Following last week's all-time SX win list, this week's Racer X Bench Racing Ammo dives into the career leaders in supercross starts. Thanks to our friend Denny Hartwig at Feld Motorsports for providing these stats. These riders are the warriors of supercross and if all goes to plan, we may have a new all-time leader sometime early in 2014.
All-Time Career SX Starts
1.) Mike LaRocco - 228
Matthes: The Rock sits number one in starts, and while he's only 18th all-time in wins, I’d have to think that if you added up all-time top fives, Mike would be right up there. LaRocco also comes from a different era where you tried to get out of the 125 class and into the premier class which is the opposite of what happens now. Larocco started in the 125s in 1988 and was full-time by ’90 on a factory Suzuki. No matter what color or type of bike (he rode Yamahas, Kawasakis, Suzukis and Hondas, 250 two-strokes and 450 four-strokes) Mike adapted his style and ran up front.
Weege: What's really impressive is that LaRocco was actually quite injury-prone early in his 250 career, wrist and arm injuries cost him time in 1993 and 1995. Dude missed some races but came climbing back. And while the no-flash LaRocco probably doesn't seem like a trend-setter, he really is. In a previous era, he would have retired in 1997 after a dissapointing two-year stint with factory Suzuki. Instead, he built a new team with Factory Connection (today's GEICO Honda) and rebuilt his career. This is common place now (look at number two on this list) but it was really against-the-odds back in 1998.
Also worth mentioning, LaRocco was set to race through the end of '06 but broke his wrist in practice at Indianapolis, which cut his final season about seven races short. Those seven extra starts could loom large as Windham closes.
2.) Kevin Windham - 204
Matthes: Windham wants to race until the end of 2014, so barring injury, he could retire in the number-one spot for total premier class main events. Quite an achievement for KW. And think about how many more he’d have if he didn’t break his femur in ’02 and basically miss the rest of that season and all of 2003.
Weege: LaRocco is also not known as a jokester, but when Windham made career start #200, they brought "The Rock" out in opening ceremonies to give Windham a plaque. And Mike (now Windham's team manager) said, “Once he starts getting up there with my number, don't be surprised if his bike doesn't start one night.” LOL, MLR.
What more can really be said about Windham? He's awesome. He delayed he quest by missing the last few rounds last year after his failed K-Dub scrub in Houston. Stop doing that!
Mike LaRocco sits #1 on the all-time SX starts list with 228.
Racer X Archive photo
3.) Larry Ward - 189
Matthes: Big Bird’s only got three wins, but he raced at a very high level for many years both as a factory rider and privateer. He remains to this day a bit of a mystery as he just walked away without much fanfare at the end of ’03. Dear Larry Ward, please come home. We miss you. Sincerely, your fans.
Weege: Is it just me or is Larry Ward all over the Racer X site lately? Funny, Ward and LaRocco started at the exact same time for the exact same team—factory Suzuki in 1990! But LaRocco's early injury woes allowed Big Bird to log more races at one point. But after a rough season with factory Kawi in 2000, Ward didn't return to the premier class until 2003, and that was for one year with Moto XXX. LaRocco made up huge ground in these all-time start stats in the last five years of his career.
4.) Jeremy McGrath - 173
Matthes: MC retired before the 2003 season after the two World Supercross rounds and we all thought we’d seen the last of MC. But he came back for Honda two years later and put in another twelve races over a two-year span to pull away from Jeff Ward in all-time starts. To this day, Jeremy credits racing an SX-only schedule starting in ’99 as a reason why he was able to keep racing for so many years.
Weege: Good point on SX-only. It helped extend McGrath, Windham and LaRocco. When Windham won the Steel City National a few years ago, he told me afterwards that he was, “hammered.” I said, “Wow, already? The race just ended!” But he wasn't drunk (yet), he just said his back was killing him. Hard to run national-winning motocross pace when you've got this much mileage on you!
5.) Jeff Ward - 160
Matthes: If you had asked me where Jeff Ward stood on this list before seeing it, I would have said top three easily, but he’s only 5th. Ward had an incredibly long career but I suppose there were some injuries in there, and he didn’t race 250SX at all early in his career. I wonder if Jeff is laying there at night cursing himself for not getting in a few extra races back in the day to stay ahead of McGrath? Yeah, I don’t either.
