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"People don't realize how athletic this stuff is. The amount of physical training we do is incredible. I run every day. I bicycle. I have a gym in my house. I'm even thinking of entering triathlons."
The big money and the star treatment have had the expected effect: "There are 16-year-old kids coming up with no brains just riding wide open," says O'Mara. "They're after our jobs."
Some of the riders, ungrateful wretches that they are, are also after Goodwin's job. They're miffed because Goodwin and other Supercross promoters pay small purses—usually only $1,500 to the winner—while the equipment manufacturers take care of the top dozen riders. Left out in the cold are the so-called privateers, nonfactory riders like 26-year-old Warren Reid. "I couldn't make a living even if I won every race," says Reid, who off the track is a wood finisher. O'Mara says, "All the privateers have is a lot of hard work, some bumps and bruises and no glory. The promoters are just using us."
"A lot of guys say bad things about me," says Goodwin, who counters such criticism by claiming a high overhead—all those truckloads of dirt to build the various temporary tracks around the country cost money. And besides, Goodwin says, he makes his big dough in real estate. "Right," says Glover sarcastically. "I won a race advertised at $50,000 this year and my prize was $840. And they had a bicycle race during the middle of it and the winner of that got $1,000."
All this carping was a pain in the neck to Goodwin, and he already had one of those. He checked into the hospital last Wednesday and set up headquarters. Goodwin had a speakerphone hooked up and donned special prism glasses that allowed him to view the telephone key pad without raising his head. "I'm not losing much efficiency," he said.
Meanwhile, back at the Coliseum, riders were facing a track that was a little softer than usual. The Coliseum management didn't want the Supercross tearing up its football field, so most of the moto route wended its way around the stadium perimeter. "This course is ridiculous," said David Bailey, 23, the reigning national champion and the only person with even a remote chance of catching O'Mara in the point standings. "Goodwin didn't want to spend the money for a real track."
O'Mara needed only six points to pick up the national title Saturday night, and he ended the speculation right away, taking the checkered flag in the first of four heats and thereby earning eight points and Honda's $100,000 bonus money. In the pits, everyone kept walking up and shaking his hand.
Later, in the 20-lap final, Glover jumped into a brief lead on the first straightaway, but Ron (the Machine) Lechien, who's only 17, shoved past him in the first turn. The Golden Boy was not pleased. After the Peristyle Jump, Glover's and Lechien's machines tangled, and both went down. Todd (Goat) Breker and Jeff (the Flying Freckle) Ward raced past them, flinging mud into the air.
Ward is typical of the circuit's dedicated, disciplined factory rider. At 13 he endorsed his own line of racing equipment; at 16 he became one of the youngest pro riders in motocross history. He has been on tour 10 months a year since 1978. Ward owns a lakefront home in Mission Viejo and drives a 930 Porsche Turbo. At 23 he looks like the kid next door. "You tell people he rides motorcycles and they think of leather jackets," says his girl friend, Molly Daley. "Then they see this fresh-faced guy with freckles."
On the third lap, Ward took the lead from Breker near the bottom of the Peristyle Jump and, while the riders behind him busied themselves with one another, roared far out in front. O'Mara got second, but never mounted a real challenge. "All I care about is the overall championship," O'Mara said afterward. "I got what I came for." The other big winner of the evening was Glover, who won $30,000 in a grand finale 10-lap Masters race.