol used in writing or printing to call attention to something or to serve as a reference point. The most famous asterisk is the one that Major League Baseball attached to Roger Maris’ name after he hit 61 home runs in 1961. The asterisk was placed there to indicate that Maris had hit his home runs in a 162 game season, while Babe Ruth had hit 60 in 154 games. So what does this have to do with motocross? That’s easy, motocross has asterisks in its record books too.
While an asterisk is non-judgemental (carrying neither positive or negative attributes), the mere act of placing one behind a rider’s name singles him out. The star symbol means that there is more to the story than just a line in the records would normally warrant.
The MXA wrecking crew went on an asterisk search. These are motocross asterisks and the men who earned them.
Gary Jones and Mark Blackwell won the 1971 250 and 500 National Championships without racing an AMA National–because there weren’t any. America’s first National Champions (1971 was the first year that the AMA recognized Motocross Championships) were crowned by results from the two Europe-versus-America series. Gary Jones earned his 250 National Championship by being the “First American” in the Summer Inter-AMA series. That series was won by Vastimil Valek from Czechoslovakia. Blackwell’s 500 National Championship came from the Fall Trans-AMA series. Sylvain Geboers of Belgium won the ’71 Trans-AMA.
BANNED IN AMERICA
Dutchman Pierre Karsmakers moved to America after Yamaha offered the Grand Prix rider a contract to race the 1973 AMA National Championships. The Dutch National Champion jumped at the opportunity and easily won the ’73 500 National Championship. Pierre either won (or was top American) in 14 out of 23 races (as late as 1973 the AMA was still using “First American” in the 250 Inter-AMA and 500 Trans-AMA as part of the AMA National Championship series).
Too many American riders it seemed silly to list the Dutchman as “First American” just because he had an AMA license. This anti-Karsmakers logic prevailed and in 1974, Karsmakers was not allowed to earn points towards the AMA National Championship. Pierre raced the complete AMA series, winning three of the nine 250 Nationals in ’74 and earning the most points, but the official AMA 250 National Championship went to Gary Jones. Karsmakers was made eligible for the National Championship in 1975 (after meeting the AMA’s two year residence rule), but was never a contender again.
Since 1976 the Supercross Championship has been a 250cc affair, but prior to that the Supercross races were divided into 250 and 500 classes. There have only been two 500cc Supercross Champions–Gary Semics (Hus) in 1974 and Steve Stackable (Mai) in 1975.
OPEN CLASS WINNERS
Open class winners: There are only a handful of riders to have ever won a 500cc Supercross (and each one earned an asterisk in the AMA record book). The big bore winners are; Mark Blackwell (1972 Daytona), Bryar Holcomb (1972 Los Angeles Coliseum), Pierre Karsmakers (1973 Daytona), Robert Plumb (1973 Los Angeles Coliseum), Roger DeCoster (1974 Daytona), Gary Semics (1974 Houston Astrodome), Steve Stackable (1975 Dallas & Daytona) and Tony DiStefano (1975 Houston Astrodome).
THE SUPERCROSS RUBBER MATCH
There has only been one tie for a Supercross Championship in AMA history (and it too involved the 500cc Supercross Championship). In 1974, Tim Hart and Gary Semics tied with 29 points each for the 500 Supercross crown. The series was only two races long (Daytona and Houston) and since Semics won a race and Hart didn’t the Championship was awarded to Semics.
THE CALLED SHOT
Called shot: The most famous points tie in motocross occurred when Broc Glover and Danny LaPorte tied for the 1977 125 National Championship. Glover managed to earned enough points at the final 125 National to tie Team Suzuki’s LaPorte, but only after Broc’s Yamaha teammate Bob Hannah pulled over and let him by. The infamous “Let Broc Bye” race resulted in Broc and Danny both ending up with 240 points. Glover was awarded the 125 National Championship because he won two of the six races, while LaPorte only won one.
MAGOO’S UNBREAKABLE RECORD
At the 1982 Motocross and Trophee des nations, Danny “Magoo” Chandler became the only rider in the history of the World team Championships to win all four motos. It is a record that will never be broken (because the 250cc Trophee des Nations was dropped the next year).
THEY OUGHTA BE ASHAMED
Perhaps the strangest Supercross race in AMA history was the November 3, 1984, Rodil Cup race at the Los Angeles Coliseum. Billed as a Europe versus America event, and a points paying event for the short-lived FIM Rodil World Supercross Championship, the format called for the heat winners to start in an inverted second row. The two-row start idea was to give the neophyte European riders a chance. Instead, the American riders sandbagged the heat races. David Bailey even stopped behind the Peristyle while leading to insure that he would finish far enough back to get a front row start. Ricky Johnson refused to sandbag, bad mouthed the other riders as “cheaters” and said he would win from the second row. He didn’t! Jeff Ward, who had sandbagged in his heat, won the main event. The fans booed the sandbaggers and cheered RJ.
STACKING THE DECK
In 1985, the AMA National format called for all three classes (125, 250 and 500) to be run on the same day. The final National of the year was at Washougal, Washington. Going into Washougal, Ron Lechien (Kaw) had already locked up the 125 National Championship and Broc Glover (Yam) had clinched the 500 National Championship, but the 250 National Championship was still a knock-down duel between Jeff Ward (Kaw), Johnny O’Mara (Hon) and Rick Johnson (Yam). To pack the 250 field, the factory teams pulled all of their riders out of the 125 and 500 classes and put them into the 250 class (in an effort to help their teammates win the 250 title). In the end, Johnny O’Mara won Washougal, but Jeff Ward finished high enough to win the 1985 250 National Championship. The big surprise of the day was that privateers Eric Eaton (500) and A.J. Whiting (125) won the only Nationals in their careers that day.
THE ONE MOTO FREE-FOR-ALL
In March of 1991 it rained so hard at the Hangtown National that the AMA canceled the second motos of both the 125 and 250 classes. The first moto winners were declared the victors. Two privateers earned their first National wins that rainy day in Northern California. New England mud specialists Doug Henry (125) and John Dowd (250) were the happy winners.
DECOSTER’S BRAVE EXPERIMENT
An asterisk was put into the record books in August of 1993 when the AMA allowed Glen Helen National promoter Roger DeCoster to experiment with a one-moto format. Instead of two motos, the riders would use a supercross bracket system of heats, semis and main events. In 110 degree weather, Mike LaRocco (250) and Doug Henry (125) proved to be the fittest. The one-moto format was declared a failure after that race, although there was not a single rider who would have been willing to go back into the heat for a second moto.
PERFECT SUPERCROSS SCORE
The closest any rider has ever come to a perfect score in an AMA Supercross series is Jeremy McGrath in the 1996 Supercross series. Out of a possible 375 points (25 points per race times 15 races). Jeremy McGrath earned 372 points, which was an amazing 99.2 percent of possible points.
PERFECT NATIONAL SCORE
Unlike Supercross, someone has earned the perfect score in the AMA Nationals. James Stewart totaled 600 points in 24 starts during the 2008 season. He is not alone in this record. Ricky Carmichael has had a perfect season twice in both 2002 and 2004.
Jeff Emig is the first podium finisher in AMA Supercross history to be disqualified after a post race inspection. Emig finished second at the 1996 Indianapolis Supercross, but his gasoline was found to be outside of the required AMA oxygen limits. His points and money were taken away.
I REALLY DID WIN
Only two riders have ever won a National Championship without winning a single race during the series. Gary Jones (1974 250 National Championship) and Jean-Michel Bayle (1991 250 National Championship). Winning titles while only winning one race has been done five times; Tony DiStefano (’75 and ’76) and Jeff Ward (’85 and ’90) did it twice each and Jeff Stanton (’90) once.
TORTELLI’S AMA DEBUT
When Sebastien Tortelli first flew from France to race the ’96 125 Supercross series the AMA had a surprise for him. When Tortelli arrived they told him that he could not ride the 125 class because he had finished in the top five in the 125 World Championships in ’95. Tortelli had to borrow a 250 to get in a few Supercross races. Tortelli gets an asterisks behind his name for being the first rider affected by the “Anti-Pichon”…except for two things; (1) Pichon never made the top five in the 125 World Championships (his highest finish was sixth) and (2) there is no such rule in the AMA rule book. Tortelli was wronged.
THE UNBEATABLE MAN
Ricky Carmichael is the only rider to have over 100 combined AMA professional wins. More specifically he has 150 wins which has earned him the title of Greatest Of All Time (GOAT).
MORE THAN ONE BRAND
Most riders do all their winning on a single brand. In fact, of the 103 AMA National Championships awarded in the 125, 250, 500 classes and 106 Supercross Championships, only ten riders have ever won championships on different brands of bikes. Two-brand winners include; Jeremy McGrath (Honda and Yamaha), Jim Weinert (Yamaha and Kawasaki), Kent Howerton (Husqvarna and Suzuki), Ricky Johnson (Yamaha and Honda), Mike Kiedrowski (Honda and Kawasaki), Chad Reed (Yamaha and Suzuki), James Stewart (Kawasaki and Yamaha) and Ryan Dungey (Suzuki and KTM). The king of bike switchers was four-time 250 National Champion Gary Jones. He won the ’71 and ’72 Championship on a Yamaha, switched to Honda in ’73 and jumped to Can-Am in ’74. Ricky Carmichael is the only rider to have the distinction of winning on more than two brands. He won all of his 125 championships and the first few 250 championships on a Kawasaki before switching to Honda. He would win his final four championships aboard a Suzuki.