Six legends took their places among motorcycling’s best and brightest Friday, Oct. 18, at the 2013 AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony, presented by Husqvarna. The ceremony is part of the American Motorcyclist Association Legends Weekend held at the Green Valley Ranch.
Hosted by actor, motorcyclist and AMA board member Perry King, the event honored the Hall of Fame Class of 2013: AMA Supercross and Motocross Champion Ricky Carmichael; AMA and desert racing champion Danny Hamel; racer, promoter and motorcycle industry icon Norm McDonald; AMA Road Racing Champion Randy Renfrow; and motorcycling fundraisers and Ride For Kids founders Mike and Dianne Traynor.
In addition to the class of 2013, the induction ceremony celebrated the outstanding careers of two existing Hall of Famers as Hall of Fame Legends: Mark Blackwell, a pioneering American motocross racer, six-time AMA championship race team manager and industry executive; and Torsten Hallman, a four-time FIM World Motocross champion who was instrumental in introducing the sport of motocross to America and later founded the Thor brand.
Jeffrey V. Heininger, chairman of the American Motorcycle Heritage Foundation, which oversees the Hall of Fame, welcomed a sold-out crowd following a reception hosted by 6D Helmets and the banquet, sponsored by Kawasaki Motors Corporation U.S.A.
“As I look around the room tonight, I am reminded about our goal to tell the stories and preserve the history of motorcycling — both today, and for generations to come,” Heininger said. “It is truly heartwarming that so many magnificent people have joined our effort to promote and protect our motorcycling heritage, and celebrate the members of the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame. It is their achievements that have brought us here tonight, and because of those achievements, this industry and sport gives praise in recognition of these special men and women.”
The 2013 inductees were honored with videos chronicling their careers and moving induction speeches. The presentation of the official Hall of Fame rings was sponsored by Zero Motorcycles. In addition to the honorees, several luminaries from the world of motorcycling participated in the ceremony.
“From unparalleled racing champions, to industry titans, to altruistic philanthropists, the 2013 Hall of Fame Class embodies a visionary spirit that stirs the human soul and ignites the fiery passion that each of us has for motorcycling,” King said. “As we have seen tonight, the spark of inspiration can fuel the human spirit beyond our wildest expectations. In that moment are born feats and accomplishments that leave us all in awe, and remind us that nothing is beyond the reach of human ambition.”
The crowd also heard from AMA Motorcycle Hall of Famer and Harley-Davidson design legend Willie G. Davidson, who was representing the company at the event.
“The AMA has always defended motorcycling, and there is no other organization that defends motorcycling on the national level,” Davidson said. “You can sum up what the AMA means with one word: freedom. Motorcycling is about freedom. Live to ride! Ride to live!”
Ricky Carmichael has more combined AMA Supercross and AMA Motocross National wins than any other rider in history. From 1997 to 2006, Carmichael won a championship series title each year.
Known as the Greatest of All Time, Carmichael has re-written the record books in the sport of AMA Motocross. In 2002, Carmichael recorded the first perfect season in AMA motocross history by earning 24 straight moto victories for 12 overall wins in the premier class — a feat he repeated in 2004. When he retired, he had 150 AMA National wins.
“The first people I want to thank are my parents, for the sacrifices they made so that I could race motorcycles,” Carmichael said. “I love this sport, and I love giving back to this sport because I don’t think it gets the recognition that it deserves. I also want to thank my sponsors for always sticking with me. Without them, this sport wouldn’t be where it is today. Thank you.”
Danny Hamel accomplished much as an off-road racer: five-time AMA Hare and Hound national champion, multi-time Baja 1000 and 500 overall winner and more. Between 1977 and 1995, Hamel was the only rider ever named both as the AMA Amateur Athlete of the Year and AMA Amateur Sportsman of the Year in the same year.
Hamel died in June 1995 while racing the Baja 500 when a car strayed onto the road that was part of the course and Hamel collided with it. Hamel was represented at the event by Team Kawasaki Manager Mark Johnson and Mike Hodges, Hamel’s mechanic.
“To describe Danny as an individual we could use many words: fun loving, intelligent, caring, humble, good teammate and true professional,” Johnson said. “I believe that one of Danny’s greatest assets of which he and I talked many times about was his relationship with his family. On behalf of the entire Hamel family, Danny’s friends, fans and followers, thank you for this award honoring Danny Hamel.”
Added Hodges: “I stand center stage giving tribute to Danny with tears in my eyes and a heavy heart but couldn’t be prouder. Danny, today is your day to savor as well as the rest of the inductees, for it is your accomplishments that brings us together once again. I love you, brother.”
Norm McDonald has been an ambassador for motorcycling his entire life as a racer, promoter, teacher, sponsor and advocate for motorcyclists’ rights and safety. In 1957 he opened K&N Motorcycles — a motorcycle shop — with Ken Johnson. By 1965, they created K&N Engineering and in 1966 the K&N Air Filter was introduced. Over the years McDonald sponsored hundreds of racers, with more than 30 of them going on to the national level.
