Photo by Paul Buckley
This photo captures John Dowd when he captured the win in the 125 class on his Factory Yamaha 125 at the 1997 Daytona Supercross. Dowd had to work his way into the lead… twice. Shortly after passing Floridian Timmy Ferry, Dowd went off the track and lost the lead. He re-passed Ferry again and stretched out a gap until the checkers. He beat out Timmy Ferry (2nd) and David Pingree (3rd). Ricky Carmichael finished sixth after recovering from a first turn crash. Dowd moved down to the 125 after some seasons on the 250s, and was 31 at the time of this win.
THE EVENT: [re: having the most speed that day] “I don’t know if it was necessarily more speed than anyone, because I don’t know if I’ve ever had that situation; my whole career, my biggest thing was I was in good shape, so when the rest of the guys started getting tired and slowing down it seemed like I didn’t. And I know that whole deal with passing Timmy there, I think he was leading the whole time and I had gotten a mediocre start and kind of came up through slowly, picking guys off and I just remember coming up on him towards the end and sneaking by and winning that race. One thing I do remember about that race, my wife was pregnant with my son Ryan at that time, it was a little stressful for me being there because it was getting to the point where I was getting worried when I left on the weekends, because we were a little worried about him being born without me home. I made it home…. Any time that you can win Daytona, I mean it still amazes me that I was able to pull off some of these wins like that one there, that’s a huge deal. For me to say I won a Daytona Supercross, that’s kind of crazy because I’ve never considered myself a good jumper, a supercross guy, but Daytona was always a little different, a little nastier than the usual…
THE BIKE: “They were excellent bikes. All the years I was on Yamaha, we had such a great team. Me and Kevin Windham, we hung out all the time. Doug Henry was there for a while, and Ezra Lusk. Over the years it really was a good team and all of us guys got along great and hung out. We trained together, rode together a lot, that’s kind of unusual I think. It didn’t seem like too often you’d find teams where all the guys got along really well, I think we were really fortunate. We just had a great bunch of guys, and the guys on the team working on the bikes, those guys were awesome. John R [Rosenstiel] the suspension guy, and Bob Oliver, he was the motor guy, and those guys just worked all the time and put their hearts into it and the bikes were awesome. I used to feel bad a lot of times because I felt like, you know, I maybe wasn’t producing enough to say thank you for those guys. But every once in a while when I could nab a win like this Daytona one here, that was great just to be able to say thank you to all those guys that put all their hard work in. Keith McCarty was the team manager back then, it was a great team. All the years on Yamaha, those were definitely the highest points of my career as far as performance and just fun. We had the best time. [Re: dropping down to the 125 from the 250] “I never seemed to do anything the normal way in racing. I started older, started racing older, and actually my first bike that I raced was a Honda, I think it was an air-cooled CR 480, so that was kind of strange to just show up and race that thing. Honestly, for me, it really didn’t seem like a big deal [to drop down to the 125]. I always kinda struggled to get, I don’t know how to put this, but to find… I don’t know if I want to say I was always a fill in, but I was never fast enough or really amazing enough to be a solid factory guy all the time, you know? So, some of those years, for me, it was a matter of switching classes or maybe not having a ride. I think one of those years Damon Bradshaw had decided he wanted to come back racing and he wanted to race the 250, so that was one of the years I was like, ‘Well hey, shoot, put me on a 125, I can ride that thing,’ I think, for me, the local racing scene that we do here back in the New England area, it seemed all the experts would always race the 250s and the 125s every weekend. I used to race a 125 back at home quite often, anyways, and I think I rode it just about as good as I rode a 250. I always kinda preferred the bigger bikes but I think when the opportunity came to get on the 125 I wasn’t going to just walk away from it. Shoot, it was actually kinda neat. And the thing was, going into the 125 supercross class, it really did give me a chance to have a shot at wining something, and it eventually worked out; in ‘98 I ended up winning the championship… I think there were times that I questioned it, maybe if I’d stayed in the 250s, who knows what would have happened. But bottom line is I had a lot of great years, had some wins, and some overalls and all kinds of stuff and it was just a great time.”
TODAY: “I own my own excavation business. I was very fortunate, I had a very good racing career. I didn’t’ make enough money to retire but I was able to buy some land.” Dowd raced a few events during this year’s motocross season, earning enough points (25) to keep his #16 national number. He went 22 – 24 for 26th overall at Red Bud, 19-13 for 19th at Millville, 10-16 for 14th at Southwick, and 17-26 for 21st at Unadilla. Check out Dowd at www.johndowd.com and check out he riding schools he’s been offering in the New England area. Dowd’s sponsors today are: Chaplin Kawasaki (www.chaplinkawasaki.com) (local dealer giving him great support), Moose Racing, Shoei helmets, Smith goggles, Leatt, Pirelli, Part Unlimited, Renthal, Pro Circuit, Factory Connection, Moto Master brakes, Twin Air, Works Connection, Alpinestars, and Kenny G’s Performance Tuning. “Kenny Germain used to be Ernesto’s mechanic for all those years. He and grew up in the same town and we still live in the same town now. And his nephew Mikey Germain is kind of my son Ryan’s mechanic.”
PHOTOGRAPHER PAUL BUCKLEY’S SHOT: To order prints of many of Paul Buckley’s classic motocross photos (more are being added all the time), check out www.buckleyphotos.com.