This is a list of 10 riders who won a single premier-class supercross main event in their career. No, neither Ricky Ryan nor Mike Craig made the list, but before you throw this magazine into the fireplace hear us out. Of the 511 supercross main events run from 1974-the year the AMA Supercross Championship was officially founded-through 2010, only 53 riders have won. Of those 53 riders 18 won a single main event in their careers, and we have narrowed it down to just 10 based on each rider’s accomplishments outside of that lone victory. Those guidelines left us with 10 riders who were among the best in their time. Despite their accomplishments on a 125, in AMA motocross, over in Europe on the GP circuit, their finest moment as professionals of AMA supercross happened in a single day.For some, the memories haven’t been discussed in decades. Others remember every detail of the race down to the number of seconds the gate was held after the 30-second card went sideways. Whatever the level of recollection, none of the riders realized their first victory would also be their last; but, telling these stories today, they are all rightfully proud of being one of only 53 who was, for one day, the best rider in supercross.
SX Win: April 18, 1998, Charlotte, NC
Credentials: 1998 AMA SX 125 West Champion, eight career AMA 125/250 motocross wins
John Dowd used to be so bad at riding supercross even his team laughed at him. When he was hired by Yamaha for the 1995 season and moved to California for the winter, the New England motocross specialist had very little stadium experience. That winter Dowd spent four days a week at the team’s test track. “I definitely pulled off some stuff in supercross I never thought I would have,” he said. “I remember all the guys at Yamaha making a lot of fun of me at first because I broke a lot of stuff, bent stuff; I was casing jumps everywhere. The joke was that I was going to owe them money at the end of that season.”At the time of the 1998 Charlotte Supercross he was locked in a battle with David Vuillemin for the 125 West SX title. Dowd jumped at the chance to ride the 250cc class when he could. Most known for his mud riding skills, Dowd welcomed the rain that fell in the days leading into the race. “I was pumped up for that mud. I knew it was going to be a matter of surviving and doing what you could to get through the jumps, because it was going to be rutty, muddy and nasty.” Despite the warnings from others, Dowd went with a sand tire, a rare choice in supercross. “I thought, ‘Screw it, throw the sand tire on because I want a good start and I’ll deal with it from there.’ Anything can happen in the mud, and if I was ever going to win a 250 race, this was going to be the night.”Dowd’s teammate Kevin Windham led from the start and then disappeared. In the chaos of the mud and rain, Dowd was passed by Larry Ward and Mike LaRocco (who eventually had their own problems) but knew that if he stayed consistent, he could get on the podium. “Windham crashed hard on the rhythm section on the front stretch, so I inherited the lead. I couldn’t believe I actually won. I know a lot of stuff happened and a few guys fell, but I’ll take it.”At 45 years of age, Dowd still holds on to his permanent national number 16, a result of his impressive ability to come out of retirement for one race and score points at the AMA Motocross National in Southwick, Massachusetts. He also runs JYD Excavating and teaches motocross schools in New England where he and his wife raise their two children.
