American motocross has lost one of its most influential figures with the passing of iconic promoter Paul Schlegel. The Ohio native was a pioneer in bringing prominence and prestige to the sport during its infancy in the United States, where his innovative and creative ideas helped give rise to competitions like the Pro Motocross Championship and the Monster Energy AMA Supercross Championship, which now set the global standard for competitive motocross. Additionally, Schlegel’s ingenuity and passion led to the creation of the sport’s single largest event, the Monster Energy AMA Amateur National Motocross Championship at Loretta Lynn’s.
Schlegel’s affinity for two wheels saw him become an AMA member in 1954 at just 16 years old. A mere two years later he hosted his first event, laying the foundation for his legendary tenure as a promoter. Over the course of his storied career Schlegel hosted more than 100 AMA National Championship events, such as Trans-AMA and Inter-Am motocross races, Pro Motocross and Supercross races, AMA Grand National Championship flat track races, AMA National Enduro and AMA Hare Scramble races, and the original AMA National Arenacross Series. Schlegel’s diversity of events had no bounds and even included poker runs and ice racing, which further cemented his status as one of motorcycling’s most prolific promoters.
His decades of showcasing competitive off-road racing in its highest form were integral to bringing his most unique vision to life alongside one Dave Coombs Sr. at the rural ranch of one of country music’s biggest stars, Loretta Lynn. The co-founders of the AMA Amateur National Motocross Championship forever changed the trajectory of the sport in America by leveraging their charisma and business savvy to convince the Coal Miner’s Daughter to turn her property into a motocross summer camp each summer. In leveling the competitive balance for amateur racers across the country, Schlegel and Coombs facilitated the ascension of the United States as a motocross powerhouse and fostered generations of motocross superstars.
With an AMA membership of more than a half century, Schlegel served as an AMA Congressman for 50 years and was a member of the AMA Board of Trustees for 15 years. His lifelong passion for motorcycling and his unwavering commitment to elevating the off-road discipline has made him an obvious nominee for the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame.
“Paul was one of the unsung heroes of the entire motorcycling industry,” commented Davey Coombs, President, MX Sports Pro Racing. “He was innovative, creative, and driven to get as many people out riding motorcycles as he possibly could, no matter the discipline. He was also a prolific rider himself, totaling over one million miles on road bikes. He also spent considerable time on various AMA districts, clubs, and boards, working to expand and protect the rights of motorcyclists, both on- and off-road. The AMA Amateur National Motocross Championship at Loretta Lynn’s, which he co-founded, is only part of his legacy. Paul Schlegel deserves to be in the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame for that accomplishment alone, and I hope one day that his lifetime’s work on behalf of motorcycling will be recognized with the long overdue honor of his induction.”
Paul Schlegel was 84 years old.