Jay Springsteen: Dust Bowls and Dust-Ups Part 1
Jay Springsteen’s first AMA national win came in 1975 at Louisville when he was just 18, and he went onto rack up 43 AMA victories and three AMA Championships in a pro career that spanned three decades.
At 19, he was caught in the cross fire of a bitter three-way war between defending AMA champion Gary Scott, the Harley factory team Scott once rode for, and two-time champ Kenny Roberts. After winning back the number one plate from Yamaha and Roberts, Scott left H-D after negotiations broke down badly and he defended his championship in 1976 as a privateer running Harley dirt trackers and Yamaha TZ750 road racer.
In a season of acrimony, Scott claimed Rex Beauchamp’s winning factory Harley engine under the AMA’s controversial claiming rules, which almost led to a fight with Harley rider Corky Keener. With Springsteen moving into a championship-winning position despite not having a competitive road racer mount, things turned nasty.
Waiting in the back of a diner the night after Jay had won the 1976 San Jose mile, Scott ambushed Springsteen’s tuner, the legendary Bill Werner with whom Scott won his 1975 AMA title. Explaining the incident, Scott said, “I knew Werner was a pretty good wrestler in high school, so I had to get some good punches in pretty quick.”
When Yamaha team boss Kel Carruthers protested Scott’s result at the AMA road race at Riverside, Scott claimed Roberts’ OW01 engine more or less out of revenge. When Scott refused Carruthers’ offer of spares and a new black box, the normally unflappable Aussie simply cut the wires and the cables.
Against this fiery back drop, the number one plate came down to the final round at the Ascot Park half-mile. Springsteen badly dislocated a finger in a crash during practice, which Werner put back in. Despite also being slightly concussed, Springer qualified for the final. Roberts failed to transfer, so all Jay had to do was finish ahead of Scott to claim the title.
Miraculously, Springsteen led the opening laps while Triumph-mounted Scott struggled back in fifth. Ascot specialist Alex Jorgensen pushed his Norton into the lead passed Springer, who was instructed to maintain his position. Ignoring team orders, Jay dove under Jorgensen in the closing laps and pulled away to a huge win and a new race record to clinch his first AMA Grand National Championship.