You have to be pretty special to make this list as an active racer with only one AMA National Motocross title (so far), as there have been so many incredible motocross racers over the years who managed to win one title or more. But Australian’s favorite moto son Chad Reed was never in doubt, he was going to make the list; it was just a matter of where.
In an interesting contrast, yesterday’s #25, Brad Lackey, only logged one real season in the U.S. before leaving for Europe to chase his fortunes in the GPs. Reed did the opposite, spending one season in Europe racing the GPs (he finished a strong second in the 250 GPs to Mikael Pichon) before moving to chase his fortunes here. Despite Reed using up a year of his prime in the GPs (which don’t count for this countdown) and also electing to not race the Nationals here for two years, we put Reed at #24 for what he’s done, what he could’ve done and what he’s still got going on. Chad’s never been as good outdoors as he’s been indoors (he was our number six on our all-time supercross list earlier this year) but that’s only because his star is so bright under the lights that we sometimes forget just how fast he is under the sun.
And as proof, in 2009, he was the guy in AMA National Motocross. A late entrant to the Nationals on the factory Rockstar Makita Suzuki RM-Z450, Reed hadn’t raced outdoors for two years and it showed at the beginning. But soon enough, the champion’s skill came out and he started clicking off the wins on his way to his one and only MX title. The 2009 450MX championship was hard earned.
Reed captured his only outdoor title in 2009 with Suzuki.
Simon Cudby photo
Reed had the unfortunate luck to line up against Ricky Carmichael in the 450 class and, like Kevin Windham, we think he possibly had some more titles in him if not faced against the GOAT. Reed has 11 career overall wins and an incredible 45 podiums in the big bike class, which is fourth all-time. His one season in the 250MX class (then called the 125 class) garnered him one win and six podiums as he finished second overall to James Stewart. Including his title, Reed’s been top three in the outdoor standings in either class five times in the eight series he lined up for at the start. And in two of those years he was inside the top three before getting injured late in the season. Only during his 2010 stint with Kawasaki was he not up to his usual standard in the standings, and even then he won the opening round!
There’s no doubt that years from now, when Chad’s telling his kids about his racing days, he’ll talk about the 2011 450MX title as one that got away. At Millville, Minnesota, Reed had rode a superb race to capture the first moto and extend his points lead to an astonishing 21 points over Ryan Villlopoto. There were 11 motos left and despite young competition like Villopoto and Ryan Dungey, Chad was authoring another amazing series, and this time on a team he owned. But as we all know, Reed flew off his bike on the first lap of the second moto in a crash heard around the world and that was it. Nagging injuries from the crash took the wind out of sails. It was one that he should’ve, would’ve and could’ve won.
We also think there’s no doubt that Reed would’ve won or at least challenged for the 2007 450MX title had he chosen to line up. Once Carmichael called it a career and James Stewart went out with a knee injury, it was anyone’s series and does anyone reading this not think Chad would’ve been one of those guys?
The 2011 season was the one that got away from Reed, as a huge crash at Millville took away any chance at a second title.
Simon Cudby photo
Chad’s stats of wins, podiums, ability to win in both classes, what he left on the table with an SX only deal and just by watching him go really fast over the years makes him an easy choice for this countdown. And we think that there’s a very good chance he climbs higher when it’s all said and done. Remember, he’ll be on the starting gate at Hangtown in a few weeks.
Stay tuned for tomorrow's #23.
#25 - Brad Lackey
#26 - Gary Jones
#27 - Pierre Karsmakers
#28 - Kevin Windham
#29 - Grant Langston
#30 - Johnny O'Mara
(Racer X Contributors to this list: Davey Coombs, Jason Weigandt, Eric Johnson, Steve Matthes, Jason Thomas, Andrew Fredrickson, Chase Stallo and David Pingree)