“What a great honor to be inducted into the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame with such a special group of people: Ricky, Randy, Danny, Mike and Dianne,” McDonald said. “I want to thank the ones that made this possible by putting the package together and getting me nominated: my sons and daughter-in-law, Cindy, and all of the people that voted for me. Thank you.”
Hall of Fame Legend Malcolm Smith was hired as a teenager by McDonald, and presented McDonald with his Hall of Fame ring in an emotional tribute.
Randy Renfrow began his pro road racing career in 1981. He won the AMA 250 Grand Prix championship in 1983, the AMA Formula One title in 1986 and the AMA Pro Twins Series championship in 1989.
Renfrow was known for his ability to be competitive on any type of machinery, from diminutive 250 Grand Prix bikes all the way up to AMA Superbikes, and he excelled in nearly every class of professional motorcycle road racing. In all, he won 17 AMA Nationals in four different classes.
Renfrow died in 2002 in a non-racing accident. Renfrow was represented at the event by his brother, Shawn Renfrow, and his mechanic, John Lassak.
“Every person inducted into the Hall of Fame, regardless of category, has been blessed with a tenacious spirit to achieve their dreams and goals,” Shawn Renfrow said. “Randy was no different. He was a determined competitor who never let injuries, obstacles or defeat curb his appetite for racing. But it was not Randy’s racing accomplishments that have left an enduring impression on me. It was his genuine love and care that he had for the racing community that I admired most.”
“Randy was one of the finest human beings I know,” Lassak added. “Not only was he a fierce competitor, he was also a gentle and caring person.”
Mike and Dianne Traynor
Mike and Dianne Traynor co-founded the Ride for Kids motorcycle charity program and the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation. They began the Ride for Kids in 1984 to raise funds for childhood brain tumor research.
With over $70 million raised since 1984, motorcyclists have helped the PBTF become the world’s largest non-governmental source of funding for childhood brain tumor research. Mike Traynor died in 2009 and Dianne Traynor died in 2012.
The Traynors were represented at the event by their sons.
“Mike and Dianne were proud to call themselves motorcyclists,” Sean Traynor said. “Unfortunately, both Mike and Dianne have passed on. But I think it is very fitting that this year, being the 30th anniversary of the Ride for Kids, that they are inducted into the American Motorcyclist Association Hall of Fame. On behalf of Mike, Dianne and my brothers, I would like to say thank you. I know that they would have been very proud and humbled tonight to be in such great company. God bless.”
Hall of Fame Legend Mark Blackwell
Mark Blackwell, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2000, was honored in a special Hall of Fame Legends ceremony, sponsored by Victory Motorcycles. Blackwell was a pioneering racer in American motocross, a six-time AMA championship race team manager and a well-respected executive in the motorcycle industry.
Blackwell won the American 500cc motocross champion in 1971 and started off the 1972 season with a win at the Daytona motocross. After his racing career, Blackwell managed the Suzuki Race Team to six AMA championships, did product development for a number of MX-related companies, and then went on to work in management for Suzuki, Husqvarna and Victory.
“Thanks to the AMA and the Heritage Foundation Board for this prestigious honor, and for raising the bar in terms of the class of this event — you have raised the bar every year and we are certainly a long way from the tent in the AMA parking lot 13 years ago,” Blackwell said. “And a very special thanks to the sponsors who have stepped up to help make this a great event and hopefully, a big inspiration for the future leaders of our sport and industry.”
Hall of Fame Legend Torsten Hallman
Torsten Hallman, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2000, was also honored as in Hall of Fame Legend ceremony sponsored by Bike Week Radio. Hallman was a four-time World Motocross Champion when he came to the United States in the late-1960s as part of the effort to popularize both the Husqvarna motorcycle brand and the sport of motocross. Hallman’s incredible talent on a motocross bike was a revelation to American fans and racers.
Hallman’s talents were not limited to the track. He also was a savvy businessman and founded a riding apparel company: Thor. The company’s early designs and innovations heavily influenced the look and function of motocross riding gear for decades to follow. Today, Thor is one of the biggest names in motocross apparel.
Hallman was unable to attend due to last-minute direction from his doctor. His prepared comments were read by King.
“I am very pleased and honored to receive this Hall of Fame Legends Award!” Hallman wrote. “I am extremely thankful! It means a lot to me and it brings back some great memories. I am greatly honored to share this special moment with my wife and many of my old friends.”
The evening concluded with a roll call for the dozens of attending Hall of Famers to join the class of 2013 on the stage. The moving tribute earned a standing ovation from the packed room that lasted for several minutes.
The AMA Legends Weekend continues on Saturday, Oct. 19, with the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame Dave Mungenast Memorial Legends Reception, where the Class of 2013 and other members of the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame will be honored and interviewed on-stage in a relaxed setting, allowing fans and friends to get up close and personal with motorcycling’s biggest legends.
Image courtesy Jeff Guciardo/ AMA