Chad Reed’s 1999 SX Debut
There’s no disputing the fact Chad Reed is one of the sport’s all-time greats. With 44 premier-class wins in the USA since 2003, the 35-year-old Australian sits fourth on the all-time win list (behind Jeremy McGrath, 70, James Stewart, 50, and Ricky Carmichael, 48), while his incredible tally of 130 podiums makes him the sport’s most prolific podium placegetter ever (with 111 podiums, Jeremy McGrath runs a distant second to Reed, and these two are the only riders to have notched up more than 100 AMA SX podiums).
But for Chad Reed, the past two years haven’t been particularly memorable – largely because they’re the only two years in the past 15 in which he hasn’t claimed at least one AMA SX race win (when Reedy hasn’t been injured, anyway); a stat that’s prompted doubts over Chad Reed’s ability to notch up a 45th victory and, in doing so, re-write the record books as the sport’s oldest-ever race winner.
All of which prompted us to cast out minds back to a balmy night in 1999, when 16-year-old supercross debutante, Chad Reed, was unceremoniously stripped of his first ever SX race win in front of a parochial hometown crowd at Newcastle Speedway.
The account of that memorable night in Newcastle, penned by Transmoto’s Andy Wigan, was first published in the April 2012 (Issue #18) of Transmoto Magazine.
The day that 16-year-old supercross debutante, Chad Reed, was stripped of his first ever premier-class supercross win.
It’s the opening round of the 1999 Australian Supercross Championship at the Newcastle Speedway. A massive crowd has turned out on a balmy Saturday night to see local heroes, Craig Anderson and his 16-year-old cousin, Chad Reed, go bar-to-bar in the premier 250cc two-stroke class. The stage is set and there’s a buzz about the ground. Craig Anderson is the reason Chad Reed became a racer to begin with, and the 1997 and 1998 Supercross Champion has been Reedy’s hero and mentor for years. But tonight is Chad Reed’s debut race in the big league. The kid from Kurri Kurri finally gets his chance to peg himself against Australia’s best. And the dynamic between two of Newcastle’s favourite moto-sons is about to change forever.
Like most speedway venues, Newcastle Speedway is poorly lit, reeks of fast food, and feels like a relic of an era when racers ran Brylcream and sideburns, not flat-brimmed baseball caps. Nonetheless, supercross was pumping back in the late 1990s. Massive crowds were just as happy to rough it in the low-rent speedway bleachers as they were to indulge in the indoor comfort of the tennis centres.
Anyway, Reed gets a poor start at Newcastle on his Team MSR Silkolene Suzuki RM250, but manages to claw his way back to about seventh place by lap 15. Meanwhile, Peter Melton, Craig Anderson, Cameron Taylor, Lee Hogan, Troy Dorron, Andrew McFarlane and Daryl Hurley all duke it out at the head of the field. Whether it’s the shithouse lighting or the distraction of lappers, no one seems to notice the phenomenal charge Reed mounts in the latter stages of the race. But with a couple of laps remaining, the crowd suddenly realises the 16-year-old Reed will finish on the podium. And when he passes
Craig Anderson for second, the whole joint erupts. Everyone’s on their feet, chanting for the young Reed.
“When Chad passed me for second position,” Craig Anderson recalls, “it was toward the end of the whoops section – or ‘stutters’, as we called them back then. The weird thing is that Chad was sitting down when he went past. I assumed that he’d got out of shape early in the whoops and speared off the side of the track, which is why he was sitting. I was pretty tired by that stage of the race and knew Chad had it over me on the final laps, so I didn’t think much of it. I kind of accepted third, while Chad set off after Peter Melton.”
When the chequers fall just a couple of laps later, Reed has somehow snuck through on the final lap and stolen victory from right under the nose of veteran, Peter Melton. The parochial Novocastrian crowd goes absolutely berserk, as does Reedy. Having just recovered from a badly broken leg from his debut Pro motocross ride late in 1998, the kid has won his first ever supercross race in the premier class. Of course, he’s ecstatic.
But Reed’s celebrations are short-lived. Back in the pit paddock, a gathering of riders, officials and team managers is getting increasingly animated. Reed peers around the corner of his Suzuki race truck to see what all the commotion is about, and saunters down to investigate. Allegations are flying about how Reed had cut the track and the angry mob is insisting that officials take drastic action. It’s a highly charged scene, fuelled by a volatile concoction of competitive spirit and adrenaline, and before Reed’s had much of a chance to take in what’s going on, he’s been relegated to fourth in what seems like a glorious stroke of arbitrary officialdom.
“What?!” Reed goes nuts from the backstalls. “That is bullshit! I didn’t cut the track. You’re all just pissed that I beat you. I won fair and square and you’re all scared to admit it. You know what? I don’t even care, cos I’m going to whip you all so bad next week. And you all know it!” With that, Reed turns and walks off, his jaw grinding and eyes fixed firmly on the ground.
‘Jesus, how’s that for bravado?’, I think to myself. The kid is 16 years old, but hardly intimidated. It’s only his first supercross race and he’s serving it up – on and off the track – to veterans of the sport he idolised just months prior. Whether Reed had cut the track or not remains open to interpretation. But it’s clear to most that if the promoter hadn’t scrimped on haybales and bunting, there’d be little room for creative lines.
The following weekend at Orange, Reed arrives with a steely look in his eye. He appears older and wiser somehow, even though it’s only been a week. And he blows everyone to the weeds. Embarrasses them. Chad goes on to win the remaining four rounds of the 1999 Australian Supercross Championship, walks away with the title, and signs a deal with the CDR Yamaha team for 2000 – a move that would help him score a ride in Europe in 2001 and then America in 2002 … from where, the Kurri Kurri Kid has done pretty well for himself.
“I had been off the bike for three months with a broken leg. I’d landed back in Australia a few days earlier from my first ever trip to the USA, so to say I was amped up to race in front of my hometown crowd, is an understatement. The main didn’t start well. I crashed in the first turn, came back to about fourth, and then crashed again. I quickly regrouped to try fight for a podium, but realised the boys were not very fast and extremely outta shape, so I ate ’em up the last half of the race to take the win over Reggie [Melton] and Ando. Coming through the pack, I was able to see all the new lines on the insides of the track. There were three developed lines throughout the track, so clearly I had to follow those lines. The boys were just pissed the new kid came in and smoked ’em; they thought it wasn’t possible to be that fast without cutting. The stewards sided with them and I was put back to fourth. I told the stewards to just put me to last. I looked them all in the eyes and told them I’d smoke ’em next weekend anyway. Guess I was an extremely confident 16-year-old. They fired me up.
I remember it like it was yesterday?
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