This weekend will mark the first round of the 2023 Monster Energy AMA Supercross Championship with the Supercross Futures race, and this time there will likely be a race as part of the night’s program. The idea is to give young riders a taste of supercross before they actually have to line up for a real one. It’s a great program similar to the Pro Motocross Scouting Moto Combine, giving kids a similar taste of what it would be like to go to an actual Outdoor Nationals.
Connected: How to Watch the 2023 Anaheim 2 Supercross 250SX Futures Main Event and Entry List
It got me thinking about previous generations of Supercross prospects and how they didn’t have the same opportunities to get comfortable in all of this. Many stumbled. (I remember my first Supercross race, Atlanta ’85 at the old Fulton County Stadium, and being blown away by how narrow the track was and how fast the jumps were. I didn’t qualify after running behind Honda support rider Larry Brooks . On the last lap of our heat race, in a stupid bid for seventh or eighth when we were both going to qualify anyway. He joined via LCQ, then finished second in the 125 Main Event behind Eddie Warren ; I didn’t succeed and had to watch from the grandstands with my very angry father.) But some excelled beyond expectations, and at a very young age.
At the top of the list is the youngest winner of all time, and he did it in the first “Supercross”, the 1972 Superbowl of Motocross at the Los Angeles Coliseum (where we’ll end up with the first Supermotocross World Championship this Sept. 23). Riding a Yamaha 250, Tripes was just 16 years, 10 days old, and he won a 2-2-2 in what we’ll now call the “Triple Crown” format, like we’re going to see for the 250SX and 450SX tomorrow night. classes. This appears to be an unbreakable record, as a rider would have to be 16 years old within eight days of his first 450SX race and then win to accomplish Marty’s amazing feat. It seems impossible now more than ever!
James Stewart was exactly 16 years, 15 days old in 2002 when he turned professional in front of the Anaheim opener. He signed up for the 125 class on a Chevrolet Trucks-backed Kawasaki KX125 and crashed three or four times, but still finished second behind Travis Preston of the Factory Connection Honda team. A week later, at the age of 16 years, 22 days, Stewart won the 125 Main Event at Old Jack Murphy Stadium in San Diego, breaking Kyle Lewis’ record for the youngest ever 125SX winner. Lewis, a Honda support rider at the time, was a little under 16 at the age of four months. (Tragically, his father suffered a heart attack during the race while watching from the mechanics’ field and died before the race was over.)
In 1983, Ron Lechien was a 16-year-old tenth-grader when he won the Orlando Supercross. It was two years before the 125 class was added. In other words, he won the premier 250 class over the likes of Bob “Hurricane” Hannah, Brock Glover, Mark Barnett, David Bailey, Jeff Ward, Johnny O’Meara, and more.
And in 1988, shortly after his 16th birthday, Damon Bradshaw went to Japan to race in the Osaka Supercross in the premier 250 class. Yamaha factory riders will pull off a surprise upset on the Yamaha YZ250 beating legends like Ward, Glover, Rick Johnson. Two months later, Bradshaw, who was set to ride the former field 125 for Yamaha, talked the team into allowing him to ride the 250 races on the West Coast. He crashed out of his heat race in the San Diego opener and took an ambulance ride to the ER before the main event even left. But two weeks later, in Anaheim, he returned and finished third in his first AMA Supercross in the 250 class.
While we will see excellent prospects like Hayden Deegan, Daxton Bennick, Casey Cochran, Talon Hawkins, and more, I can’t see any of them rounding up the Monster Energy AMA Supercross in the premier class instead of SX Futures. Winning like the Triceps and Lechien (and Damon Bradshaw almost did!).