Earlier this year, we unveiled the brand-new historic backdrop behind the starting gate at High Point Raceway. It celebrates the history of the track, which was founded on the Holbert family farm in Mt. Morris, Pennsylvania, in September of 1976. One year later, High Point held its first outdoor national, and it has remained on what’s now the Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship schedule every year—with the exception of 2020, when statewide COVID-19 restrictions barred large gatherings. During last year’s shutdown, we decided to do something cool to celebrate the history of High Point Raceway, so we asked Racer Productions graphic designer Heather Moebus to come up with a collage of old photos, pit passes, and program covers for the backdrop—something we saw done extremely well at the famed Assen TT circuit in the Netherlands at the 2019 Motocross of Nations, as well as the excellent “wall of fame” at Unadilla. High Point returns to the schedule this weekend for what will be the 44th Annual Pro Motocross event here, we thought we’d go into a little detail of just what each of those images mean for this week’s list. I’m going to try to do it in chronological order, but bear with me—there’s quite a bit of family history in here as well.
The very first High Point National program (the green one in the middle) in 1977 was designed by my mom, Rita Coombs. She chose a photo of Maico rider “Gassin’” Gaylon Mosier for the cover. Maico riders had been instrumental in the redesign of the first High Point track in the fall of 1976, but not Mosier. Rather, it was the European riders—Sylvain Geboers, Hans Maisch, and Adolf Weil—who had stopped by with their mechanic/driver Selveraj Narayana to hopefully practice in between Trans-AMA races. Rain made the track too muddy to practice, but they decided to walk around it and check things out. They liked the potential of the place but not the actual design, which was done by my dad, “Big Dave” Coombs. So they used rocks and sticks to mark corners and lay out a much better, European-style track. Before the next local race out there, Dad and the Holberts had made all of the changes suggested by the Maico riders!
Something else about that first program is worth pointing out: The main sponsor was Hi-Point Racing Products, John Penton’s company in Lorain, Ohio, that made gear, oils, tires, and just about everything else for dirt bikes. My dad was originally going to call the track Hi-Point Raceway and approached Mr. Penton and Hi-Point’s Larry Maiers (the future announcer) about lifetime track naming rights, but they balked at the price. My parents, sure that Penton would say yes, had already painted a sign for the entrance that said “Hi-Point Raceway,” so Dad took a saw and cut the sign in half, added a piece of plywood, then Mom painted a “GH” there to turn it into what it’s still known as today, High Point Raceway.
The asking price for that lifetime sponsorship for Hi-Point Racing Products? A one-time payment of $500. The winner of the first High Point National, which was the 250 class only? Pennsylvania’s own Tony DiStefano on a Suzuki. As for Gaylon Mosier, he finished 11th on his Maico. The date was May 29, 1977.
A drawing of a Maico rider ended up on the cover of the 1978 High Point National program, and we think it was again Gaylon Mosier, but we’re not really sure since Mom didn’t do that program, and the drawing was on the cover of several programs that year. The winners were Rick Burgett in the 500 class and Jimmy Ellis in the 250s. What was most interesting about this race was the fact that Dad decided to run the track backward for the national—the one and only time the national ran in a reverse direction. It didn’t flow very well at all.
The image to the right is of the 1980 program cover, which used a black-and-white photo from the ’79 race featuring Yamaha factory rider “Rocket” Rex Staten and privateer New Jersey rider Mickey Kessler, who was sponsored by Keystone Motocross Works, George Quay’s hop-up company in New Castle, Pennsylvania. Over the years, the OG Keystone evolved into Pro-Action Suspension, a longtime sponsor of the track and local riders. The winners of the 1980 National were Suzuki’s Kent Howerton (250) and Honda’s Chuck “The Rising” Sun (500), who still comes back to visit the September High Point “Homecoming” Race as grand marshal.