SX Win: January 10, 1998, Los Angeles, CA
Credentials: 1996 125cc FIM World Motocross Champion, 1998 250cc FIM World Motocross Champion, three career AMA 250cc motocross wins
“Who’s on the number 103 Kawasaki plowing his way through the pack?” “What’s that funny-looking gear called? Oxbow?” Those may have been the questions many spectators were asking as Sébastien Tortelli, a rider unknown to most American fans in 1998, hounded Doug Henry for the lead at the 1998 opener in the L.A. Coliseum. “It just looks like he’s being held up,” ESPN’s David Bailey said during the race telecast. The course was deep, filled with ruts. Rain leading up to race day caused practice to be canceled. The conditions were perfect for a hungry kid from France.The last two laps don’t come close to telling the whole story. Tortelli rounded the first lap in 15th place. Ten minutes before he had arrived at the starting gate and was told by the AMA he was late and would have second to last pick (Ezra Lusk came in behind him). “We were both sitting on the way outside in the deep mud,” Tortelli said. With his boots soaking in standing water the chances of Tortelli walking away with even a trophy in his first-ever 250cc class main event seemed slim. But this scenario was normal for him. “I rode my supercross track back in Europe even when it was raining. You make the best out of it; having rough faces and deep ruts wasn’t really a problem for me, but for the California guys it was a problem.”Tortelli passed Henry in a rhythm section just before the white flag. Henry, the winner of the 1997 supercross finale in Las Vegas, was looking for two in a row on the new Yamaha four-stroke but laid it down in the corner after the white flag. Tortelli blew through the mechanic’s area all alone and read his pit board. Craig Monty had written “2 for 2!” The mechanic was congratulating his rider for two wins; the first was the weekend prior at the Perris Raceway Invitational where they’d beaten Jeff Emig. Tortelli, still learning English, didn’t understand the idiom; he already thought he was in second place and seeing “2 for 2″ on his signal board, to him, solidified that. He crossed the finish line without even a fist pump but inside he was happy with his premier-class debut. “When I go to the podium and [ESPN's] Davey Coombs says, ‘Hey, congratulations, man, you won your first opener!’ I’m like, ‘What? Are you sure?’ I was very surprised.”The following week, Tortelli tweaked his knee and missed round two. Despite being top five in the points after seven rounds he was called back to Europe to battle Stefan Everts for the 250cc FIM World Motocross Championship, a title he won in the final round in Greece. In 1999, he returned to America with a goal of winning an AMA motocross title. “My strong point was always motocross. I knew in outdoors I was capable of winning so that was always my main focus.” Tortelli retired in 2006. He makes his home in Southern California where he runs the Champ Factory Motocross School, coaching professional riders such as Blake Wharton, Tommy Searle and Jason Anderson.
SX Win: February 22, 1997, Atlanta, GA
Credentials: 1994-’95 AMA SX 125 West Champion, 1997 World Supercross Champion, 1998 U.S. Open of Supercross winner
The pain wouldn’t go away so he pulled back into the pits. That, and it was unseasonably cold. Despite being in the high desert of Palmdale, California, patches of snow lined the track where Kawasaki was testing for the AMA Motocross Championship opener less than a week away in Gainesville, Florida, on March 2. After he handed the bike off to a mechanic, Damon Huffman gently, yet quickly, tore off his left boot and saw his foot was moving involuntarily. “Yeah, it’s broken.”He didn’t even crash: Huffman was still on a warm-up lap and working the stiffness out of his boots when his foot slipped in front of the peg and sucked his leg under the bike resulting in a broken fibula. Huffman had just won the Atlanta Supercross, one of the biggest highs of his career. “I couldn’t believe it. I kept on riding because I was expecting the pain to go away. That was really a bummer; I didn’t even get a chance to follow my win the next weekend or have all the guys say congratulations and all that.”In the Georgia Dome, just over 48 hours earlier, Huffman waited for the starting gate to fall. The card was sideways and the gate was being held longer than normal. In his peripheral he saw his competition flinch. “I dumped the clutch and timed it so clean and perfect that, out of the gate, I had about a bike length on everybody,” Huffman said. “Perfect start, shifting, timing and I killed them to the first turn.” But his memory wasn’t limited to his reaction time; he remembered how much he wished he would have stuck with his 1996 KX250 settings, and he chuckled when he recalled the boots he wore that night in Atlanta. “I wore AXO trail riding boots. They were super soft, and I was able to really feel the bike but the support wasn’t really there. I was struggling with my [MX] AXO boots that year; they were giving me fits and getting hung up on the bike.”Huffman recalled the two-man wrecking crew of Jeff Emig and Jeremy McGrath being close at the beginning but that’s it, just close. “A couple of times they showed me a wheel, but I put together 20 perfect laps and nobody was able to do anything about it.”The broken leg from testing two days later sidelined him for the rest of the 1997 supercross season. One year later Huffman suffered a broken femur in Pontiac, an injury that, he said, changed his career. “I kind of learned to be more cautious, which perhaps hurt my results. You go from being fearless, not worrying about what could happen to thinking, ‘Huh, maybe I need to be safer here.’ Very tough.” Huffman retired in 2005, spent a year off motorcycles and then went off-road in 2007 to race EnduroCross, WORCS and, in 2009, he won a gold medal at the ISDE in Portugal. Today, he and his wife raise their three kids in Santa Clarita, California, where he teaches private riding lessons and is currently studying to become a police officer.
