Forty years ago: looking back at the first Hangtown National. We found these photo contact sheets in the Dick Miller Archives and have never been seen before.
The Dirt Diggers North Motorcycle Club hosted events well before 1974, but the race that year marked it's debut on the AMA Motocross schedule. No Author Defending AMA 250cc Champion Gary Jones piloted his new Can-Am to a third-place finish at the old Plymouth track. No Author Riders await the start of the first-ever 125 National, as 1974 marked the first year for a 125 National Championship class. No Author Husqvarna made big news last week with the announcement of their return to racing with #17 Jason Anderson... Well, this is what #16 Marty Tripes' Husky looked like in 1974! No Author Working in the signal area back in the day was a little more grassroots than it is now... No Author Not sure who the man leading is, but following are Montesa factory rider Peter Lamppuu (10) and the Suzuki factory rider Rich Thorwaldson (3), both of whom have since passed. No Author Another Husqvarna factory pilot, Gary Semics, placed third in the 500cc class. Gary's still around, still very fast and still teaching people how to train and ride: www.garysemics.com No Author And this man is still in the industry too: Matrix Concepts' founder Eddie Cole was a Kawasaki 125cc factory rider back in 1974. He told us the bike was good, but only good for two and a half motos! No Author California motocross legend "Rocket" Rex Staten raced a Honda CR370 overbore but only managed a 13th place overall. No Author Tim Hart was Yamaha's man to stem the tide of young Honda riders in the 125 class -- Marty Smith, Chuck Bower, Bruce McDougal, Mickey Boone -- but trouble in one moto cost him dearly. No Author Forty years ago the Hangtown Classic was held in Plymouth, not far from today's Rancho Cordova track but a world away as far as the sandy soil compared to the current hard pack. (#45 Billy Grossi was your 250 winner.) No Author Team Honda's teenaged superstar Marty Smith surveys the crowd from above his box van. He won the first 125 National as well as the '74 championship. No Author Honda's Rich Eierstedt and Billy Grossi sandwich Penton factory pilot Buck Murphy in a 250 class battle. No Author "Rocket" Rex flashes past the Hangtown faithful. It was a big and loyal crowd back then, and even bigger today! No Author Local Maico pilot Billy Payne Sr. rolls past a sweet Ford Ranchero! Payne finished 12th in the 500 class. He is the father of future Pro Circuit Kawasaki rider Billy Payne. No Author CZ rider Tony DiStefano leads Bultaco's ace Bryar Holcomb, who is still at work today at Factory Effex! No Author Our favorite photo of the bunch: the late "Gassin'" Gaylon Mosier, Jofa mouthguard hanging in the wind below his Carrera Goggles, leading Gary Jones with some roost! No Author It was a much different vibe of racing and professionalism back then... And probably a whole bunch of fun. No Author Steve Stackable rode his U.S. Sports' Maico back to the pits after finishing fourth overall in the 500 class. No Author Somewhere online Nick McCabe is smiling, thinking, 'I'm going to have to find that trike and add it to my ATC three-wheeler collection!' No Author Rich Eierstedt was one of Honda's three factory riders in the 250 class that were hoping to knock off Honda's old captain Gary Jones for the 250 title after he went to Can-Am during the off-season. No Author Who knew that they had Chupacbras way back then?! No Author Tim Hart on a prototype YZ125 Monoshock. No Author A man truly born before his time, the great Dick Mann showed up on a Triumph! No Author That's Bryar Holcomb practicing starts on his Bultaco. He would finish fifth overall in the 500 class. No Author This is for #810 Jeff Greenberg, longtime moto enthusiast who drove out from Ohio in 1974 to race Hangtown at age 17 to race his Suzuki. He once told us he never knew of any photos of him that existed; now he knows there's one. Check your email later, Jeff! No Author Marty Tripes before going out and finishing second overall on his 250 Husqvarna. Like Gary Jones he was a Honda rider in '73, only to switch brands (and he would switch again later that year, finishing the series on a Can-Am like Jones). No Author Gary Jones works his way through traffic on the #1 Can-Am. Gary was out at Glen Helen all last week and even had a chance meeting with another multi-time champion, Ricky Carmichael. Gary still rides, and he's still fast! No Author The "Jammer" himself, Kawasaki factory rider Jimmy Weinert, leads Holcomb at the first Hangtown National, forty years ago. No Author