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Number Cruncher: #1

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Welcome to the Shift Number Cruncher. With it being the holidays, we decided to roll out a special number. This number used to be one of the most sought-after digits in the sport, and what it stands for still means something. The motorcycle manufacturers spend big-time money just to be able to obtain the services of a rider who is fast enough to earn #1. Not that they always wear it. In fact, beginning in 2000, with the arrival of Ricky Carmichael in the 250 class outdoors and his subsequent championships that would follow, a change in thinking about the #1 plate took place. After the AMA made a policy change on semi-permanent numbers, Carmichael decided to stick with #4 from there on out, choosing to market himself in NASCAR-like fashion. More of that in a minute.… 

It was quite a change for some. Since the beginning of the sport, the #1 had more lore and distinction than any racing digit, and wearing it meant you were the man. When fans looked across the track and saw the #1 plates of Roger DeCoster, Bob Hannah, RJ, David Bailey, Jeff Stanton, Jeff Emig, Travis Pastrana, Jeremy McGrath, and more, they knew that was the mark of the champion. 

After chasing perennial number one of Jeremy McGrath through the tumultuous 1999 and 2000 SX seasons, Carmichael finally climbed to the top of the mountain – only to claim the fourth-highest pedestal on the number scale. Why? When RC began his reign, he said he didn’t need a number to prove his might. There wasn’t any speculation as to who was the alpha male. When a rider looked over his shoulder and saw the big # 4 behind him, he knew he would soon be in the jaws of the beast. Other riders have joined him in this new world order.

Chad Reed could have worn #1 in 2005, but he stuck with his #22. James Stewart could have run the #1 up in Canada as the current Amp’d Mobile World Supercross Champion, but that isn’t his number. He had some bad luck the one time he wore #1E as a pro (’03 Las Vegas SX), and he’s stuck with #259 and, more recently, #7. Over in Europe, Stefan Everts could have been racing with the #1 for several years; instead he retired and made the #72 a number GP fans will never forget.

On the road racing side of things, Valentino Rossi has kept his preferred #46 through all of his world titles, although when the MotoGP warriors take to the track in 2007, Nicky Hayden plans to bring back the #1. And I kind of like that. It’s been a long time since an American has won that title, and I think it will be sweet for the world to see the rider step off the #1 Repsol Honda and speak with a Southern accent. Heck, it’s already on the cover of Road Racer X!

Before Nicky, several great riders made the # 1 special. Here are some of the best.

The Man - Roger DeCoster

photo: Dick Miller Archives

Six-time AMA National Champion, Broc Glover

photo: Dick Miller Archives

Three-time National Champion, Kent Howerton

photo: Dick Miller Archives

Steve Wise at the ABC Superbikers in 1982

photo: Dick Miller Archives

Three-time 125cc MX National champion, Mark Barnett

photo: Dick Miller Archives

Five-time National MX Champion, Rick Johnson

photo: Courtesy of Moto Verte

1980 250 SX Champion, Mike Bell

photo: Dick Miller Archives

Three-time 250cc MX National Champion, Jeff Stanton

photo: Courtesy of Moto Verte

1991 250cc SX and MX Champion, Jean-Michel Bayle

photo: Courtesy of Moto Verte

Seven-time 250cc SX Champion, Jeremy McGrath

photo: Courtesy of Moto Verte

10-time World MX Champion, Stefan Everts

photo: Racer X Archives

Ricky Carmichael running the '98 Eastern Regional 125cc SX #1 plate

photo: Courtesy of Moto Verte

Two-time Western Regional 125cc SX Champion, Kevin Windham

photo: Courtesy of Moto Verte

James Stewart

Ricky and James following the 2006 Las Vegas SX

photo: Simon Cudby

2000 125cc National MX Champion, Travis Pastrana

photo: Simon Cudby

Nicky Hayden on the over of the new Road Racer X

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