SX Win: April 13, 2002, Pontiac, MI
Credentials: 1999 AMA SX 125 West Champion, 15 career SX 125 wins
From 2001-2006 a five-and-a-half-foot redhead from Florida named Ricky Carmichael often thwarted first-timers who wanted to win. By round 13 of the 2002 season he had eight victories and was enjoying a six-race win streak. Nathan Ramsey was RC’s teammate and the first factory Honda rider to compete on the new CRF450R four-stroke, and his night in Pontiac started lousy. “I just wasn’t feeling the flow all day,” Ramsey said. His bad feelings followed him all the way to the last-chance qualifier, a spot where eventual race winners seldom mingle. “I didn’t have much time in between [the LCQ and main event]. I remember going straight to the gate and being to the very outside.”On lap three, Carmichael, while planning his move on race leader Ernesto Fonseca, made his now-famous high-speed loop-out over a stutter step-up jump. With his front wheel pointed at the ceiling of the Silverdome, Carmichael rode his CR250R all the way to the ground where his hands were ripped from the handlebar and his body belly-flopped on the dirt. With his visor dangling in front of his goggles he scrambled to find his bike while the rest of the class, Ramsey included, passed by. “When that happened you could just see it; everybody’s eyes were just wide open going, ‘I could actually win this thing, he’s crashed!’ “Fonseca led half the race before being passed by Tim Ferry and Ezra Lusk. Ramsey, who tipped over on lap six, spent the majority of the main event in fourth. Late in the race Fonseca faded and Lusk and Ferry went down in the whoops; Ramsey was handed the lead and Carmichael was second by the end of lap 17. “It didn’t really sink in until I crossed the white flag,” Ramsey remembers about taking the lead. “I remember saying to myself, ‘OK, I’m leading this thing and I only got one lap to go. I only need to finish one lap and I’m going to win this main event!’ There was no way I was going to let anyone pass me. No way.”Carmichael’s night ended in a rare second place, a bike length from Ramsey whose favorite memory came after the finish. “I pulled up on the obstacle after the finish and it was pretty cool to have Ricky pull up on one side to congratulate me and McGrath pulled up on the other side. For me that was a big deal. Once you win one of those things you finally feel like you’re one of the guys.”
Ramsey rode for Joe Gibbs Racing in the second half of the 2009 season before retiring. Today he manages JDR Motorsports/KTM, an Australian-based team making its American entry into SX/MX in 2011.
SX Win: January 11, 1997, Los Angeles, CA
Credentials: 1992 125cc FIM World Motocross Champion, 1993-’94 250cc FIM World Motocross Champion, 1999 250cc AMA Motocross ChampionIn 1997, Greg Albertyn was finally confident. The three-time world motocross champion came to America in 1995 and had “injury after injury for two years straight,” he said. “I was a beaten-down rider.” That January he had an improved Suzuki and a new teammate, Jeremy McGrath, who brought the experience of four AMA supercross championships to the yellow brand. “Coming off the ’95 and ’96 seasons and having a bike that was really, really bad, we made a lot of progress for 1997. McGrath, coming off his Honda, still thought [Suzuki] was atrocious, but compared to what we came from it was absolutely leaps and bounds better.”That night the pressure was all on McGrath who had made his shocking switch to Suzuki two weeks prior to the start of the season. He was now the top rider on the team. But in the main event it was Albertyn, not McGrath, who battled with Jeff Emig early in the race. McGrath had a forgettable season debut: He crashed in the first corner and later tangled with Steve Lamson. At the halfway point, Albertyn was alone in the lead and the last 10 laps felt, “Like an eternity! I wanted it to end right there. I thought, ‘Oh my goodness, I better not throw this away.’ Things were flying that night but every rut felt magnified,” meaning the track was rough and the finish line couldn’t come soon enough.Albertyn said his fondest memory was crossing the finish line knowing he had finally done it. “To come there [America] and feel like a total amateur in supercross it was like, ‘Yes!’ ” Two years later he beat Kevin Windham for the 250cc AMA Motocross Championship. His only regret in his career was that he didn’t win more supercross races. He really wanted a supercross title, which was a tall order for any rider during the era of “Showtime.” “Jeremy McGrath was the greatest of the greats when I was racing. It was damn hard to beat the guy.” Today, Albertyn said he’s a “serial entrepreneur.” He is currently the American importer of the smartCrutch, an advanced forearm crutch designed and developed by his brother, Colin Albertyn.
