Today would have been Gary Nixon's 71st birthday. The former national champion and Daytona winner died last August after suffering a heart attack.
A fiery man with a firm handshake, Nixon changed how the world viewed American racers. Later in life Nixon had lost little of his chutzpah--fans recount Nixon poking a finger in their chests and asking where they bought the iconic Gary Nixon t-shirt they were wearing. He was his own counterfeit police.
'77 F750 GP champion Steve Baker raced against Nixon for most of his careerincluding for the infamous 1976 F750 world championship. They were rivals, not really friends. When asked for comment after Nixon had passed away, Baker took a deep breath and said, "Well, Gary was Gary. I doubt there will ever be another one like him. I remember being at an Imola 200 or something in the mid-1970s and it was so hot, like 110 degrees and so humid. We were just melting we were so hot. I can still remember Nixon getting off the bike after the race and standing in his leathers under a cold shower in the paddock. I just remember seeing that and thinking, 'My God, Gary Nixon'."
Nixon rode motorcycles almost until the end, and even with old guy vision and semi-dulled reflexes he was still very fast.