Peoria 1980: When Wayne Met Bubba
by staff
Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Wayne Rainey began his racing career as a dirt tracker, and he competed in the AMA Grand National Championship. In those days, the series encompassed four distinct dirt track disciplines plus roadraces. In 1980, he competed at the famed Peoria TT, and he didn't win the race, but he did become fast friends with Bubba Shobert. It's a close friendship that continues to this day.
image thanks, American Honda

Wayne Rainey and Bubba Shobert have been close friends for more than 30 years. It's a friendship that's lasted through many triumphs and a few tragedies--from Bubba's three consecutive Grand National Flat Track Championships and Wayne's three consecutive World 500cc Grand Prix Championships, to Bubba's crash at the 1989 U.S. Grand Prix at Laguna Seca and Wayne's crash at the 1993 Italian Grand Prix at Misano.

Wayne won the AMA Superbike Championship in 1987 aboard a Honda, and Bubba won the same title the very next year, also aboard a Honda. Heck, the two legendary riders even share the same name: Wayne Wesley Rainey and Donald Wayne Shobert.

But, the question is, how did a rider from Lubbock, Texas, first meet a rider from Downey, California? It had to be on a racetrack, right?

Yes, it was. It was at the 1980 Peoria TT, in fact. Wayne was riding a Harley-Davidson XR750 that had been prepared especially for the TT by his father, Sandy. Wayne was competing in a heat race, and Freddie Spencer was leading with Rainey closing fast. All of a sudden, Spencer's bike broke, and he quickly pulled off the racing line to let Rainey past. Unfortunately, Shobert was right behind Rainey, and when Rainey went around Spencer, Bubba didn't see Freddie and his stopped bike until it was too late. Shobert plowed right into Spencer's bike, suffering a broken arm and ruining his Peoria weekend.

After the heat, Rainey went over to see Shobert and make sure he was okay. It was the first time the two riders had ever met face to face.

On his way back home to California after the Peoria TT weekend, Wayne and his dad took a detour down to Lubbock, TX, to check on Bubba. While they were there, Wayne invited Bubba out to California to race on the dirt tracks on the West Coast.

As Wayne says, "That's how we met and became friends ... and I haven't gotten rid of him yet."


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