Kawasaki: Three Decades of Team Green
Following is a thorough official history of Kawasaki Team Green, a program that began in 1981. Back in ’81, Monster Energy Kawasaki Team Green’s primary objective was to provide on-site race support to anyone riding a Kawasaki.
And this continues today, bringing many champions through the ranks from Motorcrosser Kevin Windham to Baja 500 stars Larry Roeseler and Ted Hunicutt Jr. to nine-time NHRA Drag Racing Champion Rickey Gadson to AMA Supercross Champion Ryan Villopoto.
Recipe for Success
Since its inception, Team Green has always tried to provide trackside support for any amateur racer who needs it. The positive and productive environment Team Green fosters has proven extremely conducive to winning.
Within its first year, Team Green riders captured 13 championships at the NMA World Mini GP, nine championships at the NMA Grand National Championships in Ponca City, Okla., and three championships at the AMA Amateur Nationals in Reidsville, N.C. By 1982, up-and-coming amateur racers like Larry Ward and Eddie Warren were already racking up national championships and making a name for themselves on their Kawasaki KXs.
Team Green Stampede
By 1983, Team Green had already positioned itself as the premier amateur motocross race program in the world. With an ever-increasing contingency payout program, some of the biggest names in amateur motocross were already earning their stripes aboard green bikes. At the 1983 GNC National championships, Team Green riders won every 60cc and 80cc class championship, walking away with a total of 12 championships across all classes.
At the AMA Winter National Olympics, Ward captured the Bronze Boot award on his KX-80 after four days of impressive riding over four different disciplines. By the end of the 1983 race season, Team Green riders Ward, Warren, Todd Benfield, Kyle Lewis, Jason Prater, and Todd Campbell had each earned an AMA National No. 1 plate.
Sea of Green
As each year passed, Team Green continued expanding its reach and filling its trophy cabinets. By 1985, the number of Kawasakis at a typical amateur event had grown from a 10 percent average to more than a 50 percent average. Kawasaki bikes made up 63 percent of the total entries at the NMA Nationals in Ponca City, 52 percent of the total entries at the GNC Finals, and more than half of the field at the Winter National Olympics, which saw 595 green bikes sign up for competition.
Within a two-week span, Team Green riders netted a total of 30 national championships between the AMA and NMA amateur national events. Riders like Jeff Matiasevich, Hank Moree, and Lowell Thomson were racking up the motocross wins while Jimmy White and Chris White were taking the Kawasaki KXT250 Tecate ATV to the top of the podium in three-wheel racing. Team Green also recruited its first international member, Pedro Gonzales, from Monterrey, Mexico, who won the 83cc Modified Novice 12+ class at the NMA Nationals the same year aboard a KX80.
Recognizing their amateur racers would eventually become professional racers, in 1985 Team Green expanded its program again to include Team Green Pro Support. The program was designed to give amateurs an extra year to mature and to ease their transition into the pro ranks.
The same year, in the Pro-Am Supercross Championship series, Team Green’s Warren scored the 125cc East class championship aboard his KX-125, with teammate Rodney Barr finishing close behind in second. In addition to Team Green’s success in the Pro-Am Supercross series, Kawasaki pro rider Jeff Ward won the Supercross class championship aboard his KX-250. Team Green’s Matiasevich was also gaining a reputation on his KX125, racking up championships at the amateur national events.
Million Dollar Prize
Each year as more Kawasaki bikes populated race tracks around the nation, their contingency purse grew as well. By 1987, Kawasaki’s contingency program was offering more than $1.1 million in payouts, the most prize money ever offered by any motorcycle manufacturer to that point.
The same year also marked Kevin Windham’s induction into the Team Green ranks. Aboard his KX-60, Windham went to work at the GNC finals, taking home the Mini-Mini Junior class championship and his share of the contingency payout.
Domination in the Desert
In 1987, Team Green expanded once again, into the off road racing world. In Kawasaki’s SCORE Baja 500 debut, Team Green’s Larry Roeseler and Ted Hunicutt Jr. piloted their KX-500 through 500 miles of Mexican desert putting the only Kawasaki entered in Class 22 (motorcycles over 250cc) into the winner’s circle.
