As Red Bull KTM's Cooper Webb sits in position to wrap up a title that few foresaw when the 2019 Monster Energy AMA Supercross Championship started, we thought we would look back at some other unlikely premier class AMA Supercross titles—at least unlikely before the season began.
In this case, Webb had not even won a single 450SX race in his first two years in the class, and now he’s sitting on six wins and an 18-point lead with two races remaining. That’s unexpected, but he wouldn’t be the first SX champ to beat the preseason predictions.
Anderson in ‘18
We don't have to look far to start, as just last year Rockstar Energy Husqvarna's Jason Anderson was seeded well behind Monster Energy Kawasaki's Eli Tomac, Red Bull KTM's Marvin Musquin, and even Honda HRC’s returning Ken Roczen as title favorites when the season began. When the racing got started, though, El Hombre won some early races while the primary title favorites stumbled out of the gate, and soon Anderson was well on his way to the first-ever AMA 450 Supercross Championship for Husqvarna as well as himself. Anderson wasn’t the out-and-out favorite when the season began, but he had won several 450SX races already in previous seasons. You’d be surprised how many riders actually came into a season without a win and then suddenly turned into champions.
Ellis in ‘75
In 1975, Jimmy Ellis dominated the AMA Supercross Championship by winning all four races—Dallas, Daytona, Houston, Los Angeles—aboard a Can-Am 250cc motorcycle. What people forget is that there was also a 500cc class that year, though it only ran at the first three rounds. The winner of two out of the three races and the champion was Steve Stackable, a big Texan who raced aboard a Maico.
Hansen in ’82, Bailey in ’83, and O’Mara in ‘84
This one is a three-parter, with a lot of symmetry. None of them were expected at the beginning of the season to end up champions. In fact, none of them had ever won an AMA Supercross race before their championship runs!
When the 1982 season started, Donnie Hansen had zero AMA Supercross wins to his credit. By the time the season was over the Team Honda rider had four AMA Supercross wins and his first (and only) AMA Supercross title. Hansen grabbed his first career win at the Anaheim opener and carried that momentum to a title
When the 1983 season started, David Bailey had zero AMA Supercross wins to his credit. By the time the season was over the Team Honda rider had three AMA Supercross wins and his first (and only) AMA Supercross title. Bailey grabbed his first career win at the Anaheim opener and carried that momentum to a title.
When the 1984 season started, Johnny O'Mara had zero AMA Supercross wins to his credit. By the time the season was over the Team Honda rider five AMA Supercross wins and his first (and only) AMA Supercross Championship. O’Mara grabbed his first career win at the Anaheim opened and carried that momentum to a title
Like we said, a lot of symmetry in three consecutive titles for Honda!
Dungey in ‘10
In 2010, Ryan Dungey was a 450 class rookie in Monster Energy AMA Supercross while Ryan Villopoto was just heading into his second season. No one at the beginning of the season considered either Ryan as favorites, because Chad Reed and James Stewart were considered the alpha dogs in the field and had owned the podium in 2008 and 2009.
But then James hurt is wrist early, Reed broke his hand, and the title chase was thrown wide open before the calendar turned from January to February. By the time the series was headed into the last four races of the home stretch, it was down to Rockstar/Makita Suzuki's Dungey and Monster Energy Kawasaki's Villopoto, who were separated by just 12 points. RV seemed to have the momentum too, but then he stepped over the bars at the St. Louis race and broke his leg, leaving Dungey to take him his first of four AMA Supercross crowns. Villopoto would bounce back in '11, winning his first of four, which came in consecutive years.
Dungey was the first pure rookie to claim the title since…keep reading.
Stanton in ‘89
In 1989, Team Honda's Ricky Johnson was ruling the roost, winning the first five rounds in a row. RJ was looking unstoppable, but a persistent new Honda teammate named Jeff Stanton reeled off podiums behind him, then scored a victory in Atlanta. A week later, RJ collided with Honda privateer Danny Storbeck in practice at the Gatorback National opener (back then the outdoor opener was in the middle of AMA Supercross) and suddenly he was out of both series. Stanton, barely a threat in his first three years as a pro with Yamaha, took off with the chance and won his first of three AMA Supercross crowns. Incredibly, Stanton had scored just one career podium finish before the 1989 season, and that was at rough-and-tumble Daytona in 1987, and that was a crazy mud race won by a privateer, Rick Ryan.
To go from top-five threat to champion in one season makes this a pretty unlikely title situation.
McGrath in ‘93
Finally, it's hard to ever think of anything that Jeremy McGrath did in AMA Supercross as "unlikely," but even though he was a dominant 125cc rider in 1991 and '92, the idea of him winning the 250cc title as a rookie 1993 seemed far-fetched. He would be going up against three-time champion and Team Honda captain Stanton, an out-for-revenge Bradshaw, Kawasaki's two-pronged attack of Mike LaRocco and Mike Kiedrowski, and more. And after McGrath went 4-5 in the first two rounds at Orlando and Houston, it didn't seem like he was about to turn the sport upside down, but that's exactly what he did. Starting with the third round at Anaheim (another Anaheim where a Honda rider on the way to a first title gets his first win) Jeremy just flat-out destroyed the field, winning a then-record 10 rounds and winning his first of seven titles by more than 50 points, which means he lapped the field in points—twice.