The 2018 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship, sanctioned by AMA Pro Racing, is now just 19 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.
If there were a way to count the number of passes a rider made during his professional racing career, Mike LaRocco would no doubt be at the top of the list. A two-time AMA Motocross #1 (1994 250cc, '93 500cc) and the winner of 20 outdoor Nationals spread over all three classes, The Rock lands at 19 on our list of the 30 Greatest AMA Motocross racers, sponsored by NBC Sports Gold.
Mike LaRocco is one of American motocross' all-time working-class heroes. He came up out of the Midwest—Indiana, to be exact—and worked his way into a Yamaha support ride before he turned pro. Even as a teenager, he was neither flashy nor a fast starter, but he was one of the strongest finishers the sport has ever seen. His first National was the 1987 Spring Creek National in Millville, Minnesota, where he finished 12th.
Over the years, LaRocco would work through the pro ranks, moving from Yamaha to a full factory ride at Suzuki and then Kawasaki. It was on the green bikes that he really hit his stride. First, he nearly won the 1992 125 National Championship, leading the points for most of the season until a bizarre run of bad luck—two separate bike problems in two motos on the same day cost him a ton of points and opened the door for Jeff Emig’s come-from-behind charge to the title. LaRocco would bounce back by winning two titles in consecutive years. As a matter of fact, LaRocco was America’s final AMA 500cc Motocross Champion.
In 1995, LaRocco was hoping for a successful title defense in the 250 class, only to suffer a broken arm, which he had plated so he could return early…only to be derailed again by a knee injury at Millville, one race after a win at Unadilla. LaRocco switched back to Suzuki, where he had some flashes of brilliance but was never quite as fast as before his injuries. He also never really figured out his starting difficulties, which certainly cost him wins throughout his career, both outdoors and indoors.
After his deal with Suzuki ran out, LaRocco made a gutsy decision: He signed with Factory Connection to be an independent rider, albeit with some help from American Honda. He then put his career into overtime (mind you, he’d already been at it for more than a decade) and stayed fast for several years before making the decision to race only supercross in hopes of extending his time as a professional racer.
By the time he retired in 2006, LaRocco had racked up the third-most podiums in history (at the time) in the 450 class with 53, plus 16 previous ones from the 125cc class.
LaRocco's success over a large span of races and years, as well as his titles, wins and podiums, earn him the 19th spot on this list. Check out all of Mike LaRocco's results right here in the Racer X Vault.