Ground was broken on Anaheim Stadium on August 31, 1964. Etched out of a 160-acre parcel of land located at 2000 Gene Autry Way in Anaheim, California, the soon-to-be erected 43,204-seat stadium would serve as home base for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim Major League Baseball franchise. In 1976, the sport of supercross would be invited into the facility, and from that point forward, the sport of stadium motocross would have a sort of spiritual homeland. From 1976 all the way through 2016 (with a brief break during a stadium revamp in the late 1990s), exactly 67 supercross events have been run inside the ball yard. The following are 10 great moments from the past 40 years.
Also, a shoutout to Cycle News for providing the best historical documentation in this business. You can check out the Cycle News archives here, it's the best bench-racing investment you will ever make.
Note: There is no criteria or method to the madness here, just a few moments that were somewhat defining, of historical importance, or just plain cool. Check them out and we’ll see you at the Big A this coming Saturday night!
December 4, 1976
Earlier that day, amidst some grumbling, a new, fan-friendly racing format was presented to the 80 riders present to compete in what was called the American Motocross Finals at Angel Stadium. AMA National Motocross manager Mike DiPrete called an ad hoc rider meeting to explain it. Then Cycle News journalist and, later, legendary Motocross Action editor Jody Weisel, recorded it this way: “We are building future,” said the AMA man, explaining that the night program would consist of four elimination heat races, two semi-final races, a consolation race, and a 20-lap main event. [Editor’s note: sound familiar?] Stadium motocross has the biggest crowds and the biggest purses. It is obvious that more people will be able to get a taste of motocross in the stadiums this year than at any time in the past. All of motocross, outdoors or indoors, will benefit.” Come main event time that night, a sold-out crowd—whipped into frenzy by announcer Larry Huffman—watched the rapid fire, slam bam program and straight up loved it. Team Honda’s Marty Smith—easily America’s most popular motocross racer at the time—grabbed the main event holeshot, followed by teammate Pierre Karsmakers, Team Suzuki’s Tony Distefano and Team Husqvarna’s Kent Howerton. Smith and Karsmakers would fly in formation to finish the 20-lap main one-two, while Howerton zapped Tony D. at the finish line for third. The fans absolutely loved it all. And a new format was born.
November 12, 1977
As a sort of follow up act, the Coca-Cola Motocross Finals (new sponsor) were slated for the 12th of November at the Big A. As far as a championship showdown was concerned, there was to be no such thing in Orange County. Bob “Hurricane” Hannah had wrapped up the title way back in July. Still, Hannah, who had won at Atlanta, Daytona, Dallas, and both main events at Pontiac, Michigan in ’77, was out to win in Anaheim. Riding a production YZ250 wrenched on by Keith McCarty, Hannah showed up motivated and in an ornery sort of mood. In fact, Hannah went to the starting gate for his opening heat race with the words “TROUBLE” stitched into the back of his race pants in all caps. “I timed the gate perfectly,” said Hannah of the start of the 20-lap main event. And while FMF privateer John Savitski held the lead of the opening lap, by the start of lap two “Trouble” was out front and pulling away. He’d win easily over Team Honda’s Jim Pomeroy and Tommy Croft. Just how good, and how production, was Bob and Keith’s Yamaha? “Excellent. Best I’ve ever ridden,” Hannah told journalist Jim Gianatsis back in the pits. “The ports were cleaned up, but not changed. The forks were modified with different dampening. That’s it.” Win on Saturday night and sell on Monday.
