Alright, back to the lousy seasons last year’s 250SX champions had in 2022. It was bad luck for both of them, but their lives and careers went on, and now they’re humming along again. That hasn’t always been the case for the defending champions. Sometimes things go really, really wrong, like in 1982. That’s when Team Honda teammates Donnie Hansen and Darrell Shultz each had the best years of their careers. Hansen swept both AMA Supercross and 250 Pro Motocross, while Shultz won the 500 Pro Motocross title. But no sooner was the season over than Hansen suffered a serious injury in West Germany while preparing for the upcoming Motocross and Trophy of Nations. He was so concussed that he never raced professionally again. As for Shultz, he fought so hard winning that 500m title, tearing his knee and puncturing his lung, that he decided he was done with him too. So of the four No. 1s who were supposed to be there in 1983, three left the sport.
In 1979, Bob “Hurricane” Hannah was at the top of his game. He had just won the AMA Supercross and 250 Pro Motocross titles, but at the end of the season he was injured in a waterskiing accident with buddy/rival Marty Tripes driving the boat. Hannah ran into rocks at Lake Havasu and broke her leg, knocking her out of the 1980 season altogether. The hurricane would return, but she would never be champions again.
The same goes for Rick Johnson in 1989. He was well on his way to defending his AMA Supercross championship when he collided with Danny Storbeck at the first round of 250 Pro Motocross in Gainesville (back when the series overlapped) and broke his wrist. Like Hannah, RJ would return, but he would never be the same again.
Ricky Carmichael might have won six AMA Supercross championships in a row if not for a practice accident while preparing for the 2004 season, where he was aiming for a fourth straight SX title. He tore his knee enough to require surgery, which ruled him out of supercross. The accident ultimately cost him his contract with Honda, although he returned that summer and swept all 24 motos away for his second perfect season, then moved to Suzuki. Then he added two more AMA Supercross crowns. (No, Ricky wouldn’t have worn #1, preferring his #4, but the point remains the same!)
In 2012, Ryan Villopoto won his second of four straight Monster Energy AMA Supercross crowns and was already planning to defend his 450 MX title when he dabbed his leg at the Seattle SX and ended up tearing an ACL. It took him out of the outdoors, but he came back in 13 and added another SX title.
James Stewart saw his two AMA Supercross title defenses end badly. In 2008, he was tied with rival Chad Reed after two rounds when he was sent off with a knee injury, ending his first title defense. And then in 2010, while defending his second title, he injured his wrist in the second round in Phoenix. He tried to go on the third lap and actually finished on the podium, but the wrist hurt too much. Turns out he had broken his navicular.
In 1986 David Bailey lost the AMA Supercross title to Ricky Johnson and then beat RJ for the 500 Pro Motocross title. After a great off-season of testing, Bailey was ready to battle RJ (as well as Kawasaki’s Jeff Ward and Ron Lechien) when he crashed at a Golden State race in California and suffered an injury. on the back ending his career.
Finally, there is Grant Langston, who in 2007 became the first 450 Pro Motocross champion of the post-Ricky Carmichael era aboard a Yamaha YZ450F. But then GL started having problems with his eyes and went to the doctors. They discovered that he had cancer, which required intensive treatment. He was never able to race the No. 1 he had won, just as had happened with his 2000 FIM 125cc World Championship (because he moved to America), his ’03 AMA 125 title Pro Motocross (he moved up to the 250 class), his ’05 125 East SX title (he changed regions for the following year), and his ’06 SX Lites title (he moved up). Multi-champion Langston wasn’t always unlucky, but he was on the move most of the time!
Daniel Rogerson put together this awesome reel of drone highlights he captured this summer in the AMA Pro Motocross Championship – Daniel is the rider as well as a video editor: