There’s a stat we had never really considered: what’s the all-time winningest rider/mechanic combination in the sport? The idea came when mechanic Brian Kranz told us this year would mark the end of his 11-season run with Eli Tomac. Tomac is headed to Monster Energy/Star Yamaha Racing, and Kranz will stay with Monster Energy Kawasaki and take a job in the race shop. Kranz started working with Tomac for the 2011 season. That many years in that kind of high-pressure title-contender environment is a lot, much more than even the most iconic rider/mechanic duos.
So how do Tomac and Kranz rank all time in wins? We attempted to figure that out here. A word of warning, though, it’s hard to track these stats officially since mechanic names don’t appear on entry lists or results columns. On occasion a mechanic will miss a race while his rider is still there, but Kranz did tell us he was there for all of Eli’s wins since ’11.
Anyway, we figured out what the span of each top rider/mechanic relationship and calculated the win numbers here. We’d like to guarantee the accuracy, but this is the first time anyone has ever put stats like this together. Steve Matthes and I came up with some parameters, and special thanks also to the SX Research Department and MX Research Department, which pulls stats for the TV crew in this sport.
We also asked Matthes, who worked in the pro paddock for ten years, for his takeaway on these iconic rider/mechanic duos. While wrenching for Kelly Smith in 2000, Matthes helped the Michigan native earn the first KTM win in the U.S. at the High Point National via 1-4 moto finishes. Matthes also helped Tim Ferry win the first moto at the 2003 Budds Creek National (Ferry tangled in the first turn of moto two and eventually did not finish the race), so we’ll give him half a win for that day as well. So, Matthes has wrenched for 1.5 national wins. The guys below were much more successful than that.
Carmichael with Watts - 1997 to 2002
|Total Wins:||90 (36 SX and 54 MX)|
|250/SX LITES/125 SX||11|
Notes: No surprise to see a combination of Ricky Carmichael and someone at the top. Chad Watts started with RC in his Pro Circuit Kawasaki 125 days, followed him to the factory Chevy Trucks Kawasaki 250 unit, and then over to Team Honda in 2002. They produced the first 24-0 perfect season together that season. When Carmichael was interviewed on TV at the Steel City National finale that year, both he and Watts came to the podium together, because holding together the 24-0 mark was considered just as tough on the mechanic as it was on the rider.
Watts was Carmichael’s mechanic through the start of the 2003 season, then Mike Gosselaar became RC’s mechanic starting at the San Diego round of the 2003 supercross season.
steve Matthes: Watts had a great career and probably could’ve done very well if he had been 100 percent focused on his job, but his departure from RC and Honda ended his run as a race mechanic. Still, getting put with a young RC was a great stroke of luck and combined with his skills, they made quite a combination for many years. Great duo for sure.
Check out the video above as Carmichael finishes the first 24-0 perfect season in history.
Tomac with Kranz - 2011 to 2021
|Total Wins:||83 (45 SX and 38 MX)|
|250/SX LITES/125 SX:||12|
Notes: Eli Tomac/Brian Kranz is second all time. Kranz spun the wrenches for every Tomac win as a pro except one, as Tomac had different mechanic when he won at his pro debut in 2010 at Hangtown. Kranz, at GEICO Honda, moved to Eli in 2011 and then they both moved to Monster Energy Kawasaki for the 2016 season. As you’ll see from the list below, 11 seasons is an unheard of run at this level, as most of the legendary rider/mechanic combos lasted about half this long.
Tomac is now moving to Monster Energy/Star Racing Yamaha for 2022, and Kranz will remain at Kawasaki to take an in-house position at the race shop.
Matthes: Bet you didn’t have this as #2 all-time, right? Congrats to both of these guys are on a great partnership. When we heard Kranz was hanging it up as a mechanic, Weege and I dug into the number of wins these guys have together. Kranz is as low-key as they come. I’ve seen the wins, bonus money, and fake fame get to some mechanics and they start thinking they’re the reason the rider is winning. Not with Brian, though. He’s a worker bee who’s done a good job under some trying circumstances when you think about the 450SX titles that Eli didn’t win when he was the best guy. The pressure of being expected to win every race, and win every title, must be immense.
