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AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame Class of 2018 Nominees

Terry Cunningham, Gary Davis, Skip Eaken, Nicky Hayden, Corky Keener and Mary McGee are the Class of 2018

By American Motorcyclist
12/3/2018


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Motorcycling greatness is found on tracks, in shops and on roads and trails across America.
 
It’s born in the minds and hearts of riders who, at one point or many, put motorcycles above all else in their lives to accomplish amazing things, inspiring the rest of us to ride more.
 
The AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame Class of 2018 includes six riders who have done just that.
 
“The AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame Class of 2018 recognizes greatness in racing and ambassadorship, whether on the track, at the mechanic’s bench or in the court of public opinion,” said Ken Ford, a member of the AMA board of directors and chairman of the American Motorcycle Heritage Foundation.
 
“In their own way, each of these individuals has advanced motorcycling for generations of motorcyclists, and we’re honored to recognize them this Dec. 7, and in perpetuity, as inductees into the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame,” Ford said.
 
The induction ceremony is part of the 2018 AMA Legends & Champions Weekend, Dec. 7-9. The AMA Legends & Champions Weekend also includes the 2018 AMA Championship Banquet at the Hilton Columbus/Polaris on Dec. 8, and an open house and formal installment of Hall of Fame honors at the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame in Pickerington, Ohio, earlier that day.
 
Nicky Hayden
World Champion
 

 
Known as “The Kentucky Kid,” Nicky Hayden, of Owensboro, Ky., was a force on the American motorcycle racing scene before taking his talent to the world stage, ultimately achieving motorcycle racing’s grandest championship, the FIM MotoGP title in 2006.
 
Born in 1981, Hayden raced flat track and road raced Yamaha YSR 50s and then Honda RS125s as a youngster. Hayden’s story was a classic tale of an American grassroots racer accelerating through the ranks.
 
In 1997, he capped his amateur career with the first-ever AMA Horizon Award, presented for his triumphs in flat track. The award signified that Hayden had proven himself to be the amateur racer with the brightest potential for continued success in the pro ranks.
 
With the Horizon Award in hand, the “Kentucky Kid” turned pro. He was 16.
 
As a pro, Hayden competed in both the AMA Grand National Championship and AMA professional road racing. He signed with American Honda in 1999 to race the AMA 600 Supersport class for the Honda satellite squad, Erion Racing. He won the 600cc title that same year and was second in the AMA Formula Xtreme series. Showing his versatility, Hayden also won his first GNC race, the Hagerstown Half-Mile, and was named AMA Flat Track Rookie of the Year.
 
  
Honda moved Hayden to the factory AMA Superbike team in 2000, and he finished second in the standings. In 2001, he finished third overall. Hayden won the prestigious Daytona 200 at the start of 2002 on his way to capturing the AMA Superbike Championship title that same year. At 21 years old, Hayden was the youngest champion in the history of AMA Superbike racing.
Over those years, Hayden also continued to compete in select GNC races, collecting five more victories against the most-talented flat-track racers in the world.
 
Hayden then moved to the Repsol Honda MotoGP effort for 2003, earning his first MotoGP win at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey, Calif., in 2005. He won again in 2006 while on his way to capturing the MotoGP World Championship title.
 
Hayden moved to the factory Ducati team in 2009, returning to Honda in 2014. He began racing in the FIM World Superbike series for Honda in 2016.
 
Tragically, Hayden was hit by a car while training on a bicycle in Italy in May 2017. He succumbed to his injuries five days later, on May 22.
 
 
 
 
Terry Cunningham
Off-Road Racing Master
 

 
In 1984, Terry Cunningham was about to begin the most important season of his career with the deck stacked against him. He had one good leg, sure, but the other one was held together with a metal plate and 14 screws.
 
Just two seasons earlier, Cunningham was on top of America’s off-road world. He had won the 1982 AMA Grand National Enduro Championship and played a key role in the U.S. team’s second-place finish at the International Six Days Enduro.
 
