By Racer X Staff
It seems like the sport of motocross and supercross has always had its bad boys, men in black helmets who race hard and become known for their aggression. They are the ones who seem to end up often in the principle's office, and trouble has a way of following them. Here are a few that come to mind!
Damon Bradshaw: Not afraid to wear the black hat? Bradshaw literally wore a black cowboy hat during supercross opening ceremonies in the early 1990s. He blockpassed and rammed, and motivated himself by hating his opponents. That didn’t play to his favor when the ’92 AMA Supercross title came down to the wire, and most of the riders on the gate wanted to help Bradshaw lose it. But no doubt, Bradshaw’s take-no-prisoners style worked…for a little while.
Bam Bam: Straddling the fine line between confident and cocky since his minibike days, Justin Barcia loves adding some contact to his on-track content. That makes him a love/hate character, except when he goes to France, where Bercy SX incidents with Greg Aranda and Cedric Soubeyras put him 100 percent into the jeered category. Back stateside, he’s gotten a little cleaner lately, but no doubt if someone wants to bring some Bam, he’ll smile over the chance to bring some right back.
Damon Bradshaw didn't go to the races to make friends.
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Vince Friese: Friese doesn’t exactly embrace the role, as he usually tries to claim innocence on rough riding incidents. But, he’s been in too many of them to stay off of this list.
Rollerball: [We of course go to all-time Rollerball fan Steve Matthes for this one] We all know I’m a fan of Ross “Rollerball” Pederson, the great Canadian champion who raced a ton in the USA. I’ve asked a ton of riders who have raced against him what that life-altering experience was like. Mitch Payton told me that riders he helped like Jeff Hicks and Danny Storbeck came to him to ask if he could tell Pederson, a rider that used Pro Circuit, to back it down a bit. Tim Ferry told me that Rollerball would try to break his leg when he was a kid racing the Florida Winter-Am series. Motocross Action Magazine took a poll among racers in the mid-80s and Pederson ranked as, “Toughest rider to pass.” I personally watched Rollerball slam dudes right off the track in some Canadian arenacrosses when I was a kid. He was a tough hombre, and the nickname Rollerball (after a 1975 movie starring James Caan whose tagline was “In the future, wars will no longer exist. But there will be Rollerball.”) was well earned. I guarantee you that if told Ross he has a black hat on signifying the villain, he’d think that was pretty cool.
When you saw that nickname on the back of the pants (two lines!) you knew you'd have to get around the “Toughest rider to pass.”
Li'l Hanny: Josh Hansen proves there are multiple roles in this sport, as some brands, teams and fans are looking for something different than the clean-cut kid. With his long hair and tats, Hanny looks the part, and the checkered past of his career backs it up. Hanny isn’t afraid to get physical on the track, either.
Sorby: No body, no body, no body, actually admitted and embraced the take out like Eric Sorby. Just ask him.
One Punch: Tyler Evans eventually turned his rough riding rep into a box office draw, playing his One Punch character to the hilt and getting some notoriety from it. Deeper within, though, other riders didn’t find it funny—the ramming on the track was not an act.
A year or so ago, Sorby tweeted, "I would like to make a comeback. Why? To take out, take out and take out."
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The Russians: When the Russian star Gennady Moisseev was battling Czech rider Jaroslav Falta for the 1974 250cc World Championship, his teammates like Vladimir Kavinov and other Eastern Bloc riders were told to take Falta out, which they did often. But Falta still won the title at the last round in Holland, only to be DQ'd for jumping the starting gate. The Russian thugs got no penalty, and the Moisseev-Falta duel remains one of the sport's all-time dramatic chapters.
"Rocket" Rex Staten: Rex was as tough as they come, and known for taking the roughest lines. We saw Rex at Anaheim a few weeks ago and asked him about that, and he admitted it was all a game. He'd purposely used bad lines when the competition was close and trick them into thinking those were the lines to use. Once out of site, he went for the smooth stuff, but his rep was better served through the “I’m tougher than you” intimidation factor. P.S. He still looks like a scary dude today.
The Russians are coming!
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Brian Deegan: Like Tyler Evans, Deegan built something around the persona—but his was much more of an act, and much more successful. The Metal Mulisha donned all-back gear capped with giant spikes, and threatened to take over the world. In a way, it did.
Swink: When Jeremy McGrath became the poster-boy for the sport, even though his style had an edge to it, his contemporary Brian Swink had morphed into a darker version. He wasn’t afraid to get gnarly on the track, and he’d bust out some impressive pre-freestyle moves like the Can-Can (the answer to McGrath’s Nac-Nac). At one point, Swink was running a shaved head and giant goatee, too. In many ways, his jumping, his attitude and his look served as the forerunner to the harder looks we see today.
Healey: Mike Healey was a rocker and rebel without a cause in the mid-eighties who basically got himself kicked off Team Suzuki for having a blue Mohawk. He landed in Europe, raced for Cagiva, KTM and Suzuki, nearly winning the 1991 250cc world title. He lost after some interference with Jeff Stanton at the last round in Japan, which led the punker Healey to flip off the reigning AMA Supercross and 250 Motocross #1 in the middle of the race! Healey's time after racing is more "Breaking Bad" than bad boys, but he was quite a character!
Before freestyle comps, this was as radical as anything anyone had ever seen--and that's pretty much what led to freestyle comps, at all. Swinkster was ahead of his time.
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J-Law: Dustups, squabbles, scuffles, you name it, Jason Lawrence did it. You could piece together a nice, thick carpet will all the hair pulled out collectively by team managers, sponsors, track owners, promoters, rental car companies and racers that had to deal with him. The fact that the two riders he rankled most—Ryan Dungey and Ryan Villopoto—turned out to be the best riders of their generation shows how good J-Law was at the game.
This is J-Law running the West Lites #1 plate in 2009--but it could also represent all-time bad boy status.
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Evel! Evel Knievel was a hard-as-nails scrambler and dirt track racer properly named Robert Craig Knievel, but his rough-riding and abrasive attitude earned him the nickname Evel. He went on to become the best-known daredevil in history, a showman and hustler for all ages. He once appeared on the cover of Rolling Stone as "The King of the Goons," and later beat a sports reporter with a baseball bat (careful, Matthes!). When he got out of jail for that little episode, he promptly told other reporters "there will be more frontier justice" if they made him look bad again. Those were the days!