November 11, 1978
From 1975 through 1977, Gaylon Mosier rode a privateer Maico, reaching respectable results, enough to earn a ride with Team Kawasaki for 1978. He had never really come close to winning a 250cc supercross main event, but on a cold, rain lashed November night, it all came right for Mosier. The main event was slashed to 15 laps due to the inclement weather, and the hardy 33,745 spectators present let out a loud roar when the gate dropped. Mosier ran second behind Honda rider Jim Pomeroy on the opening lap. By the end of the second circuit, though, the Kawasaki rider was into the lead, and pulling one 1:18 second lap after another. He would never be headed. “I was trying so hard to concentrate, I didn’t know what I was doing—I was just racing,” exclaimed Mosier to TV personality Dave Despain afterwards. “I won!” Sadly, it would be the only supercross the likeable and popular Mosier would ever win. In the autumn of 1980 he was tragically killed in a bicycle accident while training outside of Unadilla, New York.
January 30, 1982/January 29, 1983/January 28, 1984
While Team Honda’s Marty Smith won the first-ever Anaheim Supercross in 1977, over the next four years the Big Red machine would go winless. That is until 1982. Then everything changed. “1981 was a building year for Honda,” explained longtime company man Dave Arnold in an early issue of Racer X. “We were sorting the equipment out and developing new riders like [Johnny] O’Mara and [Donnie] Hansen.” In addition, ace Honda mechanic Cliff White had a new rider to work with. “David Bailey was just a snot-nosed kid at the time who was showing some brilliance,” said White. Angel Stadium would prove to be the venue where each of these riders started the respective marches toward supercross greatness. First, on January 30, 1982, “Holeshot” Hansen, won the Miller High Life Supercross Kickoff aboard his otherworldly trick No. 7 Honda RC250AF. “No one can call Donnie Hansen an up-and-comer anymore; he has arrived!” exclaimed Cycle News in its event coverage. Hansen would use the inertia created at Anaheim to motor on to the 1982 AMA Supercross Championship. One year later, Bailey won the Miller High Life Anaheim Supercross kickoff. The first round of the new Wrangler Super Series, Bailey won the main event by an astonishing margin of 30 seconds. Just as Hansen had done the previous year, Bailey would keep on trucking to win the ’83 AMA Supercross Championship. Finally, in 1984, it was O’Mara racing to an uncontested win at the Big A. Remarked O’Show afterwards, “For the past two years the winners of Anaheim have gone on to be National Supercross Champions.” Well, Johnny O’ did the exact same thing, winning the ’84 title. A triple play for Team Honda’s building effort.
January 18, 1986
Not long before the start of the 1986 Insport/AMA Nippondenso Supercross Series was set to begin, Team Honda motocross masterminds Roger DeCoster and Dave Arnold decided to hire longtime Yamaha racer Rick Johnson. Having failed to win an AMA 250cc or 500cc title in 1985, the Honda men wanted a third rider as a wingman to Bailey and O’Mara. Bailey, in particular, was not happy about the new hire. “Going into Anaheim, Rick Johnson was a mystery to me and my training partner and riding partner Johnny O’Mara was hurt with a knee injury and I didn’t even know if he was going to race Anaheim,” said Bailey. “So I took it upon myself and said, ‘You know what? I have to ramp it up here and carry the flag a little bit. I had a crummy ’85 and I’m going to come in hot.’” Bailey and RJ put on a thrilling season-opening duel which enthralled the 70,075 screaming fans inside of the Big A that night. To this day, countless supercross fans around the world consider it to be the greatest main event of all-time. Bailey won the race, but after leaving Anaheim, Johnson would catch fire and ultimately win six supercross main events and the AMA Supercross Championship.