SX Win: June 15, 1991, San Jose, CA
Credentials: 18-time World Vet Motocross champion
It was 1:00 a.m. in San Jose, California, and Damon Bradshaw was on the phone with his mother back in North Carolina where the sun was an hour from dawn. “Dubach won tonight! Can you believe it? Doug won!” Bradshaw screamed into the receiver while Dubach and Jeff Emig waited for their Grand Slams in a booth nearby. Dubach calls it his most treasured racing memory. Three hours after the checkered flag at the San Jose Supercross the Yamaha teammates celebrated at a Denny’s near Spartan Stadium. Dubach had beaten Bradshaw for the 250 class victory, and Emig was the 125 West main event winner.Like John Dowd, Dubach scrapped for everything he ever got as a professional racer. He raced AMA Motocross Nationals while working full-time, and in 1984, laid off from his pool cleaning job, he hitched a ride with Mike Beier to race in Gainesville, Florida. On a clapped-out, mostly stock RM125 and with no mechanic, Dubach finished 5-12 and decided to stay on the road. In 1990, after three years of soldiering his way through Yamaha’s factory support program he was offered a contract to be a full factory rider.The San Jose Supercross was the second to last of an 18-round schedule. It was Dubach’s second race back from injury and he felt fast, particularly in a set of whoops that led into the finish line tabletop. “I remember Keith McCarty telling me at the end of practice, ‘If you can go that fast all night through those whoops, you’re going to make a lot of money tonight.’ Which I thought was a funny comment,” Dubach said. The main event, now a classic, had five different leaders but Dubach led the last lap. Late in the race, running third, Dubach watched Jeff Matiasevich and Guy Cooper slam each other, a rivalry still boiling from one week prior, in Oklahoma City. “It was almost like I wrote the screenplay because I was back there in third going, ‘Oh these guys are going to kill each other,’ ” Dubach said. Cooper finally made a pass stick through the whoops before the white flag but he wasn’t able to protect the inside line from Matiasevich in the next corner. Matiasevich came hot into the corner, which had a single roller, and jumped right into Cooper’s front end to cost both riders the win. Dubach, who was already content to have outright passed Jeff Stanton earlier, was now in the lead. On the final lap, Bradshaw, who started the race in last after getting stuck in the gate, aggressively passed Stanton for second but his teammate had a safe enough distance to win his first AMA supercross main event.At 47 years of age, Dubach is the most feared rider in the World Vet Championships where he competes and has wins in both the 30-plus and 40-plus divisions. The 18-time champion also runs Dubach Racing Development, an aftermarket exhaust and accessory company.
