The 2018 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship, sanctioned by AMA Pro Racing, is now just 23 days away! The 50th Annual Hangtown Classic, just outside of Sacramento, California, will go off the starting gate on May 19.
Five years ago, on the eve of the 2013 outdoor season, the editors and contributors of Racer X Online did countdown of the 30 Greatest AMA Motocrossers of all time, ranking the best riders on the AMA Motocross circuit. You can check out that list right here.
But now we’re five years past that list, and in anticipation of a brand-new season of racing, we decided to revisit and update that list, adding in the results and championships accumulated in the past five years to our existing results, which go back to 1972. Our rankings include a mix of championships, race wins, and podiums; a rider's efficiency and longevity; the competition they raced against; and, of course, pure talent and speed. Remember, these rankings are based on the AMA Motocross Nationals—international events like the Motocross of Nations and Grand Prix events here and abroad will not be factored into our tally.
One of the hard men of American motocross in the seventies was Tony DiStefano. Racing out of Eastern Pennsylvania in a Full House van loaded up with a CZ motorcycle, Tony D took on the best riders the rest of the country had to offer over the course of a long professional career. He also got in some qualify wins against European competition in those late, great Trans-AMA and Inter-Am series races.
But it was AMA Motocross where DiStefano found the most success. After racing that antiquated CZ throughout his first two years (1973-'74) as a professional, finishing second to Kawasaki factory rider Jimmy Weinert in the 1974 AMA 500cc Nationals, Tony D. was picked up by Suzuki in 1975 and immediately went on a tear. He was the first man to take the #1 plate off Gary Jones' hands in the 250 Class, taking the '75 Motocross Championship, as well as that summer's last Inter-AM tour by winning all three rounds of the series.
He repeated as champion in both '76 and '77, narrowly holding off Team Honda's Marty Smith and Jim Pomeroy for his third straight crown with a dominant win at the final round at High Point Raceway. Little did anyone know at the time that the High Point win that wrapped up his third straight title would also mark his last win as a professional.
On March 18, 1978, DiStefano was involved in a major first-turn crash at the Houston Astrodome that had devastating effects on three of the top riders of the time. Tony D wrenched his knee badly, Honda's Marty Smith dislocated his hip, and his teammate Jimmy Ellis separated his shoulder. Of the three, only Ellis would ever win another race as a professional.
DiStefano came back later that year, but his speed had changed, as had that of the new frontrunners, California flyers like Bob Hannah, Broc Glover, Mike Bell, and the Texan Kent Howerton, who took over from DiStefano as the team leader.
DiStefano would close out his career on overwhelmed Can-Am and Husqvarna motorcycles, while also dealing with an eye injury that nearly blinded him in one eye. His last National finish was a 12th at Washougal on August 2, 1981.
Next in life for Tony D, a popular and highly-respected racer, was a chance at teaching motocross schools, but that too took a turn for the worse when he crashed while instructing young riders and ended up in a wheelchair. That is his situation now, but his legacy forever will be that of an all-time great in American motocross and a three-time AMA 250cc Motocross Champion.