Observations: Hall of Fame Letter

December 9, 2009 3:38pm | by:
A little while ago I was researching a story and came across the AMA Hall of Fame website. I started getting lost in there perusing the many different people who have been honored by the American Motorcycle Association for all that they have done to make the world of motorcycling a better place. Be it riders, team owners, promoters or even the treacherous media. Maybe one day I’ll get in there for my stellar “Observations” column that I so generously supply you readers with.

That’s not my point and before I get to the actual point, here’s the criterion to get into the AMA Hall of Fame and what must be done to get someone into the hallowed halls:

Individuals are nominated (their names placed on the ballot) by Induction Committee members and the public. In the case of competition rider nominations, prior to submission of a nomination, the racer must have been retired for at least five (5) years from routinely participating in national level competition, or if not retired then must have maintained 25 years at the national level of competition.

To nominate an individual to the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame, fill out the Nomination Form (PDF) and submit it along with the information below to the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame Museum.

  1. A biography (1-3 pages) detailing the contributions made to American Motorcycling by your nominee.
  2. An original photograph of the nominee (required).
  3. Any newspaper or magazine articles showing the nominee's achievements.
  4. Any other information detailing why or how the nominee has contributed to American Motorcycling, including letters of reference.
All nomination submissions become the property of the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame Museum and will not be returned. Supply an original photo of the nominee; high-resolution copy or digital files are also acceptable. Other documents may be submitted as originals or photo copies.

The above information must be sent to the Hall of Fame by Oct. 31 to be eligible for the next year’s ballot. Once nominated, individuals will remain on the ballot for up to five years. After five years in the nomination process without being elected, the nomination expires. The individual’s nomination can be reactivated by resubmitting a new nomination packet. New AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame inductees are announced each May, and the Hall of Fame induction ceremony is held in December.

That’s the criteria, and in checking out the riders I was shocked to see that Ron Lechien was nowhere to be found.

So that’s what this week’s column is about, it’s my plea to the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame to allow Ronnie Lechien into their prestigious group.  I will be filing this exact letter and supplying the necessary documents to try to get The Dogger into his rightful place. That is, if DC gives me an original photograph to keep and writes a letter of reference.

Dear honored AMA Hall of Fame Induction Members,

I hope you are well and that this letter finds you in good spirits. I’m writing this to implore you to induct a rider into your halls that has meant so much to so many people over the years that are fans of AMA Supercross and Motocross. I’m asking that you please consider Ron Lechien of El Cajon, California for induction into the AMA Hall of Fame.

Ron Lechien has accomplished many great things in the sport of supercross/motocross during his career.  He captured the 1985 125 National Championship, won two USGPs, earned the 1983 AMA Rookie of the Year award, had eighteen national wins, eight supercross wins and was a member of two winning teams at the Motocross and Trophee des Nations. Ron’s career ended prematurely when he badly broke his leg at the end of the 1989 season, but it was a career that captured the hearts and minds of fans everywhere. Lechien’s riding style was like nothing that had been seen at the time and he is still considered, to this day, to have one of the smoothest, error-free styles of any rider that has ever lived. Many a great champion has told me that they would watch “The Machine” Lechien ride and shake their head at his brilliance.

After winning as an amateur, Ron jumped into the pro ranks as a member of Factory Yamaha wearing number 224 and started running at the front of the pack and even winning races – something that was basically unheard of at that time.  Lechien really made his mark late in that season when he won three 125 Nationals (Lake Whitney, Lakewood and Millville), including an epic battle at Millville with then all-time 125 National wins holder Mark Barnett where he went 1-1 on the day holding off Barnett in both motos. He would go on to finish fourth in the 125 National points.

After the season ended, there was a one-off CMC Supercross held at Jack Murphy Stadium in San Diego where nearly every factory rider showed up.  Ron grabbed the start and sped off for his first career supercross win. Although this race wasn’t AMA sanctioned, it’s generally acknowledged as Lechien’s first win and he did all of this at the age of 16. For his hard work during this incredible season, he was awarded the AMA Rookie of the Year.