January 27, 1990
In 1989, pro rookie sensation Damon Bradshaw won the 125cc Eastern Regional Supercross Championship. Confident in the rider they had been grooming since he was a little kid, Team Yamaha bumped the 17-year-old up to the rough and tumble 250cc classification for the 1990 Camel Supercross Series. His first big league engagement was set for Angel Stadium and the Coors Extra Gold Super Challenge. Since he wasn’t in the top-20 of 250cc points from the previous year, Bradshaw was forced to run a day qualifier to be entered in the night program. He won it. In his opening heat race that evening, Bradshaw tangled with bitter adversary Jeff “Chicken” Matiasevich and went down, pushing him into the semi race in order to earn a spot on the gate for the main event. He won the semi, but was forced to line up on the far outside of the gate for the main. That led to some history. When the gate did drop, Bradshaw sling-shotted around the outside of the first turn in one of the most daring starting moves of all-time. There were 19 other riders on the inside and hardly any room for Bradshaw to thread his Yamaha around them, but the Beast from the East held it wide open and beat everyone to the turn by inches, avoiding contact in the kind of boom-or-bust move Bradshaw was known for. He would lead the opening lap over Jean-Michel Bayle, Matiasevich, and Honda veterans Jeff Stanton and Johnson. With a crowd of 66,141 roaring its approval, Bradshaw remained up front with new second-place man Matiasevich and JMB keeping him honest. On lap six, Matiasevich stuffed Bradshaw and took the point, but the YZ rider remained glued to Chicken’s lime green Kawasaki rear fender. Eight-laps later Bradshaw counterattacked the Californian and cleared out to a five-second lead. Four-circuits later and with both fists thrust into the air over the finish line jump, the teenaged Bradshaw had scored an epic opening-night 250cc class victory.
January 23, 1993
As a 250 supercross rookie, Jeremy McGrath, the 1991 and 1992 125 Western Regional Supercross Champion, ran fourth and fifth at Orlando and Houston, respectively, before showing up at Anaheim on Saturday, January 23, for round three. It was there that the world watched McGrath take the measure of factory Honda teammate and defending SX Champion Jeff Stanton by whisking away to victory. It was both a stunning and unexpected triumph, and the beginning of something very, very special. “I knew I could win, but everyone was trying to rush me,” the 250cc supercross rookie told Cycle News writer Chris Jonnum after alighting from the victory podium. “I think it was just a matter of putting in some time and getting the experience. I didn’t get nervous like I did the last two weeks; I just concentrated on my riding.” McGrath would back up the win a week later in Seattle. Another seven days beyond, he would win yet again in San Diego. Five additional 250cc main event victories later, McGrath hoisted the 1993 AMA Supercross number one plate above his head at the Pasadena Rose Bowl on Saturday night, May 15.
January 20, 2001
An hour after the 2001 San Diego Supercross, amongst the beer bottles, hot dog wrappers, and empty cans of soda strewn about the parking lots of Qualcomm Stadium, McGrath stood beneath the awning of his 18-wheel semi-truck, talking to a few friends. He looked a little sheepish. Earlier that night, the best stadium motocross racer in the history of the sport had been beaten, straight-up, by a red haired kid from Florida named Ricky Carmichael. After an intense battle which saw the two swap the lead five times, Carmichael, who had won his first and only supercross at Daytona a year prior, had edged ahead of 71-time main event winner McGrath. And while he was not displaying much emotion, McGrath, who had easily won the opening round of the series at Anaheim the week before, wasn’t too thrilled. “It’s just one race,” said McGrath to this author, while shrugging his shoulders. “He [Ricky] rode good; real good. But I’ll be all set and ready to go next week at Anaheim.” Seven days later, and an hour north up the 5 freeway, 44,811 fans swarmed Edison International Field in Anaheim (which the Big A was named from starting in 1999) to watch the living legend and Carmichael go at it again at round three of the 2001 AMA Supercross Series.
"Yes, I knew I had a big fight coming, but I wasn’t sure of when because RC’s results were pretty unstable up to that point," said McGrath to me that week. When the gate dropped, McGrath arrived at the apex of turn one first, but Carmichael got a better jump off the step-up jump at the turn’s exit to grab the lead. By lap two, McGrath was looking straight at the back of Carmichael’s jersey, and on lap four Carmichael stumbled going into the whoop section, allowing McGrath to pull up alongside him. McGrath pulled a deft outside-inside move a few turns later and stole the lead. Content to follow, Carmichael stalked the seven-time supercross champion. By lap 13, the flying duo had 19 seconds on Kevin Windham, who was way, way back in third. At the three-quarter mark, McGrath made a small bobble and Carmichael smelled blood. With three laps to go, Carmichael inadvertently slammed into the reigning champion at the end of the whoop section. McGrath flashed Carmichael an annoying glance as the number four bike led the way up and over the finish line jump. But Carmichael was improperly set-up for the ensuing left hand turn, and McGrath shot back into the lead. With two laps to go, Carmichael, his hands and feet coming off the bike in a frenzy to zap McGrath, stalked the Californian.