SX Win: March 17, 1990, Las Vegas, NV
Credentials: 1988-’89 AMA SX 125 West Champion, two career AMA 125/250 Motocross wins, 1995-1997 All-Japan Motocross Champion
Sitting in an emergency room bed at a Corona, California, hospital, Jeff Matiasevich held his left shoulder and the thoughts running through his head were not good. He was still trying to forget how his shot at winning the 1990 AMA Supercross Championship imploded six months ago; now his chances of being competitive enough to win the 1991 title looked grim. Christmas was in a few days and the start of the new season just over three weeks away. Then the man in the bed next to him died of a heart attack. “I remember sitting in the hospital wishing I was just [long pause] like, suicide would be the only answer to how, you know, I was so bummed,” Matiasevich said. “And the hospital staff brought in a guy and he started screaming. The guy had a heart attack right there in the bed next to me. I thought, ‘Well, I guess life isn’t that bad.’ ” Earlier that afternoon, Jeff “Chicken” Matiasevich went over the bar in the whoops while supercross testing in California for Kawasaki. He had torn the muscles from his left shoulder blade and his 1991 season suffered because of it.It was a crushing blow to Matiasevich who, as a rookie, led the 1990 AMA Supercross Championship from round four through 15 of 18. Round seven in Las Vegas was where he took his sole supercross win, a race that he dominated for 19 laps. “The track was more technical and suited my style a little better,” he said. “You wake up on those days and everything seems real easy. From the first practice on I felt like I was just one step above everybody else. When I got in the lead, Jean-Michel Bayle was in second; I had about four seconds on him, and I was marking him in every turn. That pace was like a walk in the park for me.” With two hands in the air, Chicken crossed the finish line and extended his series lead to 14 points over eventual champion Jeff Stanton. Matiasevich was a consistent podium finisher until round 15 in Foxboro, Massachusetts, where he struggled to a ninth-place finish and allowed Stanton to close within one point of the championship lead. His season unraveled from that race as Stanton won two of the last three. “I was pretty pissed off that I didn’t get that championship,” Matiasevich said. “In my whole racing career the only thing I ever cared about was winning a 250cc supercross title. When I won the 125cc titles they didn’t really mean anything to me. I never had any doubts that I was going to get the [250cc] championship.”In 1995, Matiasevich received an offer from Kawasaki of Japan to compete in the All-Japan Motocross Championship. For Kawasaki, appointing American riders helped them with production model development while raising the level of competition on their national motocross series. Matiasevich swept the series for three seasons before retiring from the sport. Now he works on the sales team of Veg-Land, a Fullerton, California-based company founded by his father that specializes in produce consolidation, storage and transportation.
SX Win: March 1, 1980, Atlanta, GA
Credentials: 1980 AMA 500cc Motocross Champion, 1981 USGP winner, 1981 Motocross of Nations winning team member
Chuck Sun almost scrapped his dream of becoming a motocross champion. After three consecutive injuries that included a sliced leg, torn cartilage and broken bones, he seriously considered going to college. Husqvarna didn’t have a budget to pay him but it did give him a truck and a mechanic. In the fall of 1979, he headed to Mid-Ohio for a Trans-AMA race where he bested Roger DeCoster and Brad Lackey in a moto. “All of a sudden I was on the radar again,” Sun said. The Oregonian soon found himself poring over contracts from Kawasaki, Can-Am, Husqvarna and Honda. He went with Honda, which hired all new riders in 1980. “The bike that they built was really trick. It was lightweight, had Pro-Link suspension and was a true works bike. I loved riding that thing.”Sun’s supercross victory came in Fulton County Stadium, home of the Atlanta Braves baseball team and site of Hank Aaron’s record-breaking 715th home run six years earlier. Yes, an open-air stadium in Atlanta in March often meant rain. Some of the best mud races ever were run in Fulton County, and Chuck Sun owns the 1980 edition. “It wasn’t a super mud fest but it was sloppy; enough to give us guys from the Northwest an edge.” Sun led most of the main event but his win was nearly sabotaged when his former Husqvarna teammate, Kent Howerton, unintentionally pinned the leader in a corner. “I went to the inside on him when I was lapping him-he had some troubles in the mud-and lo and behold, he goes down on top of my bike and I had to wait until he picked up his bike and took off.” While the Atlanta win was sweet, and Sun said he didn’t sleep all night, today he can more easily remember a race he didn’t win: The first main event of a double header in New Orleans two months after his win in Atlanta. The race was televised (Larry Huffman and former Olympic gold medalist, Bruce Jenner, were the announcers), and the course featured a man-made water hole that Sun was blasting through. Mike Bell, Sun and Darrell Schultz all exchanged the lead, but it was Sun and Bell who battled on the final lap. Bell made the last pass one corner before the finish. “To this day I’m still sick over losing that race.”In the fall of 1980, Sun won the AMA 500cc Motocross Championship, came within 10 points of winning the title again in 1982 and then retired from racing. “I think I was pacified with my wins outdoors,” Sun said of not winning more in supercross. “I always considered myself an outdoor guy. Supercross was very, very cool but it was kind of an extra thing. In my mind the outdoors was the real thing, the real prestige.” Sun stayed in the motorcycle industry after retirement; he is now a sales and marketing consultant.