The ’79 High Point National took place on July 8. What’s weird about the selection of this program cover is the fact that it’s a 125 National class photo featuring “Flyin’” Brian Myerscough (#3), Jeff Ward (#7), and Warren Reid (#6), but the ’79 High Point National was a 250 and 500 class race—none of the guys in this photo were even there! I was a kid at the time and a big-time student of motocross, and I remember being so mad at the people who chose this picture (Royal Publishing) that I asked my mom if she would start doing the programs again, and said I would help her! She was too busy, but I remember my parents promising me that when I was old enough, I could produce them myself. (Apparently, the wait turned out to be eight years, as you will find out when we get to 1987.)
Right next to the ’79 program is the 1981 program cover, which featured a local artist’s drawing of that year’s main rivals, #1 Kent Howerton and #100 Bob “Hurricane” Hannah, who had missed the entire 1980 season with a broken leg. The guy hanging off Howerton’s fork leg is the aforementioned George Quay; the other is Vic Krause, who had a Chicago-based company called Krause Products and Sidewinder Sprockets and also wrote a tech column for Dirt Bike magazine called Mr. Know It All. Quay and Krause were a couple of hilarious characters as well as sponsors of the race. Howerton ended up winning the 250 class that year, while the 500 class win went to Yamaha’s Broc Glover.
Speaking of Glover, Broc landed on the cover himself the next year, by way of the T-shirt design. It was common back then to have Florida-based Dirt Shirts make the event T-shirts, then give the publishing company the art for the program cover. That’s Glover wearing #6 on his Yamaha wheeling away, but it was another Yamaha rider—Glover’s 17-year-old teammate Rick “Too Hip” Johnson—who would win the High Point 250 National. Broc had to settle for fourth behind runner-up David Bailey and third-place Donnie “Holeshot” Hansen. The 500 class winner was Honda’s Darrell Shultz, with Danny “Magoo” Chandler the runner-up.
And that black-and-white image just above the ’82 program is a picture I shot in 1995 of the 125 class leaving the starting gate, which would be won by Suzuki’s Tim Ferry—his first national win.
Another longtime sponsor of High Point Raceway was Wiseco Pistons. They were the presenting sponsor in 1985, when the race featured all three classes: 125, 250, and 500. The 500 class winner was David Bailey, who topped Glover in both motos aboard his last works Honda—the production rule would go into effect the next year. The 250 winner was Wardy, and the 125 winner was Suzuki’s Erik Kehoe, who took advantage of a flat tire for the heavily favored Ron Lechien to win the first pro national of his career.
On a personal note, this was the one and only AMA Pro Motocross final I qualified for in my very brief career (two races), but I didn’t score any points in the 125 class aboard my KTM—though I was proudly top KTM (and only KTM) in the race. But in the 500 class, my big brother Tim finished a solid seventh in the first moto but DNF’d the second. The thing is, both of us trained in the two weeks before the race by working out at the track—something I know the Martin brothers know a thing or two about when the series visits Spring Creek in Minnesota!
When my professional racing career didn’t quite go according to plan, I was lucky to quickly find a new passion: publishing. The cover you see here was my first event program—I was finally old enough for my parents to entrust me with producing the High Point program. I designed it on a light table in our house in Morgantown, with generous help from my busy mom. We used the T-shirt design for that year on the cover, which happened to be a photo of RJ that I’d shot myself the previous year. What my parents didn’t tell me was that I was also responsible for selling the program at the race, so my ’87 High Point weekend wasn’t spent out on the track, but rather down at the front gate selling programs out of a box! It was miserable work, really, but I had no idea just how well that would eventually turn out.
See the pit pass in the upper left corner? That’s what they looked like in 1989, which was the first time the race fell on that particular date, May 28. The holeshot photo below it was shot by the legendary Thom Veety of Action Photos, who chronicled much of the history of eastern tracks like High Point, Broome-Tioga, Unadilla, and Raceway Park in Englishtown, New Jersey. #4 is Ron “Dogger” Lechien, #1 is his Kawasaki teammate Jeff Ward, #20 is Suzuki’s Johnny O’Mara, #17 is Ohio’s Fred Andrews, and #44 is Danny Storbeck. You can’t see eventual winner Jeff Stanton, who is right behind Ward. You also don’t see Stanton’s Honda teammate Rick Johnson, because he broke his wrist at the opening round of the ’89 series when he collided with Storbeck at the Gatorback opener. The winner of the 125 class on this day was an upset of sorts, as defending 125 National Champion George Holland topped rookie sensation and High Point favorite son Damon Bradshaw.
