The prognosticators kept going with the same line. “The best bike finally has the best rider,” they would say, pointing to Chad Reed’s assault on the 2002 AMA 125 National Championship. Reed was armed with the potent Yamaha YZ250F, while his competitors were racing 125s. He was coming off of a second-place finish in the 2001 250 GPs in Europe, and a dominant performance in the ‘02 125 East Supercross tour. Other riders would be strong—like the 2001 125 title combatants Grant Langston and Mike Brown, and rookie James Stewart—but the combination of Reed’s talent and experience on that fast four-stroke looked to be unbeatable.
Reed looked unbeatable early in the 2002 season.
Photo: Simon Cudby
But Bubba had been underestimated. He promptly won the first two races of the season (his first two AMA Nationals ever) before the tour rolled into High Point Raceway for round three. There, Stewart twisted his knee in practice, slowing his pace in the races. Reed struck, taking the High Point overall win. Finally, the “best rider on the best bike” philosophy was looking correct, and Reed was set up to take more wins and quite possibly a championship.
He never won again.
Stewart dominated the rest of the season on his KX125. Clearly, he was the best rider that year, better than anyone could ever expect a 16-year-old to be. And Reed, despite all his success in supercross, could not get onto the winner’s step of the podium outdoors again. Not in 2003 in the 250 class on a YZ250 two-stroke, not on the YZ450F four-stroke, not anywhere, and not against Ricky Carmichael or Stewart.
By 2007, Reed bid motocross farewell, taking a supercross-only ride and sitting out the next two seasons (besides a cameo appearance at Budds Creek in ’07 to prepare for the Motocross of Nations). It sure looked like Reed, amazingly, was going to end his career with exactly one AMA National Motocross win.
It was a shocker when Reed pulled up to the starting gate at the 2009 AMA Motocross opener in Glen Helen. He was, again, scheduled to race only supercross for his new team, Suzuki, but had so much fun riding for them indoors that he decided to give outdoors another shot. He was behind a bit on testing through the first few rounds, but by High Point, he was ready again. And he won, again, a whopping eight years after his last win.
Reed celebrating his 2009 oudoor title.
Photo: Simon Cudby
Since that High Point race in 2009, Reed has proven himself outdoors. He won the 2009 Championship and currently leads the 2011 standings on his TwoTwo Motorsports Bel-Ray Racing Honda. But High Point will always be a pivotal race for Reed. He came into last year’s race holding the series’ lead as well, only to have front brake problems in one race, suffer from bad starts, and finish the day 18th overall with 13-33 moto scores.
It has been a strange ten-year journey between Reed’s first outdoor triumph and his latest surge. He will go for his third career win at High Point this weekend, trying to prove again that he is the best rider on the best bike.