Dick Klamfoth, three-time Daytona 200 winner, dies at 91

Larry Lawrence | December 16, 2019

Dick Klamfoth, three-time Daytona 200 winner, dies at 91

Dick Klamfoth, the first three-time champion of the Daytona 200, died Friday in Columbus, Ohio. He was 91.

Dick Klamfoth, three-time Daytona 200 winner, dies at 91

Klamfoth Daytona 1952
Dick Klamfoth in 1952 after winning his third Daytona 200.

At the age of 20, Klamfoth burst onto the motorcycle racing scene in March of 1949 when he rode a Norton to a surprise victory in the 200 on his very first attempt. Klamfoth won the spring classic again in 1951 and 1952 to become the first three-time winner of America’s most famous motorcycle race.

Known as one of the true gentlemen of the sport, Klamfoth was named AMA’s Most Popular Rider in 1961.

Later in life Klamfoth, along with his wife Bev, devoted his energies to raise money for a Daytona 200 Monument. They spent years raising funds and working with the city of Daytona Beach to get approval to place the monument near the beachfront site of the north turn of the old beach course. With the ideal location secured and with generous donations coming in, the idea became a reality as the Daytona 200 monument was officially dedicated in March 2002.

“This monument is likely to be here forever, and everyone can be part of it,” Klamfoth said at the dedication.

Klamfoth in 2009
Dick Klamfoth being honored at Lima in 2009. (Photo by Larry Lawrence)

Klamfoth was born in Columbus, Ohio, on Sept. 30, 1928. Growing up on a farm in nearby Groveport, Klamfoth began riding motorcycles after getting his driver’s license at the age of 14.
Klamfoth’s record of three Daytona 200 wins was tied, but not broken until 1998 when Scott Russell took his fourth victory at Daytona. While Klamfoth never won the AMA Grand National Series (which was instituted in 1954), he finished in the top ten in all but two years during the period from 1954 to 1961. Klamfoth went into semi-retirement after the 1962 season, but did venture back to Daytona in 1964 so he could finally race on the high banks (In 1961 through 1963 the 200 was held on an infield course that did not utilize the banked turns of the superspeedway). In his final pro race, appropriately at Daytona where he came to fame, Klamfoth took a very credible fifth on a Matchless. Klamfoth finished his racing career with a total of 12 AMA national victories and one international win.

Klamfoth owned one of the nation’s biggest Honda dealerships and also promoted AMA National Motocross races at his central Ohio Honda Hills complex. Klamfoth retired in 1989 and continued to promote the sport.

Klamfoth was part of the first class of inductees into the Motorcycle Hall of Fame in 1998.

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.