SX Win: March 15, 1974, Houston, TX
Credentials: First American to win an FIM World Motocross race (Spain, 1973), four career FIM World Motocross GP victories
Jim Pomeroy, man of many things “first American” as a motocross racer, was also winner of the first-ever indoor supercross race. The Houston Astrodome was round two of the newly established AMA Supercross Championship, and Pomeroy was killing time before he returned to Europe for the 1974 FIM World Motocross Championships. In the previous season he won the Spanish GP, becoming the first American to win an FIM GP. To riders like Pomeroy, pioneers trying to prove to the world that Americans could win in world motocross, supercross was a sideshow. “Jimmy hated man-made courses; he didn’t like supercross.” As his mechanic, Arnie Beaman knew Jim Pomeroy well. “The more they made the jumps for the crowd pleasing, the more he hated it,” Beaman said.”We called it a gladiator sport,” said Ron Pomeroy, Jim’s younger brother and former racer himself. “Spectators could see all the action and all the thrills and spills, and all the tracks were so tight that all you could do was knock someone down to pass them. None of us liked that.” The Houston track, built by Gary Bailey, was fast and had a blue groove in it. There was no such thing as supercross settings in 1974, and Beaman robbed the frame of a Bultaco flat track bike and shoved a Pursang motor into it. “We were experimenting back then,” Beaman said. The R&D paid off for Beaman and Pomeroy. “Jimmy dominated all night long. I knew right from practice that nobody was going to be able to touch him. They had a turn that had a berm around the outside. Jimmy used the berm and nobody else did. He hit it in fifth gear and that’s where all the time was made up.” Beaman’s recollections of the night were from a different angle than Ron Pomeroy’s; Ron was in the race with Jim. Supercross had 40-man finals in 1974, and Ron was at the back of the pack. “All of a sudden here comes Jim,” Ron said. “I didn’t know he was coming up on me that fast and we bumped each other because I was in his line. He yelled at me because he didn’t realize that I didn’t know he was there. I almost knocked him down on accident!”When he turned 50, Jim began competing in the American Historic Racing Motorcycle Association’s vintage motocross series where he became a three-time champion of the 50-plus expert division. Pomeroy was killed in August 2006 in a Jeep rollover accident near Yakima, Washington.
SX Win: March 9, 1974, Daytona Beach, FL
Credentials: 1974 AMA 250cc Supercross Champion, 1973 AMA 500cc Motocross Champion
It was 37 years ago, but the most distinct memory Holland’s Pierre Karsmakers has about the 1974 Daytona Supercross was not getting the chance to race against Roger DeCoster who, at the time, was the three-time defending FIM 500cc World Motocross champion. “Right before the race he decided to not race in the race I participated,” Karsmakers said. “I was in very good shape and he was probably afraid of losing the race against me.” The AMA ran a 500cc Supercross Championship through 1975; DeCoster won the 500cc main event that afternoon. Without “The Man,” Karsmakers was left to battle with Rex Staten for the win on the Gary Bailey-designed Daytona track, which was, as always, moist, free of dust and full of telephone poles. Karsmakers remembers that the “…Spectators were very enthusiastic, more so than for the 200-mile roadrace that year!”In the early 70s, Karsmakers was the only top European competing full-time on the AMA circuits. For the Americans, motocross was still new and having a rider from Holland cleaning house was a challenge. He won the 1973 AMA 500cc Motocross title and the inaugural running of the AMA 250cc Supercross Championship, a series that included only two points-paying rounds. Over a three-year period, Karsmakers won 30 AMA motocross, supercross, Inter-AMA and Trans-AMA races. He was the winningest foreigner of AMA races until Chad Reed passed him just two years ago.Karsmakers retired from racing in 1979 and moved back to Europe at the age of 34, happy with the years he spent racing for Yamaha and Honda. He imported motocross parts and accessories from America until 2006 when he sold his business. At 64, he now calls northeastern Belgium home and still rides every chance he gets.