The 2nd Annual "Monsters of Motocross" event unfolded Halloween night in San Bernardino to present the Edison Dye Motocross Lifetime Achievement Award to Tony Distefano. The award is named after Edison Dye, the promoter credited with bringing European motocross to the United States in the late 1960s. The event, presented by Lucas Oil and put on by the producers of "The Motocross Files," runs in conjunction with the Vet World Championships at Glen Helen, providing the opportunity for a full historical throwback to vintage motocross.
The turnout was a virtual who’s who of 1970s and 1980s-era motocross with Bob "Hurricane" Hannah emceeing the event. Former legends Brad Lackey (first American to win the 500cc World Championship), Mark "The Bomber" Barnett, Steve Wise and Malcolm Smith, among others, were in attendance and signing autographs. Gerrit Wolsink (five-time winner of the Carlsbad USGP) flew all the way from Holland to say a few words about his old nemesis.
Hannah did quite a good job hosting the motocross event, entertaining the crowd with funny stories from his years on the circuit and tossing in a few good-humored jabs at the honoree. John DeSoto ("The Flyin’ Hawaiian"), Warren Reid and "Jammin’" Jimmy Weinert couldn’t make it in person but sent videos with their individual good-natured rips on Distefano, but always closed out with genuine praise for the 3-time national motocross champion. It was heartwarming to see these former rivals tamed a bit by the years, now able to enjoy each other’s company (which wasn’t always the case when they were competing).
The evening’s honoree, Tony Distefano, known as Tony "D", was one of the youngest motocross racers on the pro scene in the early 70s, actually lying about his age to enter his first national at 15. He went on to become a legendary privateer, battling week in and week out with the factory riders. His exploits and raw talent landed him a ride with Suzuki and he went on to win the AMA 250cc outdoor motocross title three years in succession; 1975, 1976, and 1977.
Distefano was injured in a motocross practice crash in 1988, which left him confined to a wheelchair. Despite this handicap, Distefano runs a successful motocross workshop for aspiring racers and stays involved with the sport he helped to put on the map. The event benefitted the Reeve Irvine Research Center, a basic science research facility devoted to finding new treatments for spinal cord injuries.
The evening had a number of big laughs, garnered from a healthy barrage of bench-racing stories told by the legends that lived them, as well as a series of humorous videos produced at Hannah’s home in Idaho. Hannah capped the night with an on-stage appearance in drag, dressed up as Tony D’s Italian mother and handing him a pacifier and large diaper pin. Check with the Monsters of Motocross website for dates and location of next year’s event.
Photos by Scott Cox