Hello, race fans! Welcome to the Number Cruncher, brought to you by
Shift MX. I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of you for
interest in the new Shift MX Number Cruncher—the e-mails and feedback
has been amazing! In addition, its awesome how many hard-core moto
historians there are out there. I consider myself a fairly salty
motocross encyclopedia, but I am not too proud to mention that some
mistakes have been brought to my attention. It's great to see how many
people are as passionate about the old school as we are here at Racer X.
This week we take a quick look at a number that has
some amazing history to it. The #39 has seen some good days in
motocross. The great and the not-so-great have worn it to the starting
line while championships, headlines, and hardship fell in their wake.
Here is some of the history of #39.
|Bob Hannah |
|photo: Racer X Archives |
starters, the number will always belong to Bob “Hurricane” Hannah. He
was wearing #39 when shocked the world by dominating the 1976 125cc
National MX Championship, handing Marty Smith his hat in the process,
and then challenging Roger DeCoster, who had just won his fifth 500cc
World Championship, in the Trans-AMA Series later that year, winning
the last round of the series in Phoenix. Hannah came out of nowhere to
do all this and, as a result, the #39 he used as he rocketed to the top
of the motocross world will always remind a generation of motocross
fans of Bob Hannah.
|Mike Bell |
|photo: Racer X Archives |
“Too Tall” Bell was another well-known Yamaha rider who wore the #39.
He wore it in 1979, and he won the race he’s pictured in right
here—Michael “FTE” Stuziak snapped this at the Sonoma, California,
Trans-AMA. Bell finished third in AMA supercross that year but came
back to win the title in 1980, wearing #3.
out Factory Phil’s Hi Flyer card in 1991! This was one year after
Kawasaki completely redesigned their KX125 and 250—1990 was the first
year of the dual radiators and “perimeter frames.” While the machine
was technologically advanced, the Kawasakis received mixed reviews
because of their large size and wide feel. Phil isn’t complaining about
either here, as his knees are just about handlebar-high. Take note of
the smashed radiator and red boots. This shot was clearly taken during
Phil’s “not-so-factory” days.
|Jimmy Button |
|photo: Jim Talkington |
Button burst out of the amateur scene as one of the hottest prospects
ever. Jimmy would eventually land at the once-powerful DGY Yamaha team,
where he would spend some tough years learning the ropes of the pro
ranks. But once he did, he won 125cc supercross races, a 250 National
, plus countless races abroad.
|Mike Craig |
|photo: Eric Johnson |
Craig is widely regarded within the motocross industry as one of the
craziest acts in the circus. “Sting Ray,” as he was called in his early
racing years, always had a penchant for the dramatic, as chaos and
trouble were never far from his path. Mike is the holder of one of the
most coveted trophies in the business, the AMA 250 SX main-event
first-place trophy he won at the 1994 Tampa Supercross. He is also
popular for his incredible whips. Mike was actually making a comeback
of sorts this year as he entered into the beginning stages of the
Loretta Lynn’s Amateur Championships, but then parked his own bike to
keep an eye on son Christian’s title aspirations. Too bad, because it
would be cool to see Craig race Kevin Walker in the Vet classes!
|David Pingree |
|photo: Simon Cudby |
we have David Pingree wearing the #39 as he grabs what looks to be a
holeshot against James Stewart
in 2002. This was Anaheim 1 that year,
which Ping led, only to go down about three-quarters of the way through
the race. Earlier in the evening, after winning his heat race, Pingree
stated, “You know, I hear all of this talk about James, but I think
it's going to be the experienced guys that get it done this year.” At
the time I was a Fox Racing
employee and a huge Bubba
fan, so I dropped
him an e-mail poking fun at the fortune (or misfortune) he had on the
evening. Ping didn’t find the humor and fired back, “Bowyer, have you
ever suffered from arm pump while leading at Anaheim? No you haven’t.
Just because your career was shorter than a midget on his knees does
not give you the right to criticize me. Thanks for the disrespectful
e-mail.” I always wondered why people claimed he had an acid tongue. To
his credit, Pingree has won several 125 supercrosses, damn near the
1999 title, and is one hell of a writer for Racer X
. His latest
piece was an interview with Ricky Carmichael
that is a must-read. Oh
yeah, Ping came back at Anaheim 2, wearing the same #39, and won the
2003, Chris Gosselaar
raced the #39 to the front of the pack several
times. Unfortunately, Chris also began a series of crashes that leads
to present time. One of the nicest guys in the sport, he came back this
year to earn several podium finishes while breathing some fire into his
career, which had almost burned out.
|Jeff Willoh |
|photo: Jim Sanderson |
one time, Jeff Willoh was on top of the world. After a fairly
successful amateur career, Jeff burst into the pro ranks with one of
the best rides in the business. As a member of the 1996 Honda of Troy
team, Jeff took the surprise victory at the San Diego SX. Sadly, two
years from this moment of glory, Willoh would find himself sitting on
the sidelines at the Steel City
National, having turned down the offer
to take a pre-race drug test. No test meant no ride, and for Willoh,
that pretty much meant no ride for him for the following season.
|Kelly Smith |
|photo: Matt Ware |
Smith raced with the #39 in 2005 as a member of Yamaha of Troy, and he
is always a threat for the holeshot or a win in muddy conditions. Smith
is probably most famous for giving KTM their first outdoor national
victory when he won the incredible mudder at High Point
in 2000. He
also came within one lap of winning the St. Louis SX when Ernesto
Fonseca landed him on. Although he may be running out of time, Smith
still has the juice to win, and he ran top-five just last week.
|Zach Osborne |
|photo: Matt Ware |
Osborne’s last number as an amateur was #39, which he raced with at the
2005 Loretta Lynn’s AMA/Air Nautiques Amateur Championships. It’s hard
to believe that a kid who didn’t even win the Schoolboy class at
Loretta’s already has two holeshots and led half of an AMA National!
Zack just signed a big-buck, multi-year deal and is doing a fine job of
making KTM feel good about their investment.
the #39 fell off the track in 2006. Billy Laninovich
earned the number
based on his 2005 points, and it was supposed to be his. But with Billy
preferring to keep his familiar # 132, the #39 will have to wait until
2007 before it can see the track again. Billy himself is on the
sidelines, having crashed with Grant Langston
at Budds Creek
. The word
out of California is that he’s done for the year.
That’s it for this week. Stayed tuned to the Shift Number Cruncher,
because the next few weeks are going to see some really, really cool
numbers get crunched.