Welcome to our forty-day countdown to the season-opening Anaheim 1 Supercross, which takes place on January 3 at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, California. Each day we’re going to work through the history of Monster Energy AMA Supercross, offering a brief history lesson on the legends and heroes of our sport. We begin with 1974, the first year in which there was a stand-alone AMA Supercross Series.
Of course supercross as we know it had already been invented, just not the word itself. In 1972, following the lead of dirt-track promoter Allen Becker, who put on TT and short-track races in the Houston Astrodome, a creative (and somewhat controversial) West Coast promoter named Michael Goodwin organized a motocross race inside the Los Angeles Coliseum, at the time the most recognized stadium in the country. It was dubbed the Superbowl of Motocross. Goodwin’s race was actually part of what was known as the Inter-Am Series, an annual beat-down that the top Europeans put on the American upstarts that ran from 1967 through 1975. The race at the Coliseum was held on July 8 and won by a just-turned-16-year-old Yamaha rider from San Diego named Marty Tripes. The race was attended by about 27,000 people and considered a success, even by the European legends like Torsten Hallman and Hakan Andersson who attended.
The next year Goodwin brought the race back to the Coliseum, and Tripes, now riding a Honda, won it again. There was also a race in Philadelphia’s old JFK Stadium, though it was part of another late, great series, the Trans-AMAs. And the Daytona race, held in the infield of Daytona International Speedway, had been up and running since 1971. It was part of both the Florida Winter-AMA Series and the fledgling AMA National Motocross Championship, which got its start in 1972.
So by 1974, folks felt it was time to get a stand-alone “stadium motocross” series going. It was dubbed the Yamaha Super Series of Motocross, though it was really only two races—Daytona and the Houston Astrodome. Why not the Los Angeles Coliseum? Goodwin passed, deciding that he would likely be better off hosting his own series, once he found more stadiums to fill with dirt.
Daytona used to be run during the day, on a much longer track than what we see today. The 1974 event included two classes, 250 and 500, with equal billing. The star of the 250 Class was the reigning 250 Motocross Champion Pierre Karsmakers, whom Yamaha imported from Holland to show the young Americans around. The 500 Class was won by none other than Roger DeCoster, then a three-time 500cc World Champion and the best-known motocross rider in the world. He was brought in for the Daytona race by Suzuki, and delivered what would become The Man’s one and only AMA Supercross win.
The next week the series moved west to the Astrodome, on a track built by Gary Bailey—the same pioneer who built the Daytona track. This time it was much more like the supercross tracks we now know, though there were no double jumps, let alone triples, quads, step-ons, step-offs, etc. But there was the horrible smelling dirt, as the Astrodome had just hosted six weeks of the Houston Livestock and Rodeo Show, and the place smelled like a barn!
The races would take place on two different nights, with one overall winner like outdoor motocross. Unsung heroes like Penton-mounted Buck Murphy and Bultaco-mounted Bryar Holcomb won motos, but the overalls went to Pultaco’s Jim Pomeroy (250) and Yamaha’s Tim Hart (500). Karsmakers would be declared the champion of the 250 Class, and Gary Semics tied Tim Hart for the 500 championship but was given the title on a tie-breaker.
There was a Los Angeles Coliseum race, but it did not count in the series. We include it in The Vault anyway, and the winner was Czechoslovakian hero Jaroslav Falta, who beat DeCoster and now-Husqvarna-mounted Tripes. More than 60,000 people attended that race, which was still a part of the Inter-Am Series.
One year later the Yamaha Super Series of Motocross would expand to Dallas, and Los Angeles was soon to join, all but ensuring the demise of the dwindling Inter-Am tour. But at some point in the months between the ’74 Los Angeles race and the ’75 opener at Texas Stadium, someone coined the phrase “supercross” to describe this new stadium motocross championship. The first printed use of the word that we could find came in the 1975 AMA Preview Yearbook:
“Mike Goodwin has promoted a bit of everything. Concerts, motor racing, real estate and more. Before he became involved with motorcycles, the Rolling Stones concert in Yankee Stadium ranked as his biggest promotion. But it now looks as though Goodwin may be remembered longest for creating the phenomenon of ‘Supercross’ and bringing to the Los Angeles Coliseum the ‘Superbowl of Motocross.’”
The writer? Future broadcasting Hall of Famer Dave Despain.