Supercross stars Ward, Henry, Lechien and O’Mara discuss their best and worst races
After winning the 1985 and 1987 250cc Supercross Championship (and 20 Supercross main events) in a career which spanned well over a decade, Jeff Ward chose to go car racing upon retiring from the sport in 1992. That, too, went well for the versatile racer. Ward placing third in the 1997 Indianapolis 500 and as a result, was named the Bank One Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year. Back to racing motorcycles in recent years, in 2004, Wardy won the AMA Supermoto Championship.
My best memory was winning my first 250cc Supercross at Seattle in 1984. I had been racing Supercross for four years. The first few years I was just learning because there was no 125cc class back then. So to finally win that first 250cc big race was a big deal for me.
The Daytona Supercross in 1985. I never won that race, but I came close a few times. The place was all sand and it always seemed like there was always one sand rider who was better than I was. In 1985 I led Daytona up to the last lap. On the last lap we came into a corner and Bob Hannah took the outside line, while I took the inside line. A lapper in front of me went down and took me with him. Bob was able to take advantage of the situation and won the race.
While Doug Henry never won a Supercross Championship, he did win nine events during his career – one of them amongst the most historical in the three decade-long history of the sport. On Saturday night, May 17, 1997, Doug Henry rode a Yamaha 400cc four-stroke motocross bike to victory, thus ushering in an entirely new era in motocross. Today, Henry also competes in the AMA Supermoto Series, and as a member of the Troy Lee Designs/Honda team, won the most races during the 2004 season. In the off-season, Henry lives on a farm in the New England area.
The Dallas Supercross in 1995 is my favorite memory. It was my first Supercross win. It took place in really muddy conditions and I won by a huge margin. I just had so much fun in winning that race. Winning the Las Vegas Supercross in 1997 on the YZM400F was also very special. It was a great win for me, but because of what winning on the four-stroke meant, I think it was an ever bigger win for the overall industry.
The Houston Supercross in 1997. Jimmy Button landed on my hand and broke it. I was leading in the points and the crash was definitely a big bummer for me. Was I mad? Oh yeah, I was mad!
From 1983 through 1989, Ron Lechien won eight 250cc main events. First blazing onto the scene in 1983, Lechien won two major Supercrosses during his rookie season, which is all the more remarkable considering the then 16 year-old was racing in the most heavily stacked field of talent in AMA Supercross history. While his career was cut short due to personal problems, Ron is doing very well now, riding as much as possible and working for Maxima lubricants in El Cajon, California.
Winning the San Diego Supercross in 1983 is my favorite Supercross memory. Rick Johnson, Broc Glover, David Bailey, Jeff Ward – all the guys were there – and I beat them. It was a big deal for me. My mom and dad were there, and so were all my schoolmates. That raced really helped put me on the map. It was a CMC Supercross – not an AMA Supercross – so I rode with the number 18. I was between contracts then. I was leaving Yamaha for Honda and Yamaha didn’t want to give me a bike to race, so my dad knew a dealer and got me one of the new 1984 YZ250s to race. Bevo Forti worked as my mechanic and I went out and won as a privateer. Then the next day they aired it on ABC’s Wide World of Sports. The whole experience was awesome for me.
The 1989 Daytona Supercross. That a very bittersweet loss. That was the best I have ever felt in a race. I pulled the holeshot and led right up to the last lap. That’s when the power valve on my Kawasaki melted. I really wanted to win that race. I gave my heart and soul to that race. It still tears me up to think about it today. Jeff Stanton won the race and went on to win three more in a row, but I know the 1989 Daytona Supercross was mine.
Although considered a 125cc specialist, Johnny O’Mara became the third consecutive Honda rider to claim the number one plate when he won the 1984 Supercross Championship. Throughout his career, O’Mara would ride for Honda, Suzuki, Kawasaki, winning a total of seven 250cc main events, all of them with Honda. In 2005, Johnny O’Mara still keeps an eye out for longtime friend Ricky Carmichael. He’s also stayed busy racing mountain bikes. He’s pretty good at that, as well. In 2004 O’Mara won the NORBA Cross Country Master Expert 40-44 Category National Championship.
I would go with my first Supercross win as my favorite memory. Winning the opening round of the 1984 Supercross Series at Anaheim before 70,000 fans definitely got the ball rolling for me in achieving my goal of winning a Supercross Championship (Note: O’Mara went on to win the 1984 Supercross Championship).
The 1989 Anaheim Supercross. I had in my third year of my Suzuki contract and we finally had the bike working very well. I led the whole race at Anaheim and had it in the bag when with just three or four laps to go, the steering tube – which was made out of magnesium – broke. It was a heartbreaker. Anaheim gave my best and worst memories in Supercross.
By Eric Johnson