Australia’s First AMA SX Win
After qualifying in a season-best second place last weekend at the Atlanta round of the 2017 AMA SX series, Chad Reed fans rejoiced that the 34-year-old Aussie might even be on-track for his 45th career win in the premier class, and re-write the record books as the sport’s oldest winner. Combined with the fact it’d be the final time an AMA SX round would appear at Atlanta’s Georgia Dome, we got so excited that we even revisited Reed’s last win – two years and 31 race-starts ago at this very same venue.
Sadly, an average start and an uncharacteristic crash at the end of whoops section (notably, the second weekend in succession) relegated Reed to 14th on the weekend, after which he fought back valiantly to finish seventh. But that elusive 45th win would have to wait.
All of which had everyone at Transmoto HQ reminiscing about Reed’s first ever AMA SX win; almost 15 years ago to the day, at the RCA Dome in Indianapolis, aboard a Yamaha of Troy YZ250F, on a team managed by Australia’s Craig Dack. Here’s Andy Wigan’s first-hand account of that historic night back in 2002, when – amid a bizarre series of circumstances – the 19-year-old Reed became Australia’s first AMA SX winner, and set himself on an amazing career path.
The strange series of events surrounding the night Chad Reed became Australia’s first-ever AMA Supercross race winner:
On February 2, 2002, at Indianapolis’s RCA Dome, in front of 60,000 screaming fans, 19-year-old Chad Reed won the opening round of the East Coast 125cc Supercross Series. In doing so, he became the first Australian to ever win an AMA Supercross race; an accomplishment that fulfilled the kid’s lifelong dream. It was also a feather in the cap of his team manager, Australia’s Craig Dack, who had played a major role in signing Chad Reed to Yamaha of Troy. But the historic win wasn’t without incident. In fact, it was one of the most eventful nights of Chad Reed’s racing career. Having stayed with Chad and his girlfriend, Ellie, in the weeks leading up to that series opener, Transmoto’s Andy Wigan and the now KTM Off-Road team manager, Brad Williscroft, bore first-hand witness to a bizarre series of events that unfolded that night in Indianapolis. This is Wigan’s account of what went down…
After finishing runner-up to Mickael Pichon in the ’01 World 250cc MX Championship, and then going 5-6 at the opening two rounds of the 2002 250cc AMA Supercross Series in SoCal, Chad Reed is already firmly on the radar for factory team managers in the USA. But coming into the series that he’s actually contracted by YoT to race – the East Coast 125cc SX – Reedy is not in a good way. Two weeks prior, a practice crash has left him bruised and battered and unable to even get on the bike since. Somehow, Chad manages to put the pain out of his mind, and he looks sharp from the second he rolls onto the RCA Dome’s track.
He qualifies fastest, just ahead of fellow Aussie, Amsoil Honda’s Michael Byrne.
In the main event, Reedy gets an average start, but carves through the pack, locks onto the rear wheel of Pro Circuit Kawasaki’s Mike Brown, and challenges for the lead. Riding out of his skin, Byrne has simultaneously rocketed into third, and looks a chance of hunting down Reed and Brown. Williscroft and I look at each other in utter disbelief from the press box. Two Aussies running top-three in an AMA Supercross main – it’s unprecedented!
Suddenly, Burner’s bike bogs on the triple’s upramp. He lands horribly short and with a sickening thud. Reed, meanwhile, blows by Brownie, immediately gaps him, and extends his margin each lap until the chequers. Williscroft and I tear down to the pits. By the time we get there, Burner has already been carted off to hospital, while Chad is sporting a split watermelon smile from the podium. He’s just whipped Mike Brown, Buddy Antunez, John Dowd, Steve Boniface, Kelly Smith, Larry Ward, Greg Schnell and Brandon Jesseman, and he’s confronted by a large contingent of media, who seem to have collectively identified him as the next big thing. Officials are tugging at his jersey, insisting he get to the press conference pronto, but Jim Holley intercepts him for an online interview. Supercross legend, Ricky Johnson, then makes a beeline for Reed to congratulate him. “Who was that?” Chad asks me, still getting a hurry-up for the press conference. When I realise he’s not joking, I tell him it was the great RJ himself.
Craig Dack then discovers that Brown’s team has lodged a protest, arguing that Chad has jumped under the yellow flag – the one that marked Michael Byrne’s stretchered exit from the track – and Reed is summoned to answer some curly questions by AMA Racing watchdog, Duke Finch. Ten minutes later, he emerges with a $2500 fine. But the win stands. Media obligations complete, Chad’s attention then turns to Burner, so we all bundled into the hire car and head to the hospital. The joint is blood-stained bedlam. “I bet this isn’t how you expected to be celebrating a dream come true, mate,” I say to a wide-eyed Chad Reed. “No, it isn’t,” he sniggers. “I feel sorry for Burner, and I’d like to think that he’d do the same thing for me if I was in the same position. When you’re away from home, it’s all about friends and people you can depend on.”
The truth of the matter is that the two hadn’t spoken much in the lead-up to the series opener, as both Aussies regarded each other as their biggest title threat. Burner is not in a good way when we find him after a maze of Emergency Ward madness. He’s got tubes coming out of every orifice. Hectic doctors return sporadically to check on his progress, and the X-rays confirm he has fractures to ribs, ankle, spine and shoulder. His lungs are collapsed and he’s struggling for breath. When the drugs take effect, Burner’s pain finally subsides enough for him to speak. He rolls his eyes toward Reedy and asks, “Did you pass Brownie and win?”
“Yeah,” is all Chad says; the importance of the achievement paling into insignificance in the company of a badly injured mate.
After a long pause, Burner confidently predicts, “I would have passed Brownie and made the podium.”
“Yeah, you would have. He was done after I got by him,” says Reedy. “But y’know what, Burner? Your crash cost me 25-hundred bucks, mate,” blurts Reed, with a smart-arse grin. Byrne musters half a smile himself and mumbles, “Yeah, well that crash cost me the championship!” Before the morphine takes hold and he drifts off into la-la land.
It’s a classic moment to witness. One bloke on the top of the world and the other in the depths of despair – but both racers to their core; two mates on the other side of the world who can still share a joke at a moment in history neither will ever forget. Brad Williscroft and I sure won’t.
BEFORE FEB 2, 2002
- July, 1999: Youngest rider to win the Australian 250cc SX C’ship.
- March, 2000: Youngest rider to compete in the 500cc class of the World MX C’ship.
- July/Aug, 2001: First Aussie to stand on the podium of the 250cc World MX C’ship, and first Aussie to win a moto in that class.
- Sept, 2001: Finishes second in the World 250cc MX C’ship – best ever result by an Aussie in the class, and matches Jeff Leisk’s second place in the 1989 World 500cc MX C’ship.
- Sept, 2001: At Belgium’s infamous Namur track, he becomes the first Aussie to ever win a moto at the MX of Nations.
SINCE FEB 2, 2002
From there on, everything that Chad Reed achieved was a first for an Australian:
- Wins East Coast 125cc AMA SX C’ship (2002).
- Wins World 250cc SX C’ship (2003).
- Wins AMA SX C’ship (2004, 2008).
- Wins AMA 450cc MX C’ship (2009).
- Wins Australasian Super X Series (2008, 2009, 2010).
- From 148 Supercross-class starts in America, Chad has now notched up 41 wins, 119 podiums and 126 top-five positions.
This content was originally published in Transmoto’s print magazine in November, 2012 (Issue #25).