FRIDAY FLASHBACK: 2012 HALL OF FAME DEBACLE! DO YOU REMEMBER NOBBY-GATE?
Back in April of 2012 famous road race mechanic Nobby Clark was informed by the AMA that he had been voted in the AMA Hall of fame. Of the six candidates on the road race ballot, Nobby Clark got the most votes from the Hall of Fame voting membership (which is made up of people already in the Hall). It didn’t take long for the road race committee to complain to the AMA that Nobby Clark’s name should not have been on the ballot—that only two riders should have been up for selection into the Hall. They wanted the AMA to tell Nobby Clark that he had been named to the Hall of Fame because of a “clerical error” and to un-induct him. When the AMA did just that, it set of furor that riled up the motorcycle community—all of them against the AMA. In the face of the Nobby-Gate controversy, it took the AMA 12 days to reveal the true reason why Nobby Clark got the bum’s rush by the AMA.
THE ROAD RACE COMMITTEE’S SCHEME WAS TO PUT A POPULAR ROAD RACER AND AN UNPOPULAR ROAD RACER ON THE BALLOT—THAT WAY THE POPULAR ROAD RACER WOULD BE GUARANTEED TO GO IT INTO THE HALL.
People are nominated to go into the AMA Hall of Fame by special committees and, in Nobby’s case, the road race committee allegedly had a plan to rig the Hall of Fame voting to get one of their friends into the Hall of Fame. The road race committee, in particular, was trying to take Hall of Fame induction out of the hands of the voting Hall of Fame membership and put it in the pocket of the committee. And, it would have worked, but Nobby-Gate ruined their plans. The road race committee only wanted to nominate two road racers to be voted on for Hall of Fame membership. The scheme was to put a popular road racer and an unpopular road racer on the ballot—that way the popular road racer would be guaranteed to go it into the Hall. Unfortunately, the road race committee accidentally submitted all six names to be voted on by the Hall membership—that was the “clerical error.” The six names on the ballot were Randy Renfrow, Jarno Saarinen, Rob Muzzy, John Long, Lance Weil and Nobby Clark.
In the Nobby Clark’s case, his name appeared on the ballot along with the five other nominees, including the two favorites that got the road race committee’s block votes. Surprise! Nobby got voted in by the whole membership of the Hall. That in itself says something. It should be noted that the Hall of Fame membership, who vote for induction into the Hall of Fame, only get one vote each…and they cast their votes for Nobby Clark. The road race committee members were upset that their hand-picked candidate didn’t get the support of the voting membership of the Hall and went to the AMA to claim that Nobby Clark should be removed and the votes only counted for their two nominees.
THE AMA HOPED THE CONTROVERSY WOULD GO AWAY, BUT WHEN KENNY ROBERTS, DICK MANN, ED YOUNGBLOOD, DAVE DESPAIN AND OTHERS HALL OF FAMERS RESIGNED FROM THE HALL IN PROTEST, THE AMA PANICKED.
And that is when the controversy exploded. No one could believe that the guy who got the most votes and had been informed that he would be inducted into the 2012 AMA Hall of Fame, was told that the AMA had made a clerical error and he wasn’t going to get into the Hall. When they got push back from the Hall of Fame members, the AMA dredged up with some long past misdemeanor arrest of Nobby Clark as a reason why he could not be inducted. The angry members of the Hall pointed out that in the rough and tumble world of motorcycle racing, lots of AMA Hall of Fame members had been arrested, and none of them had ever been denied entry into the Hall.
The AMA hoped the controversy would go away, but when Kenny Roberts, Dick Mann, Ed Youngblood, Dave Despain, Jeff Smith and other Hall of Famers resigned from the Hall in protest, the AMA panicked. To stop the uproar, the Hall of Fame came up with a meaningless, face-saving, one-person election, in which the only name on the ballot was Nobby Clark. This was a transparent attempt by the so-called leaders of the Hall of Fame to shift the blame away from their incredibly poor management and decision-making process by holding a fake election process that Nobby Clark was sure to win. All of this fake election process was unnecessary because Nobby Clark had already been voted into the Hall of Fame in the original ballot.
In short, Nobby Clark was elected, ejected and re-elected. The Hall of Fame continued to be run by bureaucrats that should have resigned from the AMA. The AMA Hall of Fame had its name dragged through the mud because of poor management. This mess wasn’t about Nobby Clark—he belonged in the Hall of Fame. It was about the AMA trying to keep mum about what had happened, getting caught in a scandal and revealing how mismanaged and poorly run the AMA Hall of Fame nomination, committee and balloting system really was.
Nobby Clark passed away on Saturday, December 16, 2017, at the age of 81. You can learn more about Derek “Nobby” Clark by Clicking Here.