"It’s going to be strange [without him next season]. You basically become family that way. When you show up to the race and race weekends, it’s like you’re a team. So, that’s what’s going to be different about it, is not having him there. We’ve had a long, long-standing relationship. It’s 11 years. I don't know if many guys have beaten that as a combination. Kranz was bulletproof. I could trust the bike every single weekend. You never have questions about what the guy is doing. Bolts are tight, things are going to stay together. He had a gnarly track record that way. It’s tough to think about not having him there."
Eli Tomac and Brian Kranz at the 2019 Denver Supercrosss. Rich Shepherd Kranz switches out the front number plate for ET3 after they claimed the 2019 450 Class Pro Motocross title at Budds Creek Motocross Park. Rich Shepherd Tomac and Kranz at the 2020 Daytona Supercrosss. Align Media Tomac and Kranz after the 2021 Houston 2 Supercrosss. Align Media
McGrath with Norfolk – 1991 to 1996
|Total Wins:||75 (59 SX and 16 MX)|
|250/SX LITES/125 SX:||12|
Notes: An iconic combination, Skip and Jeremy took cool to a new level, both in their win rate and their style. The McGrath/Norfolk combo ruled 125 West Supercross in 1991 and 1992 with the Peak/Pro Circuit Honda team, and then moved to Team Honda’s 250 squad for 1993. Then they rewrote the record book, including a near-perfect season in 1996. Plus, the duo’s run in the AMA 250 Motocross Nationals in 1995 and 1996 was probably underrated.
Skip put the wrenches down after the 1996 season, but would actually return to work with Jeremy a few times, including coming out of retirement for the 2001 supercross season. Randy Lawrence handled the mechanic duties for McGrath for his last three title seasons. Jeremy would then win his last two supercross races with Norfolk at the pit board.
Matthes: Skip lives in Las Vegas these days running a brewery, so I see him here and there. He’s always very complementary of getting hitched with McGrath early on in the Team Green days and getting on that run. He blames himself for Jeremy losing St Louis in ’96 and ending his bid at a perfect season. Skip took on a much larger role than just building a bike, as he felt it was his job to shield Jeremy from some external obligations so he could focus on racing. In St. Louis, he didn’t do it, and he blames himself for Jeremy’s loss. That’s how tight these guys were. When Skip was MC’s wrench, I was around him a bit and he couldn’t have been any cooler or down to earth back then. I was just some new guy greaseball privateer mechanic, and he was much cooler and more helpful than he needed to be. Also, bonus points for getting 95 percent of those wins in a box van.
Stewart with Albrecht – 2002 to 2008 SX
|Total Wins:||73 (44 SX and 29 MX)|
|250/SX LITES/125 SX:||16|
Notes: As with Carmichael, you know James Stewart will rank high on this list with someone (RC and Stew are 1-2 in all time AMA combined wins) and you also probably know Jeremy Albrecht was on his side for most of those Kawasaki wins in the early days. At the end of the 2008 supercross season, Albrecht left Kawasaki to begin building the JGR MX program. Stewart went on to a 24-0 perfect season with Mike Williamson as his mechanic.
Matthes: J-Bone had a great run as a wrench, first with Jeff Emig and then right into another icon with Stew. And he left some wins on the table as Weege explained when he moved to team manager role at JGR. J-Bone had an Oakley ad! J-Bone was in Fresno Smooth! J-Bone was cool.
Carmichael with Gosselaar – 2003 to 2007
|Total Wins:||71 (23 SX and 48 MX)|
|250/SX LITES/125 SX:||0|
Notes: Carmichael split his career wins in half with Watts and Mike “Goose” Gosselaar. It’s another list for another day, but when you look at Gosselaar, who wrenched for Carmichael, Steve Lamson, Ezra Lusk, Ryan Dungey, and Chad Reed, you’re likely looking at the winningest mechanic ever.