The next season (1984) saw Ron switch to the powerful Honda team and he continued on towards becoming one of America’s premier motorcycle riders. His lone stadium win was recorded at Oakland but his strong supercross performance was widely respected.   He won four 250 Nationals that season and finished a close second in the points.  Ron topped everyone at the 1984 250 USGP held at Unadilla and in the process became the youngest rider to ever win a Grand Prix.  For the year he finished 2nd in 250MX and 5th in the Insport 250SX series.

In 1985 Ron moved to the 125 Motocross series and dominated with seven wins to score his only National Championship. He was the dominant rider in this class and only mechanical breakdowns and an injury held him back from a perfect season. In supercross, Lechien won three races and was within a handful of points of the series lead coming into the last race when he had some bad luck and crashes at the final round.  He ended up 3rd in the Supercross series points to go with his title.

At the 1985 Motocross des Nations in Germany, Ronnie won the 125 class and helped the team win its fourth Peter Chamberlain Trophy in a row. At this point, Lechien was widely regarded as the best 125 rider in the world.

1986 saw Ronnie switch to Kawasaki, and even though he didn’t agree with the bikes, he was still a constant presence in the top ten. It was Lechien’s only year that he did not get a national or supercross win. Even in an off-year, he finished 5th in 500MX, 6th in 250MX and 7th in 250SX.

The next year, 1987, Ronnie captured the win one night at the Pontiac Supercross and the overall in the 250MX class at Mt. Morris. It wasn’t a stellar year by anyone’s standards, but most riders would take the two wins.  It was Ricky Johnson and Jeff Ward’s time in these two years and these riders would capture the majority of the wins in the ’86, ’87 seasons. Lechien was 3rd in 250MX, 4th in 500MX and 3rd in 250SX.

In 1988, still on Kawasaki, Lechien won one 500 National and one Supercross and was a constant podium contender all year long. He was the only rider considered to be a threat to Johnson or Ward.  All in all, he finished 3rd in 250MX, 3rd in 500MX and 3rd in the 250SX series.

It was at the 1988 Motocross des Nations in France that Lechien might have had his finest moment. With the world as his stage and the best motocross riders in the race, Ronnie dominated the day, going 1-1 on a KX500 and winning both motos overall. He was unstoppable and again helped Team USA bring home the win.

In 1989 Ronnie won the Troy, Ohio, 250 National and another night at the Pontiac Supercross. He ended the season 2nd in 250SX, 5th in the 250MX and 8th in the 500MX series despite missing two races with an injury.

At the 1989 500 USGP held in Hollister, California, Lechien captured the overall win to again prove that when the world’s best were on the line, he could bring home the glory.

It was near the end of the 500 nationals when he crashed heavily at Delmont, Pennsylvania, and broke his femur. It was a devastating crash and one that occurred at the end of the year which made it hard for Ronnie to make it back for that January’s Supercross season.

In 1991 and finally recovered from his horrific injury Lechien came back as a full-privateer for the 500 nationals and doing it really on his own, managed to finish as the top privateer in 5th place overall for the series.

As if all the above wasn’t enough to get Ron Lechien into the AMA Hall of Fame, the incredible comeback from the depths of despair that he has made since retiring should be enough to allow the Hall to bestow this great honor onto him.

During his career, Ronnie fell, like so many others, into some troubles may have stopped him from reaching his highest potential.  Few people doubt that, had he reached that potential, he would have ranked right up there with the very best of the best. 

Honest and open about everything that has happened to him, Lechien  is clean of any substances and has now joined his famiy’s long-time oil business and risen to be a top man at the company today. He is still actively riding his dirt bike whenever he has a chance and is heavily involved with the sport. It’s a lifetime of being involved the motorcycling industry that he loves so much.

Thank you for reading and considering Ron Lechien for a spot in the AMA Motorcycling Hall of Fame.  I feel that Lechien should be given this honor and join his peers that he raced and beat week in and week out.  He was one of the best in an era that produced many greats and his comeback from life’s problems makes him an even greater champion in my book.


Steve Matthes
Editor at Large, Racer X Illustrated
Editor, Direct Motocross.com
Editor, Pulpmx.com