Dirt Track Champion and Race Legend Ricky Graham: A Roadracer Too

Three-time AMA Grand National Champion Spent His Share of Time on the Pavement


thanks, Torrance
The late Ricky Graham–to some most naturally talented dirt track racer of the modern era.

Loudon ’84 created quite the stir. A trio of Honda flat trackers, Ricky Graham, Bubba Shobert and Doug Chandler, all made their national road racing debuts that weekend. Graham and Shobert on special big-bore Honda VF750-based 860cc F-1 bikes, Chandler on a VF1000 production machine. The trio was in Loudon to gain points in the AMA Grand National Championship, which at the time included both dirt tracks and road races.
Shobert would win Mid-Ohio later that summer and begin to gradually switch his focus to road racing. Chandler too would soon find his footing on the pavement and was destined to make the switch to full-time road racing.

Shobert and Chandler both eventually made it to the GP circuit.

The circumstances setup differently for Graham, and while he continued road racing on and off through the mid-1990s, the 1984 season was perhaps pivotal in Graham remaining a flat tracker for life.

Backingup to Loudon ’84–Graham showed similar speed to Shobert and Chandler in that debut. He qualified just behind Shobert and ahead of Chandler and started on the third row of the AMA Formula One National. Unfortunately, a turn one crash six laps into the Loudon Classic saw Graham sidelined battered and bruised.

It also may have forever changed the trajectory of his career.

ND Plugs
Ricky Graham and an XR750. Did the bike ever look better?

By the time Mid-Ohio Road Racing National rolled around Graham, based on his excellent dirt track national results, had built up a big enough lead in the AMA Grand National point standings that he felt the trip to Lexington wasn’t needed at best, and could be counterproductive at worst should he have another repeat of Loudon.

Who knows, had Graham raced that rainy day at Mid-Ohio in September of 1984, it might have been him taking the shocking victory instead of Shobert and his racing future might have gone in completely different direction.

He continued road racing on and off. Graham raced a Harley-Davidson Sportster 883 to four top-10 road race finishes, including fourth-place rides at Elkhart Lake and the October Daytona race in 1993.

Graham made a handful of AMA Superbike appearances. He raced in the Daytona 200 as part of the Jim France-backed SuperTeam in 1986 and ’87. In the ’86 edition he finished 35th. Then racing a Muzzy-prepped SuperTeam Kawasaki GPz750 in ’87 he took a respectable 21st in a talent-loaded field.

Even more impressive was Graham’s performance in his final road race, the 1994 Daytona 200 where he raced a Smokin’ Joe’s Honda RC30 to a solid 15th, just behind Andrew Stroud and just ahead of part-time World Superbike campaigner Roger Bennett of Scotland. He got the special one-off ride with Camel was sponsoring Daytona Bike Week that year and wanting to do something special with Graham, who’d comeback to famously win the 1993 AMA Grand National Championship.

His career was tragically cut short when he lost his life in a house fire on Jan. 22, 1998. Graham will be remembered not only for his tremendous riding skills, but also for his warm and open personality, which won him legions of fans during his 20-year racing career.

LD Wong
Ricky Graham racing the Rob Muzzy-built SuperTeam Kawasaki 750 in the 1987 Daytona 200.

 


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