-- The stars of AMA Racing gathered at the stunning Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum in Birmingham, Ala., on Saturday, Nov. 22, to celebrate the successful seasons of some of the country's best motorcycle and all-terrain vehicle racers.
Champions in disciplines ranging from land-speed racing to motocross to trials and everything in between were honored at the end-of-year banquet. In addition, a number of special awards were presented to those who went above and beyond this season to elevate 2008 to one of the most memorable in recent history.
The AMA Racing Athlete of the Year award was awarded to Ricky Dietrich
, top American at the 2008 International Six Days Enduro in Serres, Greece, as well as the champion of the 2008 AMA Maxxis EnduroCross Championship Series. Dietrich, who wrapped up the EnduroCross title the same night of the banquet, led the Team USA Trophy Team to its best finish in years at the ISDE after an injury took overall leader and Team USA Captain Kurt Caselli out of the race.
Harold Goodman was honored with the ATVA (All-Terrain Vehicle Association) Athlete of the Year award. Goodman, who was competing in the Baja 1000 the night of the banquet, won four of the seven rounds of the Duro Extreme Dirt Track ATV National Championship Series en route to the title.
Destry Abbott was honored with the AMA Racing Sportsman of the Year award. Abbott demonstrated utmost sportsmanship when one of his competitive rivals, Josh Morros, was seriously injured and knocked unconscious in the next-to-last round of the AMA FMF Racing National Hare & Hound Championship Series. Abbott, who was racing for the title at the time, remained with Morros to aid the injured rider as best he could until medics arrived. Abbott ultimately continued and finished fourth in that round to clinch his fifth AMA Hare & Hound National Championship, tying the record held by Danny Hammel and Dan Smith.
"This is definitely a highlight for me. It's something I've never gotten before," Abbott said. "I've always tried to represent the sport well, and it's neat to be recognized for that. The important thing, though, is that Josh is doing a lot better. He has a tough road ahead, but he wants to be back on a bike. I told him he's welcome to come to Phoenix and train with me as soon as he's able."
The AMA Racing Female Rider of the Year was Leslie Porterfield. Porterfield became the official fastest female motorcyclist in America this summer at the International Speed Trials by BUB with a top speed of 232.523 mph.
"It was something that took a lot of determination and hard work," said Porterfield. "I had a really great crew and friends and family behind me. It's an honor to get this award."
Heather Byrd was honored as the ATVA Female Athlete of the Year. Byrd was the champion in the Pro-Am Women class in the ITP Moose Racing ATV National Motocross Series. She claimed the title in impressive fashion, winning all 10 rounds of the series.
"Racing just gets in your blood, and it becomes something that you just do," Byrd said. "People who leave the sport for whatever reason, always come back. I'm just proud to be part of the sport. You meet so many great people in AMA Racing and the ATVA. It's just great to be a part of it."
The AMA and ATVA Youth riders of the Year were Anson Maloney and Jesse Skvarek. Maloney, who moved up from the mini-bike ranks and topped the field in the 200 B class in the AMA Western Hare Scrambles Championship Series, scoring four wins in the five rounds he contested. Skvarek received the ATVA award for a performance that landed him the 90 CVT class in the ITP Tires/Moose Racing AMA/ATVA National Championship.
Other special awards were presented to Jeff Fredette, AMA Racing Vet/Senior Rider of the Year; Ken Marcou, ATVA Vet/Senior Rider of the Year; and Thomas Brown, ATVA Amateur Rider of the Year.
In addition to top competitors, the AMA Racing end-of-year banquet honors those whose contributions to the sport are made off the racetrack. Winners of these awards were National Enduro Promotions Group, AMA Racing Off-Road Organizer of the Year; Belleville Enduro Team Inc., Track Racing Organizer of the Year; MX Sports LLC, Motocross Organizer of the Year; Red Bud
Recreation Inc., ATVA Organizer of the Year; and Mark Kariya, AMA Racing Journalist of the Year.