In October 2002 Jeff Ward found himself without a ride. After six
years as a driver in the Indy Racing League, during which he was
runner-up at the 1999 Indy 500 and won the '02 Boomtown 500 at
Texas Motor Speedway, Ward was told his contract would not be
renewed by the Target Chip Ganassi team. Discouraged, the
42-year-old former motocross and supercross star doubted that he
would ever shine again--on two wheels or four. "It may have been
because of my age," he says. "I was frustrated with Indy racing;
I didn't want to go back to motocross."
Ward found his salvation in supermoto, the newest sport
sanctioned by the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA).
Supermoto, which weds motocross with road racing, features riders
on 450-cc bikes fitted with street tires racing on one-mile
tracks that are 80% pavement and 20% dirt.
AMA's inaugural supermoto season, whose finale will be broadcast
live on the Outdoor Life Network on Nov. 21, is the first
nationally televised attempt since ABC's Wide World of Sports
showcased the superbikes series from 1979 to '81 to resolve who
are the better bikers--road racers, who take turns at 125 mph, or
motocross racers, who soar 60 feet in the air off jumps. "It was
always a toss-up," says Ben Bostrom, 29, a road racer who grew up
watching the televised races.
Today, however, as the new series roars toward its finale, it's
clear that the motocross riders are superior. They also have an
edge in star power. Turns out Ward wasn't the only former
standout looking for a new gig: Twenty-seven-year-old X Games
freestyle icon Mike Metzger is racing supermoto full time, as is
seven-time supercross champion Jeremy McGrath, 31.
November 17, 2003
Six of the top 10 in the supermoto standings are former
supercross or motocross riders. The dirt fraternity has won four
of the season's first five rounds, with Ward taking three and
Doug Henry one. Of course none of this will matter next week when
the season-ending AMA Red Bull Supermoto Championship opens in
Las Vegas. The winner will be crowned supermoto champion, and
take home $15,000, plus bonus money from sponsors. The televised
event will be held on the grounds of the Rio Hotel & Casino.
"It's going to get ugly between the motocross guys and road
racers," says 1998 superbike champ Bostrom. "People don't know
how much fun we're having."