With the crowd on its feet and roaring, the white flag came out, and toward the very end of the conclusive lap, the two riders attacked the whoop section with Carmichael making a final, desperate dive into the final turn. McGrath hung tough, though, and raced up the finish line jump to win by less than a thousandth of a second. Atop a jump at the far side of the track, McGrath and Carmichael rolled to a stop and shook hands. It would prove to be the final main event win of McGrath’s brilliant career. "I do still think about my last race win and I’m glad that I got beat by somebody that went on to dominate after me because I would have been very upset if my results just started to dwindle and all of a sudden I was getting fourths and fifths or worse," said McGrath. "I’m a very fortunate man and I know that. I’m also very glad my last win came at Anaheim, in front of my hometown fans where it all started."
January 4, 2003
Before a boisterous crowd of 45,050 supercross fanatics, Australia’s Chad Reed won the 20-lap main event inside Anaheim’s Edison International Field. A full-time rookie in the 250 class, it was the Team Yamaha rider’s first triumph at Anaheim. Passing veteran rider Mike Brown on the opening lap, Reed took the lead and pulled away. “It feels great to win,” Reed told the press afterwards. “I wanted to be in this position for a long time and finally I got here.” Reed then talked about the influence the recently-retired McGrath had on his great American supercross adventure. “Jeremy had a great career. Coming into this race when I heard that Jeremy was retiring I was thinking I would like to win my first race here because he won his first here. I have always looked at Jeremy. He really brought me to the U.S. he set such a great example for everyone.” Chad Reed would win seven more main events at Anaheim, and 14 years after that 2003 win, the man is still at it! Look for him this Saturday at Angel Stadium and don’t be surprised whatsoever if number 22 posts up victory number nine.
January 8, 2005
Ricky Carmichael, the winningest rider in American MX/SX history; Chad Reed, the defending series champion; James Stewart, the greatest young talent the sport has ever seen; Jeremy McGrath, the seven-time supercross champion (and now back to racing in a part-time roll); Kevin Windham, a close second in the 2004 series; and Travis Pastrana, the world's most spectacular—and dangerous—rider, were all in fighting shape for the opening round of the 2005 THQ AMA Supercross Championship. That made for arguably the most star-studded gate in supercross history. But then the rain started falling, with a Friday-night deluge. Things let up on Saturday morning, but the weather man on Los Angeles NBC affiliate, KNBC was calling for a 100 percent chance of rain at race time—7:30 p.m.—on Saturday night. Sure enough, a steady, driving rain fell on the opening practice session at 5:00 p.m. Despite everyone's best efforts, the track was going to hell—fast. "The track is awful," said Yamaha factory rider Tim Ferry. "It's just bad enough that you can go pretty fast, but yet you can't jump anything."
By opening ceremonies, the track had dissolved into a thick brown pudding. Nonetheless, a sold-out crowd—dressed in yellow rain coats and holding up umbrellas— toughed it out and awaited the main event. When the starting gate splashed into the slop, Carmichael grabbed the holeshot and led early. A few laps in, Stewart went over the bars in the whoops, and not long after, Reed pulled into the mechanic’s area with a frozen front brake. Up front, it all went to hell for RC when he fell at the base of a small jump. Windham and his booming—and sputtering—Factory Connection Honda 450 four-stroke now held the lead, and when the checkered flag was unfurled to put the race out of its misery. After some initial confusion Windham was named the winner of one of the most chaotic, and in many ways, dramatic main events in the history of the Big A.