Weege: I agree. Seemed like Ward hung around longer than anyone. And remember, this is the guy who says he once rode for 97-straight days or something! He also told me he's never been burned out on riding, ever.
K-Dub has a chance to pass LaRocco if he is able to stay healthy over the next two seasons.
Simon Cudby photo
6.) Nick Wey - 154
Matthes: Lookee here, Nick Wey sixth all-time in career premier class supercross starts! In the last decade or so, racers have made better money and taken better care of themselves, so they can race longer. Jeff Stanton and Mark Barnett both quit when they were 26 years old and now we see dudes like Wey, Larocco and Ferry go on and on. That's pretty cool, as a guy like Wey is still plenty capable of running top ten, so why not keep going? Wey’s got a few podiums in his career, yet he was only on a true factory team in 250SX for one year.
Weege: Injuries will keep Wey from getting anymore supercross starts this year, but hopefully he'll get some more in 2014.
7.) Chad Reed - 148
Matthes: With Wey taking the supercross season off due to injury, Reed should pass him and Jeff Ward (who’s probably not coming back—although he would probably like to) this season and end up right behind MC. Reed’s got an 80 percent podium rate in his career and that’s simply amazing.
Weege: Hmm, the industry thought Reed was done, but he started a team based around his own Honda effort and proved the doubters wrong? Hello, Mike LaRocco just called from 1998!
Matthes: Where’s the Discount Tire antenna balls?
8.) Jason Thomas - 127
Matthes: Say what you want about Thomas as far as his lack of wins and podiums but the sheer fact that he’s on this list and is the only guy without a factory ride at some point says a lot about the newest Racer X staff member. JT has now hung up the boots as far as USA supercrosses go but you can find him racing in Greece, Germany and God knows where else.
Weege: I think we can use this to safely say JT was the eighth best supercross racer ever. Fair?
Matthes: Seems fair to me. Stamp it.
9.) Tim Ferry - 120
Matthes: YES! Isn’t it funny that Reed, Thomas and Ferry were all weekly riding buddies? I wonder if they all looked at each other at one point and realized that they’ve all been doing this stuff for way too long? Ferry’s 250SX career didn’t start until 1998 (and he quickly blew out his knee) as he was from the era where you stayed in 125s as long as you could get paid (hello Ping!). He raced 125SX for SIX years! Give him four of those years in the premier class, carry the four, add the two and he’s in there with Big Bird and Windham. Yes, I just did some impossible math but I will soon turn it into fact inside my warped brain.
Weege: Matthes, if Timmy and O'Show are tied at 120, what was your tie-breaker?
Matthes: The tie-breaker was awesomeness. I did have to physically fight all-time O'Show fan Eric Johnson for this spot, though.
10.) Johnny O'Mara - 120
Matthes: O’Mara had a long, great career, and he does have a title right in the thick of one of the most stacked fields ever (1984). And he remains in the sport to this day.
Weege: Look at a picture of O'Mara and Jeff Ward and check out their boots. Dudes were wearing ballet slippers compared to today's stuff. These guys can go on and on about racing with ankle and knee injuries. And their training programs were outrageous. Did you know they would do triathlons the day after supercross races? Pure gnarliness, these guys.
Jeff Ward sits fifth on the all-time starts list.
Racer X Archive photo
11.) Ricky Carmichael - 115
Matthes: No doubt RC left some races on the table by retiring at the top, but he accomplished so much, and made so much money, that he able to walk away at a young-ish age. Giving him the credit for the 2004 SX season (he missed it due to a knee injury) would put him up there behind Reed in all-time starts.
Weege: Honestly surprised to see RC up here since he stepped out when he was still fully capable of winning races.
12.) Jeff Emig - 113
Matthes: A few years ago, I told 'Fro he should tell more stories from his career in today's SX telecasts. He told me, “I wasn’t really that good at supercross”. What? After I picked my jaw up off the floor, I reminded him that he actually was really good at it. He won a darned title! He also had the unfortunate luck of racing against McGrath. An injury right before the 2000 season cut 'Fro's career short, he could be much higher on this list as well. But then again, so could all the guys save for Larocco and Ward.
Weege: Also surprised to see 'Fro up here considering an injury cit him short. Had he raced 2000, he'd be be eighth all-time. He did get some bonus races in when he pointed out of the 125 class after '91, and had to run the full 250 sched in '92. There's a long and complicated story about how it all went down, which is pretty much always the case with the pointing out rules.