Archives: The Stories of 2018 We’ll Remember

Larry Lawrence | December 18, 2018

Archives: The Stories of 2018 We’ll Remember

If you’re still around and click on 25 years from now there’s a good chance that Archives will be looking back at least a few of the motorcycle racing stories we just lived through in 2018. Check it out, I remember when Jason Anderson won that Supercross title on a Husky. A company making electric motorcycles went belly up? Yamaha had a tough time winning in MotoGP with both Maverick and Valentino on the team? Indian sure was tough on the flat tracks back then. That was an ugly weekend for Team USA at RedBud. Seriously, Cam Beaubier only had three MotoAmerica Superbike Championships back then? And what was that dude thinking, grabbing the front brake of one of his fellow racers?

Archives: The Stories of 2018 We’ll Remember

Team USA had never lost Motocross des Nations on home soil until this year. That’s one reason this is likely to be the racing story of 2018 we’ll most remember in the future.

The top stories of 2018 ran the gamut, from the amazing comeback of Ken Roczen from what appeared to be a career-ending injury, to the absurd, thinking of Romano Fenati, the end of eras with the retirements of Dani Pedrosa, Kenny Coolbeth, Roger Hayden and Davi Millsaps and finally the sad, with the loss of racing heroes like former Kawasaki factory road racer Hurley Wilvert; 1990s GP star Ralf Waldman; Johnny Gibson, winner of 1956 Daytona 200 and Eric Geboers, the first motocross racer to win world championships in all three classes, to industry stalwarts like race announcer Brian Drebber, former Harley CEO Vaughn Beals, pioneering race promoter Gavin Trippe, Jeff Fox, the former president and CEO of LeMans Corp., just to name a few of the notables.

10. Harley-Davidson Goes Winless for the First Time – Harley-Davidson continued its struggles on the track in 2018. This year was perhaps the low point. For the first time in the 65-year history of American Flat Track that the Motor Company did not win a national. The three factory riders for the squad Sammy Halbert, Jarod Vanderkooi and Brandon Robinson finished 10th, 13th and 14th respectively in the championship. Unless Harley finds some miracles with the XG750R this winter (or pay Jared Mees a million bucks to come back), it seems like their next win could be a long way off.

9. Romano Fenati Controversy – Rarely have we seen the kind of reaction, fueled by social media, generated when Romano Fenati grabbed rival Stefano Manzi’s brake lever while traveling at an estimated 130 mph on a straight during the Moto2 race at San Marino. Racing fans called for everything from a lifetime ban to public flogging. Fenati apologized for his actions and then issued a statement saying he was leaving the sport permanently. Eventually the furor calmed and Fenati was given a demotion to Moto3 for 2019.

8. Ken Roczen Comeback – Honda’s Ken Roczen made a strong comeback from the devastating injury to his left arm that very nearly ended his career. The German’s return has been called by some “The Greatest Comeback of All Time.” Though he didn’t score a victory, Roczen was able to score multiple podium finishes in both Supercross and Motocross races throughout 2018. It was definitely one of the feel-good stories of 2018 and no one is betting against victories for Roczen in 2019.

7. Kenny Coolbeth Retires – There was not a great deal of hoopla or fanfare about it, that’s not his style, but it was significant nevertheless that three-time AMA Grand National Champion Kenny Coolbeth announced his retirement this year. A 25-year pro racing veteran, Coolbeth was by far the dominant riders of the second half of the decade of the 2000s and his fitness regimen changed the way riders in that series had to prepare to race if they wanted to win. After Chris Carr retired Coolbeth became the winningest active rider in the championship and remained so up until this year. He was competitive to the end, scoring five podiums in his final season, including taking a victory (his 37th-career national win) at the Dixie Speedway Short Track National.

6. Dani Pedrosa Retires – Another retirement story was big news this year and that was Dani Pedrosa’s July announcement that the 2018 racing season would be his last. “Pedro” was a three-time World Champion having won the 125 Championship in 2003, the 250 title in 2004 and 2005. He was also one of the most successful riders of all time in the premier class. In 13 seasons in MotoGP – all with the factory Repsol Honda Team – Pedrosa scored 31 wins, 31 poles and a remarkable 112 podiums. He was runner up in the MotoGP Championship three times and was a potential race winner throughout his career.

5. Indian Publicly Criticizes AFT Rules Changes – When Indian put out a statement of its displeasure of American Flat Track’s rules changes for 2019, longtime American Flat Track racing fans had flashbacks 30 years ago to when Honda left the series in 1988 after the intake restrictors were imposed by the AMA to level the playing field. But after winning 17 of the 18 American Flat Track races in 2018, can Indian really be that surprised that AFT made moves to help the other manufacturers be more competitive?

4. Jorge Lorenzo to Honda – Jorge Lorenzo was the latest in the line of MotoGP superstars who seemingly could not come to terms with Ducati’s GP bike. Of course, as soon as the announcement was made that Lorenzo was switching to Honda, he suddenly started winning on the Ducati. Too late Jorge, you’re going to be playing second fiddle to teammate Marc Marquez next year.

3. Brad Baker Injured in X Games – It was one of those things you’d never dream could happen. Racing on a tiny little short track inside U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, former American Flat Track Champ Brad Baker flipped over the high side of his bike in a crash where he was going maybe 50 mph and suffered a severe spinal cord injury. And just like that, the career of one of the elite riders in all of motorcycle racing ended. Baker is a fighter and believes he will walk again. The entire racing community is pulling for him.

2. Jason Anderson Wins Supercross Title for Husqvarna – For the past eight years the Monster Energy AMA Supercross Championship was owned by a Ryan – either Dungey or Villopoto. This time last year we wondered who would become the first rider to win the Supercross title in the post-Ryan era and now we know – it was Jason Anderson. Not a lot of people saw that coming. It also marked the first premier-class Supercross title for Husqvarna.

1. Team USA Humbled at Home – The motocross world was abuzz with the Motocross des Nations coming to RedBud in Michigan. In spite of heavy rains during the weekend a massive crowd packed the grounds only to see Team USA go down in defeat. It was the first time the Americans lost the prestigious international competition on home soil. Team USA finished sixth. Mud, crashes, flat tires, bad gate picks, you name it, the red, white and blue faced it. Does it mean America’s domination of motocross has ended? Well, France has won five in a row – you make the call.

Larry Lawrence | Archives Editor In addition to writing our Archives section on a weekly basis, Lawrence is another who is capable of covering any event we throw his way.