With its proximity to the practice facilities and training grounds that dot the Southeast, the Daytona Monster Energy Supercross is the world's most competitive local race
If you’ve ever taken a drive off the highways in Florida, you know that the Sunshine State is the world capital of gaudy lawn ornaments. Seemingly every yard is adorned with some kind of kitschy three-dimensional art, fountain, or statue, ranging from golden angels to hollow Godzillas, from lantern-toting jockeys to crouching tigers and tin dragons, from Star Wars characters to mailbox-holding manatees—and lots and lots of little Statues of Liberty. Florida’s state animal is a panther, but it really should be a pink flamingo.
Florida is also the new epicenter of the supercross world, or at least its winter home. It got in the race before any other state, including California, which is widely credited as the cradle of supercross. Daytona International Speedway’s presence on the Monster Energy AMA Supercross schedule predates the series itself. On March 13, 1971, a dirt bike race was held on the infield as part of the Florida Winter-AMA Series. The all-but-forgotten race, won by Gunnar Lindstrom (250) and Bryan Kenney (500), went off more than a year before the 1972 Superbowl of Motocross at the Los Angeles Coliseum (the first nighttime stadium race) and three years before the first AMA Supercross Series (then known as the Yamaha Super Series of Stadium Motocross). Because all the Japanese motorcycle manufacturers’ U.S. distributors were located in California, the state soon became the primary residence of motocross, and throughout the eighties and nineties practically every AMA Supercross Champion hailed from the Golden State. Even though the Daytona SX remained a pillar of the series, the top riders and most of the events were on the West Coast.
That all changed in 2001—the year Ricky Carmichael toppled California’s Jeremy McGrath as AMA Supercross Champion. While other Floridians like Kenny Keylon, Ron Tichenor, and Tim Ferry had won races, Carmichael was the first to reach the highest of heights. Since then, every champion to follow has been based in Florida, not California. They may not all have been born there, like both five-time champion Carmichael and two-time champion James Stewart, but they but all migrated there to set up shop and train—and so have their competitors. As a result, Daytona has become the home race for the vast majority of the top contenders, adding to the prestige of the oldest race on the schedule.