Later that year, Hunicutt Jr. and Brett Howell did it again, winning the SCORE Baja 1000 aboard a KX-250WR, and gapping the field by more than 30 minutes. Kawasaki Team Green went on to win the next nine-consecutive SCORE Baja 1000 races with the help Roeseler, Hunicutt Jr., Ty Davis, Paul Krause, Danny LaPorte, Danny Hamel, and Paul Ostbo.
During the 1980s some of the future’s biggest names in motocross joined the Team Green program and also grabbed their share of championships. This decade saw a plethora of talented riders earning their stripes on the amateur circuit with Team Green. Riders like Jeff Emig, Mike Kiedrowski, Ezra Lusk, Ron Tichenor, Keith Turpin, and Denny Stephenson all graduated the ranks of Team Green before moving on to become successful professionals and some of the most recognizable names in the industry.
Although Team Green has gained the most notoriety for its success in motocross, it has also found success across the racing world. It began branching out in 1985 with White piloting the Kawasaki Tecate-250 to two championships (’86 and ’89) in the Mickey Thompson Stadium Series. Mike Penland proved four-wheels can do better than three, capturing several Utility ATV class GNCC championships, two Olympic ATV championships, and four championships in the SCORE Baja 1000 aboard his KVF-650.
By 1998, Team Green entered into the world of drag racing with Rickey Gadson, who quickly made a name for himself aboard the Kawasaki Ninja. The most accomplished drag racer in AMA Prostar Drag Racing history, Gadson has captured nine world championships aboard a Kawasaki ZX. He also recently posted two new land speed records at more than 200 mph aboard a Kawasaki ZX-10R, and shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon.
The Superstar Factory
Team Green’s dynasty continued to flourish throughout the 1990s as the team produced motocross superstars almost like a factory. Many Team Green riders who saw immense success through the 90s, and through the millennium, went on to became some of the biggest names in motorcycle racing today.
Team Green’s all-star roster included icons like Jeremy McGrath, Rickey Carmichael, James Stewart, Timmy Ferry, Damon Huffman, Windham, and Ryan Villopoto. Most of these riders spent many years training with Team Green before moving on to professional careers.
The Great Outdoors
In the world of off-road racing Team Green has cultivated more than its share of championships. In the early 90s, Danny Hamel won four-consecutive AMA National Hare & Hound titles.
By 2000, Destry Abbott took over the reigns and kept the wins coming grabbing five AMA National Hare & Hound titles and three BITD championships over an eight-year period. In the last three decades Team Green riders have accumulated 12 AMA National Hare & Hound championships, five AMA National Hare Scrambles titles, three Best In the Desert overall championships, two World Off Road Championship Series (WORCS) titles, and one EnduroCross championship.
In side-by-side racing, Kawasaki Teryx pilot Chad George has picked up four-consecutive championships, nabbing two in the Championship Off Road Racing series and two in the Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series.
30 Years of Champions and Counting
For the last 30 years, Team Green has continued to successfully expand throughout the racing world. What began as a top tier amateur motocross organization has blossomed into a full-fledged racing dynasty. What remains constant is Team Green’s commitment to its riders and their ability to win championships.
Over the past decade, several of today’s top racers also came through the Team Green program. Riders like Nick Wey, Josh Hill, Andrew Short, Trey Canard, Ryan Sipes, Kyle Chisholm, Blake Wharton, Kyle Cunningham, Austin Stroupe, Justin Soule‚Äô, Blake Baggett, Dean Wilson, the 2011 Arenacross champion Tyler Bowers, and the 2011 FIM World Supercross champion Villopoto, all came through the Team Green amateur race program before going pro.
In recent years, Abbott and Taylor Robert have kept the winning tradition alive in the outdoors with championships in the Hare & Hound and WORCS series, respectively. Team Green also continues grooming today’s top amateur racers like Adam Cianciarulo, Justin Hill, Chase and Zach Bell, Jacob Hayes, Mark Worth, Brandy Richards, and Stilez Robertson to become the champions of tomorrow.