But 1983 was different. Cunningham lost the title to his Husqvarna teammate Mike Melton and then he shattered his femur while training in Wales for that year’s ISDE. Doctors in England bolted Cunningham’s leg back together, and the plate was to stay there, for a year, while the bone healed.
 
Few people, especially Cunningham’s doctors—who warned him he could lose his leg if he crashed with the plate in place—expected the Ohio native to race. But Cunningham had other plans.
 
“If you’re down, if you’re able to do something, you can’t just stop because somebody tells you to,” Cunningham told American Motorcyclist at the time.
 
Cunningham did race, of course, and he won the title in 1984 in one of the most physically demanding motorsports in the world.
 

 
Maybe even more impressive was a race win that, for the record, was pointless. Despite having already clinched the championship, Cunningham lined up for the last round in 1984, and he won that race, too.
 
“I just like to ride motorcycles,” Cunningham said to explain his decision to race.
Cunningham’s love of racing put him back on top, and his skill and drive kept him there for two more years. He successfully defended his championship in 1985 and again in 1986.
 
Since retiring form professional racing, Cunningham has continued to work in the industry and represent Husqvarna at various events. This past summer, he raced a vintage Husqvarna at AMA Vintage Motorcycle Days, winning the Evolution 2 title in the Super Senior 50+ class.
 
 
Gary Davis
Racer, stuntman
 
 
Gary Davis is a longtime motorcycle stunt rider who did all of the stunt riding for the legendary Evel Knievel in the 1977 film “Viva Knievel!”
 
The 66-year-old Davis from Auburn, Calif., has worked more than 30 years in show business, performing, coordinating and directing stunts in more than 280 films, more than 250
 TV episodes and more than 190 commercials.
 

 
Some of his more notable credits include “X-Men: Days of Future Past,” “The Amazing Spiderman,” “Against All Odds,” “Terminator 2,” “Independence Day” and “Spiderman 2.”
Davis’ motorcycle career began as an AMA professional in 1969, riding alongside notables such as future AMA Motorcycle Hall of Famers Kenny Roberts and Gary Scott.
 
He would showoff between races, and that got him noticed.
“I was still doing wheelies at halftime of these races,” he said. “One time, a guy came up to me and asked me if I would like to ride like that for money. I was hesitant. But he pulled out a wad of cash and said he could keep me busy every weekend. I was a starving college student, so I said, ‘OK.’”
 

 
Davis began exhibition motorcycle jumping in 1971, setting aside his racing career.
In 1972, he entered the Guinness World Records for clearing 21 cars, bettering Evel Knievel’s 19-car mark.
 
He was approached by the CBS television network, actor Sam Elliott and showman Evel Knievel for a filmed stunt. It went well, and after more than 300 public jumps, Davis gave up exhibitions in 1973 and began doing stunt work full time.
 
Nowadays, Davis stays involved in the business, directing and coordinating stunts and advising on scripts.
 
“There aren’t many motorcycles in the movie business, so I have done stunts in a variety of vehicles,” he said. “Lots of the kids in the business now are people I helped get started.”
 
 
 
Clifford ‘Corky’ Keener
Flat track racer
 
 
Clifford “Corky” Keener competed full time in the AMA Grand National Championship Series from 1973 until his retirement in 1980. He has five wins in AMA Grand National competition.
Keener raced during one of flat track racing’s most competitive eras. He often found himself lining up at AMA Grand National races with future AMA Motorcycle Hall of Famers Jay Springsteen, Kenny Roberts, Gary Scott, Hank Scott, Steve Eklund and Rex Beauchamp.
Keener said it was “one hell of an honor” to be inducted into the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame and be listed alongside the great flat track racers he competed against.
 
 
“Those guys were the cream of the crop,” he said.
Keener was born and raised in Flint, Mich., and started riding motorcycles at age 13. He started racing soon after and showed early promise. He had to wait until he was 18 to get his novice flat track racing license. Once he did, he raced for several motorcycle owners in need of a rider, earning an expert license.
 
