Legends line up
Randy and the Trailblazers might sound like a brilliant name for a rock and roll Motogp band but the truth of the matter is that both have had a pretty incredible couple of months. One became a bona fide legend nonetheless.
The Trailblazers Motorcycle Club has been meeting annually since 1940, bringing together the legends of motorcycle racing. Initially the meetings were very much a reunion of the board track racing era, with their wooden superspeedways having seen perhaps the most dangerous era in motorcycle racing history. With the passing of Jim Davis in 2000, the last living link to the board track era was gone (at the age of 103). In the 21st century these reunions tend to be dominated by the legends of the 1960s-1990s, with riders such as Kenny Roberts, Ralph White, Wayne Rainey, Eddie Lawson, Gene Romero, Don Emde, and Kel Carruthers as regular attendees from the road racing discipline. Of course, motorcycle racing has many different facets, and there were many legends represented from flat track (Sammy Tanner, Jimmy Odom, and dozens of others), enduro (Dave Ekins), trials (Lane Leavitt – three-time
US trials champion and wife Debbie Evans Leavitt), motocross (Preston Petty, three-time 250cc National champion Gary Jones, 500cc World Champion Brad Lackey), and speedway (Scott Autrey). Among all those in attendance this year, the legendary Harley-davidson factory rider Everett Brashear, aged 91, was most likely the Trailblazer amongst these legends, having won 15 AMA Nationals between 1952 and 1960, racing 10 seasons as an expert despite most of them being raced with one good eye – a secret he kept from the officials, the result of an horrific crash in 1954. 2018 Hall of Fame inductees included Benelli’s 250cc world champion Kel Carruthers, speedway’s Scott Autrey, trials legend and stunt woman (for Lynda Carter in Wonder Woman!) Debbie Evans-leavitt, announcer Bruce Flanders, racer/executive/ PR guru Dennis Kanagae, and Baja legend Chuck Miller. There was a sombre side to the proceedings in 2018, as the recent losses piled up. Those include Bruce Brown, the filmmaker that brought us On Any Sunday, and Nicky Hayden. The most prestigious award given annually by the Trailblazers is the Dick Hammer award, after the tough-as-nails racer whose tenacity on his bikes was only matched by his courageous battle against cancer. Previous Dick Hammer award winners Joe Leonard, Dan Gurney, and Skip Van Leeuwen had all passed away recently, as sadly did the 2018 Dick Hammer award winner, Tom White. Tom was the complete enthusiast, racing flat track at Ascot Park, motocross at Glen Helen, and a founder with his twin brother Dan of White Brothers, a wildly successful motorcycle accessories company. Tom was also a race announcer without peer, and the owner of the shockingly comprehensive Early Years of Motocross Museum. One of his last public appearances was to ride his new factory replica flat track Indian at the 2017 AMA flat track season finale in Perris, California. Tom White is the only posthumous recipient of this highest award the Trailblazers can give, and one can only take solace in that Tom was made aware of this upcoming award before he passed in November. If there is a lesson to be learned from the 2018 Trailblazers reunion, it is to cherish these moments with our racing legends.
Kenny Roberts Yamahas, each one a foundation piece of racing history
Gene Romero and Eddie Lawson – neither would agree about being a legend but they’d say it about each other.
Kenny Roberts and Kel Carruthers, a real longstanding racing brotherhood