The program on the right is the 1989 High Point cover, with defending 250 National Motocross Champion Jeff Ward of Kawasaki on the cover.
See the black-and-white photo at the bottom? That’s the 1990 High Point 125 National, and #80 on the outside is Tallon Vohland, the father of a kid who will visit High Point for the very first time: his son Maximus of the Red Bull KTM factory team. Next to Vohland is #135 Rodney Smith. Both hailed from NorCal, and both were sponsored by Scott Link, who was running Yoko, a brand from Finland, as U.S. distributor at the time. This must have marked the first and only time that a pair of Yoko-clothed riders led a 125 National! Just behind Smith is #686, local product Shane Lawson, in front of another local legend, #63 Jeff Glass. You will also see #4 Guy Cooper, #27 Denny Stephenson, and #36 Jeff Emig. And I was almost absolutely sure #31 was Barry Carsten, but it’s actually Jimmy Gaddis.
Fast-forward to 1991. Jean-Michel Bayle was the story of that season, so we put him on the program cover, from a photo that was shot by the great Tom “Wolfman” Webb, then with Dirt Rider. JMB had won High Point in the 125 class the year before, coming from dead last after a crash to start the second moto to take over the lead shortly past the halfway mark. It was an amazing comeback. But in that ’91 High Point National, the Frenchman could only claim the best seat in the house, as Honda’s Jeff Stanton and Yamaha’s Damon Bradshaw put on a remarkable battle in both motos for the win while JMB sat back in third and watched. Stanton got the nod with his 2-1 over Bradshaw’s 1-2.
Maybe my favorite cover, shot by the great Fran Kuhn of Inside Motocross fame, or #4 Damon Bradshaw. The “Beast from the East” was arguably at his peak in ’92, and this time he would sweep both motos at High Point over JMB and Stanton. And if you’re wondering about the weird black-and-white, uneven lower-case font, this was inspired by Surfer magazine, which I had become a big fan of, even though there are no tasty waves in West Virginia. I was just a fan of the style, and would end up sampling it for the cover.
Back to the same photo as 1990, but with a different sample style in 1994. USA Today was big at the time, and I was a fan of their look and style, so I totally ripped it off for the ’94 program cover, which featured a shot I took at Hangtown of that year of Chad Pederson (#51) and Jimmy Gaddis (44) vying for the holeshot.
Now see the color holeshot photo above? That’s a pic from the same ’94 High Point National and #510 with the holeshot was Kevin Windham, who famously holeshot the first moto and nearly won in just his second pro race. This was the race where Fox Racing celebrated their 20th anniversary with retro gear worn by #17 Ezra Lusk and eventual winner Doug Henry (not pictured). And there on the inside, wearing #37 on a Boyesen Yamaha, is future 1997 High Point 125 National winner Scott Sheak #37.
Finally, the last and newest image, the 2000 High Point program featuring Ricky Carmichael on the cover, shot by Simon Cudby. While over the years we’ve seen pretty much every top rider win at High Point at least once, the all-time GOAT here is the GOAT pretty much everywhere else. Ricky Carmichael had a terrible start here in 1997 when the rookie kept crashing in the mud, but then he won both ’98 and ’99 in the 125 class, and then every year between 2002 and his retirement in 2007, giving him eight High Point wins. He also had some epic battles here, including a few with none other than James Stewart.
We thought we’d end the memory lane there in 2000 as we soon transitioned away from doing single event programs to one big yearbook for all 12 rounds of Lucas Oil Pro Motocross. You can find and buy that book at the track this weekend, being sold by local kids’ groups as well as at all of the major vendors. The 2021 program looks like this:
Thanks for reading about High Point Raceway and its rich history. See you at the races.