The military draft put a pause on Keener’s racing career in 1965. He got an early release, and by 1970 had saved enough money to buy a Harley-Davidson 250 and got back into racing.
Keener first raced a 750cc machine in 1971 and scored his first expert win that year at a race in Troy, Ohio. In 1973, he got his first taste of professional racing when future Hall of Famer Bart Markel offered Keener a ride.
 
Keener scored two Grand National wins in 1974 on half-mile tracks in Louisville, Ky., and Terre Haute, Ind., and was promoted to the Harley-Davidson factory team for the 1975 season.
In his six years with the factory outfit, Keener scored three more AMA Grand National Championship Series wins.
 
 
Mary McGee
Pioneer, ambassador
 
 
Mary McGee was among the first women to race motorcycles in motocross and road racing events in the United States—and she did it well, earning accolades across decades.
 
The Gardnerville, Nev., resident was introduced to auto racing by her husband, Don, in the 1950s. Two wheels soon followed, though. McGee learned to ride motorcycles in 1957 on a 200cc Triumph Tiger Cub she bought from a friend, and later she took up motorcycle road racing to try to improve her car racing skills.
 
She did that, with the American Federation of Motorcyclists, a regional road racing organization, and then transitioned into a dirt rider in 1963.
 
 
McGee started her off-road career by riding a 250cc 1962 Honda Scrambler in an AMA District 37 enduro. She started riding Baja events in 1967 and, in 1975, McGee rode the Baja 500 solo. 
Also during the 1970s, McGee worked for Motorcyclist magazine and joined editors Jody Nichols, Brad Zimmerman and Rich Cox for a 24-hour road race in Las Vegas, in which the team changed riders every hour on a 650cc Suzuki.
 
Although McGee stopped competing for health reasons, she rediscovered the sport in 2011, when she began competing on vintage motorcycles. She also rode recreationally, enjoying her last trail ride in 2017.
 
Throughout her adult life, McGee has served as an ambassador for motorcycling, whether through her example as a pioneering female competitor or through her speaking engagements and social media posts that encourage people—and especially women—to try motorcycling and competitive riding.
 
“I’m hoping I’m not only an ambassador to the sport, but an inspiration to women who are riding,” McGee said. “I would like to see more women—and more younger women—get involved.”
 
 
 
 
Skip Eaken
Race Tuning Legend
 
 
Donald E. “Skip” Eaken was a motorcycle racing tuner who worked with several AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame racers and won several AMA-sanctioned championships in road racing and flat track during his more than 30-year career.
 
Eaken’s teams won Grand National Championship and AMA Superbike races with several motorcycle brands, and he was part of the Honda factory flat track team that won three straight AMA Grand National Championships from 1985 to 1987 and an AMA Superbike title in 1988.
Born March 14, 1944, in Lodi, Ohio, Eaken competed as an amateur before he found a part-time job working at a motorcycle shop.
 
In 1972, Eaken and his boss decided to build a flat track racer—Eaken’s first foray into motorcycle building and tuning. This experience resulted in a Grand National victory in 1983 with future AMA Motorcycle Hall of Famer Ted Boody riding an Eaken-prepped Harley-Davidson.
 
Then came Eaken’s big break: Honda racing manager and future Hall of Famer Gene Romero asked Eaken to join the team for the 1984 season, where Eaken worked with future Hall of Famer Bubba Shobert. The pair won three straight AMA Grand National Championships and an AMA Superbike title on factory Hondas.
 

 
When Honda scaled back its factory-supported flat-track racing program after the 1988 season, Eaken started his own team. In 1989, Eaken riders finished third and fourth in the championship standings. In 1991, he won the Springfield Mile with future Hall of Famer Ricky Graham at the controls. He also won the Du Quoin Mile in 1994 and 1995 with rider Davey Camlin.
 
In 2010, Eaken wanted to develop Kawasaki’s 650cc parallel-twin engine for flat track racing. Eaken worked on the Kawasaki project until his death in 2012. The motorcycle he helped develop claimed its first national championship in 2016.
 

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