News 9 Jul 2020

Rookie of the Year title named in honor of Marty Smith

Late motocross pioneer to be recognized in Pro Motocross series.

Image: Supplied.

MX Sports Pro Racing has honored late motocross pioneer Marty Smith by dedicating the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship’s 250 Class Rookie of the Year award in his name.

Renamed the Marty Smith Rookie of the Year Award, the annual accolade will be presented to the top-performing newcomer in the series. Tragically, at 63 years old this past April, Marty and his wife Nancy lost their lives in a dune buggy accident.

“Marty Smith was the original Rookie of the Year. He won the first AMA National he ever entered back in 1974 and then he became the first-ever 125cc AMA National Champion. It’s pertinent that we rename this prestigious award in his memory, in recognition of his contributions to the Pro Motocross championship and the sport as a whole,” said Davey Coombs, president of MX Sports Pro Racing.

“For an entire generation of racing enthusiasts, Marty Smith was the epitome of cool in motocross. He proved that a motorcycle rider can become a household name alongside the likes of football, baseball and basketball stars. He was a charismatic, larger than life figure in motocross, one that any aspiring racer has and should look to emulate. We’re privileged to ensure that his legacy carries on to future generations of motocross racers and fans.”

With his Southern California surfer looks and effortlessly smooth riding style, Smith became the United States’ first motocross superstar. Smith earned his first major victory as an amateur at the 1973 Hangtown Motocross Classic, which resulted in a life-changing phone call from Factory Honda.

The Japanese motorcycle manufacturer put its trust in the teenager to bring it prominence in the newly-formed 125cc AMA National class, in which Honda would be debuting its new CR125M Elsinore model.

Smith made good on Honda’s gamble and went on to capture the inaugural 125cc National Championship at just 17 years of age. He dominated the four-race series, capturing two wins and nearly doubling the point total of the next best rider en route to the title while still a senior at Point Loma High School.

In the following season, Smith successfully defended his 125cc title in even more dominant fashion, winning six of the seven rounds. And then, in 1977, he landed Honda its first 500cc National Championship when he outdueled his primary rival Bob Hannah for the crown.

At the end of the 1981 season Smith decided to retire, which concluded a career that saw him collect 12 Pro Motocross victories and a trio of championships. He also won the first two US 125cc Grand Prix events in 1975 and 1976, as well as couple of rounds in what was a then-fledgling AMA Supercross Championship.

Smith will forever be known as the most influential motocross rider in the history of American Honda, where his talent, charisma and success paved the way for the ‘Red Rider’ to become one of the most iconic brands in American motocross history.

Smith was inducted into the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame in 2000 and remained a fixture in the industry through his Marty Smith Motocross School. He added to his racing legacy in 1991 by capturing victory at the legendary Baja 1000.

Marty Smith and his wife Nancy are survived by their three children, Tyler, Jillyin and Brooke and seven grandchildren.