Matthes: Yeah, Goose was the mechanic’s mechanic. As in, most of us in the pits sort of acknowledged he was one of the best wrenches or maybe the best. His bikes always looked great, they never broke, he came from being an actual mechanic from the California Highway Patrol so he never seemed to get caught up in the life. He was always very nice and an understated guy. There’s no doubt Goose has the most wins ever as a mechanic when you look at his list of dudes. Yet, you would never hear this guy brag about his success!
Villopoto with Williamson – 2009-2014
|Total Wins:||53 (41 SX and 12 MX)|
|250/SX LITES/125 SX: 0||0|
|450/SX/250 SX: 41||41|
|250/MX LITES/125: 0||0|
|450/MX/250 MX: 12||12|
Notes: Villopoto scored 29 career wins with John “Throttle” Mitcheff as his mechanic at Monster Energy/Pro Circuit Kawasaki. Mitcheff moved to the factory Monster Energy Kawasaki 450 unit with Villopoto in 2009 but was replaced by Mike Williamson mid-season. Villopoto scored all of his 450 wins with Williamson as his mechanic.
Matthes: I worked with Mike at Red Bull KTM in 2001 when he was Broc Sellards’ mechanic and came from the old NCY Yamaha team. He was always very meticulous, and I think he was a bit more forceful with his opinions on bike setup than some of the other guys on this list, but I also know him better than the other guys. Going 24-0 in the outdoors is simply insane and he’s one of three guys to do it in the history of the sport. When he moved to become the crew chief for Tomac at Kawasaki, I’m not sure that was the best thing for him. He walked away from the sport with his head held high.
Dungey with Rivera – 2012 to 2017
|Total Wins:||52 (27 SX and 25 MX)|
|250/SX LITES/125 SX: 0||0|
|450/SX/250 SX: 27||27|
|250/MX LITES/125: 0||0|
|450/MX/250 MX: 25||25|
Notes: Carlos Rivera was originally known as Davi Millsaps’ mechanic in his amateur days with Suzuki, and then he followed Davi into the pro ranks. KTM hired him to work with Ryan Dungey and they produced quite a bit of success, and Rivera’s run is still going today with Cooper Webb, who now has 19 career 450SX main event wins (to date) under his belt and two 450SX titles.
Matthes: I thought this would be higher, to be honest. Carlos is meticulous about shaving weight off his motorcycles and Roger De Coster at KTM really leaned on Carlos early on in the KTM days. He’s also one of those guys who's not in it for the headlines and endears great loyalty from his riders after he’s done with them.
Johnson with Lunnis – 1986 to 1990
|Total Wins:||51 (25 SX and 26 MX)|
|250/SX LITES/125 SX:||0|
Notes: Rick Johnson and Brian Lunnis at Team Honda were peak 1980s. Johnson was the winningest rider of that era and Lunnis, who had wrenched for Bob Hannah before Johnson came over to Honda, was considered the top mechanic. Like so many stories from the 1970s and 1980s, this one includes a massive what if. Johnson broke his wrist at the peak of his powers in 1989 and would have no doubt won many, many more races. It’s just like Bob Hannah, who broke his leg at his peak (Hannah’s wins are split between Bill Butchka and Keith McCarty at Yamaha, and then Lunnis at Honda). Still, winning this much in a gnarly era of driving box vans around the country is no joke.
Matthes: Bro, Lunnis got a Ferrari from Hannah as a bonus once! I mean, that’s all you need to know about Brian. One of the all-time great motivator mechanics from the box van days, I’ve also heard a ton of stories about how hard of a trainer Brian was as well. He was going on bicycle rides with his guys. By the time Brian worked with Damon Bradshaw and Damon Huffman, I think the “yelling at your guys to make them better” mode didn’t really work. I’m sure guys like Hannah and Johnson didn’t mind it one bit. An amazing career, no doubt, and he also found great success after his mechanic days working with the Mechanix Wear brand.