The 1990 125 East SX Champion tells us the story behind a photo
The 1990 125 East SX Champion tells us the story behind a photo
Hi everyone, from the late 80s through the mid 90s I was a contributing photographer for Hi-Torque Publications (MXA and Dirt Bike magazine). The photos that you see here were never published and have been stored as 35mm slides for the last 15-20 years. A month or so ago, I finally got around to purchasing a quality scanner and the journey began, going through these images has been a revelation, as I haven’t looked at any of them since I put them away and had only seen them as tiny little 35mm slides. Scanning them, then seeing the images on a computer screen has been like seeing them for the first time, they stir up lots of great memories, and bring back a great era for motocross, lots of bright color, big characters and of course, some true legends of the sport.I hope you enjoy viewing them as much as I have-Mike Sweeney
Mike Sweeney- “This was the 1990 Budd’s Creek National and was actually my first trip to Budd’s Creek, me and my buddy Billy hopped into my ’83 Honda Accord and road tripped down there.
I really enjoy going to that track, the atmosphere, the layout, the people down there, definitely a great time and a great destination trip for any moto fan.
Funny story about this race, I was cruising around the pits taking photos and stopped in at Suzuki to talk to Guy Cooper and he just laid into me about something stupid that MXA printed about him. I looked at him and said “Guy, you’re yelling at the wrong person, I just take photos and it costs me more to cover this race than I’ll make from the photos”. Anyways, he stormed off, still pissed and I went on my way. Later on in the day, after the races he caught up to me and apologized. Guy is truly one of the good ones and I’m sure the pressure of the championship was weighing heavily upon him.
One thing that has really struck me looking back, I watched this race on YouTube a while back and was stunned at how dusty the track was in comparison to how it is now, no wonder I was always cleaning off my lens, camera, and everything else.
This race was one of the final events in the title chase leading up to Guy Cooper winning the title, I’m sure Denny will fill you in on the details below.”
Denny Stephenson- “This was from Budds Creek, I don’t remember the race but according to Cycle News I went 12-13 for 13th overall and I chased Grayson Goodman in both motos. I’m a god friend of Grayson’s so I can say that this was probably a sad day (laughs).
I won the supercross title this year and it was one of those years where we went indoors and outdoors at the same time. I crashed at Oklahoma City supercross and broke my wrist. You can see I have a cast on in this photo. I already had the supercross title wrapped up when I crashed. It was an ugly one. We didn’t know the extent of my injury, the pain was pretty minimal. We had this rubber cast molded for my wrist and as you can see I would wear a mud glove and then a bandage with some tape. And that was my wrist brace in 1990.
My hand would get tired and sore, I would come in from the moto and I had no grip. I couldn’t even squeeze a pop can. I had a hard time holding on down hills and especially this day at Budds Creek with the flat landings. It wasn’t good. So it definitely took its toll. They told me I could have surgery and be off the bike and it would take six months. When you’re a kid from Nebraska, you’re 19 years old and a factory rider, the last thing you want to do is take six months off. Suzuki just said keep racing and didn’t really suggest anything. They figured as long as I could ride then it was just me, I was out of shape. That’s how things worked back then. But I really couldn’t hang on.
I wasn’t doing horrible this summer but I wasn’t riding up to what I can. In 1989 on a Team Green Kawasaki I could run top ten pretty easily so the wrist was hurting me a bit. I sort of knew my spot, I could get a holeshot and run anywhere from 8th to 13th or I can fall down in the first turn and work up to anywhere from 8th to 13th which looks a lot better (laughs)!
Those Suzuki’s were rockets man, they were great. I rode Kawasaki’s with DMC work and they were good but Suzuki had it right with the 125’s back then. I rode the 250 here and there and it was good but the 125 was really good. You can talk to Buddy Antunez or anyone and they’ll tell you about how good the bikes were, we had about 12 of us on the factory team that year, ask any of them!
I’m running the Scott goggles EFS system here, that’s the box on the strap. It was something where it was light sensitive and you wave your hand and the film moves across. It was a great theory in idea but it would also move when you went in and out of the trees and stuff. I helped Scott develop it a bit. I hated tear-offs so I ran roll-offs all the time and Scott got me a pair. I remember crashing a few times and there was film and batteries everywhere! You can see the filmstrip is wide, like what Oakley is doing now. After the light system failed, they put a button on it and it worked much better. But it was a work in progress because you had to hold the button for however much film you wanted to go across so it wasn’t very quick either.
I wore MSR for a long time, Budman was a High Point guy. I think I made about 8K from MSR and I made 18K a year from Suzuki back then. One of my first times after signing with them I went down to Malcolm Smith and met THE Malcolm Smith also. They gave me a grocery cart and told me to take what I wanted from the warehouse. And obviously I was into colors because it looks like a Skittles bag exploded on me. I remember the pants, they were made of nylon and they would spin in my boot because of me squeezing the bike and the MSR would be all crooked and the pant would literally melt. Sometimes I had to duct-tape them to hold them together. This is also my first ever Troy Lee Designs painted helmet, I remember that I always wanted one and when Troy said he would do me on, I felt like I had arrived.
I didn’t get the wrist fixed, in 1991 I still rode with it cracked. It was only cracked after the original crash. Then I went to Jeff Spencer after the crash to one of his offices and sat there for days, I actually slept there and he did all this hoo-doo-voodoo stuff to it. Like electro stimulation and other stuff. And I don’t know how he you can heal a bone in two weeks but I tried it. Then second lap of practice at the Coliseum I cased a double and it was now broke all the way through. At the end of 1991 I had enough, I went for surgery and they did a bone graph from my hip into it. And not making any excuses but I think I developed so many bad habits from those two years of riding hurt that I never came back the same aggressive style. You can see that I do have my fingers on the levers here, that’s good style and I went to enough motocross schools as you can see.”
Despite running their sticker on his visor here, MXA couldn’t give Denny a solo cover, they had to photoshop Chicken in there to get some sales! The best part is Mike thinks this might have been his photo and he never got paid. Denny says he ran the sticker to get a cover and it worked!