The roar of engines, the smell of burning rubber, and the thrill of two-wheeled feats of daring courage—these are the hallmarks of the motorcycle racing world. And on a crisp September evening in Pickerington, Ohio, the epicenter of motorcycling, the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame welcomed its 2023 Class with all the pomp and fervor that this distinguished group of legends deserved.
The 2023 inductees, comprising Rita Coombs, Ryan Dungey, Barry Hawk, Grant Langston, and Travis Pastrana, took center stage under the spotlight to receive their well-deserved accolades, Hall of Fame Rings, and iconic gold jackets. In the heart of Pickerington, a town known not only for housing the AMA headquarters but also for its storied AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame, these motorcycling titans found themselves on hallowed ground, forever etching their names in history.
AMA President and CEO Rob Dingman set the tone for the evening when he addressed the assembled crowd. "We're truly delighted to gather here in Pickerington, Ohio," Dingman began, his voice carrying the weight of the occasion. "This year's inductees have the privilege of personally experiencing the hallowed grounds where they will be forever immortalized and celebrated as honored members of the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame. But this event is far more than a banquet and ceremony; it also serves as a unique opportunity for us to unite in our shared mission of safeguarding motorcycle history for generations yet to come."
Emcees Perry King, the renowned actor and director, and Laurette Nicoll, a motocross rider, sidecar enthusiast, and sideline reporter, led the audience on a journey through the remarkable lives and achievements of the Hall of Fame inductees.
The evening wasn't just about celebrating the present, though; it was also a time to honor the memories of Hall of Famers who had passed away during the last year: Earl Bowlby, Fred Fox, Ronnie Rall, and Peter Starr.
Supporters and partners played a pivotal role in making the 2023 AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony a roaring success. IronLilly.com, National Powersports Dealer Association, Dealernews, MX Sports, Feld Entertainment, Bromley Powersports, KTM, Yamaha, and Broc Glover all lent their support, highlighting the deep industry connections and partnerships that fuel the world of motorcycle racing.
The Class of 2023 was officially inducted into the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame on this unforgettable evening. Each inductee, after receiving their rings and jackets, addressed the audience through heartfelt speeches and engaging Q&A sessions with the emcees. Here's a closer look at the 2023 inductees:
Rita Coombs: Born in 1941, Rita Coombs' journey into motorcycle racing began unexpectedly. While her initial career path led her toward teaching, a viewing of "On Any Sunday" in 1972, alongside her husband Dave, sparked a newfound passion. The Coombs then ventured into motorcycle race promoting, creating the AMA Grand National Cross Country series and the renowned AMA Amateur National Motocross Championships at Loretta Lynn's Ranch. Rita's dedication to the sport continued even after her husband's passing in 1998, as she steered the family business alongside her children.
Ryan Dungey: Possessing an unparalleled 10-year run in motocross/Supercross history, Ryan Dungey earned his place in the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame. With four AMA Supercross 450SX titles, three motocross championships in the 450 class, and leadership of Team USA to three consecutive Motocross of Nations titles, Dungey's career was one of dominance. Beyond his racing achievements, he founded the Ryan Dungey Foundation, dedicated to helping children lead healthy lives and supporting cancer fighters.
Barry Hawk: Over his 20-year racing career, Barry Hawk displayed unmatched versatility. As an eight-time AMA Grand National Cross Country Champion, Hawk was a force in both ATV and bike championships, being the only racer to win GNCC championships on both. Today, he serves as the team manager for the Coastal Gas Gas Factory Racing Team, nurturing future GNCC champions.
Grant Langston: Grant Langston's incredible career spans continents and disciplines. From winning a World MX title to an AMA MX Championship and both AMA Supercross Regional Championships in the 125/250cc divisions, Langston's prowess is legendary. His career was marked by numerous championships, including the 450cc Pro Motocross Championship in 2007. A tumor in his eye in 2008 curtailed his racing career, but Langston has since embarked on ventures like owning a multi-brand motorcycle dealership and working as a race commentator.
Travis Pastrana: Travis Pastrana, a name synonymous with adrenaline-fueled stunts and motocross victories, is a captivating figure in the motorcycle world. From becoming the youngest racer to claim an AMA Pro MX title at 16 to amassing 17 X Games medals, including 11 golds, Pastrana's journey was nothing short of extraordinary. As the founder of the Nitro Circus brand, he revolutionized entertainment in motorsports and left an indelible mark.
The Class of 2023 exhibit, featuring bikes and memorabilia from these legendary inductees, will be open to the public starting Friday, September 15. It's an opportunity for fans and enthusiasts to connect with the history and greatness that defines the world of motorcycle racing.
In the end, the 2023 AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony was more than just an event; it was a tribute to the passion, dedication, and indomitable spirit that drives motorcycle racing forward. As these legends took their place among the immortals of the sport, they reminded us all that in the world of motorcycles, greatness knows no bounds.