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Winning Supercross Races In Your 30s (rare, but it happens)

By Brett Smith

What does historical data say about Supercross racers after they turn 30?

Flash trivia: how many 450 Supercross main events have been won by riders aged 30 or older?

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Fifteen. Statistically, that’s almost never. Of the 724 checkered flags flown in Supercross history, just 15 (2%) of them went to riders at least 30 years of age. Those 15 main events were won by seven different riders.

What’s the significance of this? Eli Tomac turned 30 on November 14, 2022. Which means the reigning champion, for the first time in AMA Supercross history, is in his 30s.

Which led us to dive deeper into tricenarian Supercross success statistics (say that 5 times fast).

Eli Tomac, 2022 Seattle Supercross
Eli Tomac’s last supercross win as a 29 year old came in Seattle on March 26, 2022. Can he win into his 30s?

Remember when we were kids and the adults celebrated their 30th birthdays with black balloons and banners adorned with the words ‘over the hill’ as if entering the fourth decade of life signaled the beginning of the end? Memories of those parties make us sad now. Professional athletes playing past 30 were once novelties. 

And in Supercross racing, it was rare. Winners? Forget about it. The first 30-something winner didn’t happen until a rainy spring evening in 1998 when John Dowd – who wasn’t even a full-time premier class (250/450SX) rider – won a very muddy Charlotte Supercross. “I couldn’t believe I actually won,” he told We Went Fast in 2010. “I know a lot of stuff happened and a few guys fell but I’ll take it.” (that’s Dowd in the featured image of this post. Frank Hoppen photo).

Kevin Windham, 2008 Daytona Supercross
Kevin Windham won the 2008 Daytona Supercross, which was shortened from 20 to 15 and finally to 12 laps. Surviving the main event was victory in itself.

The 1998 season was the 25th year of the AMA Supercross Championship. 2023 will be the 25th season since 32-year-old Dowd took Charlotte. Since then, 14 more main events have been won by members of the ‘over the hill’ gang. And this club should grow.

Four of the top five riders from the 2022 championship standings will enter the season aged 30+. Jason Anderson, second overall, celebrates his birthday on February 17. He’ll be 30 when the series heads to Arlington, Texas.

2022 Monster Energy SX Points

2022 Monster Energy Supercross Points
2022 Monster Energy Supercross Points with the ages of each rider at round 1 2023

Two more notables going into 2023: Christian Craig makes his anticipated full season debut in the 450SX class. He’ll be 31 at round one. And Kyle Chisholm is officially the oldest in the class. He turned 35 on December 6. His 14th overall in 2022 doesn’t accurately reflect how he was riding. Remember, he dropped to the 250SX East as a fill in rider at Starr Racing Yamaha. Based on his average points scored at each round, he would have been battling Dean Wilson for the 10th place spot in 2022 points. Chisholm has a handful of top 10 finishes, including a 5th in Salt Lake City in 2010 but if he can pull off a victory in 2023, he’d smash the current record by over 12 months.

It seems inevitable that the number of mains won by riders above the 3-0 mark will grow quickly. It took nearly 50 years’ worth of races to get to 15 wins. How long will it take to get to 30 wins from riders aged 30+? Impossible to say. With that kind of talent at or above age 30, and riders such as Cooper Webb and Ken Roczen now in their late 20s, we’d gamble on it not taking another five decades.

Here’s how we got to where we are now:

Justin Barcia and Jason Anderson, Denver Supercross
Justin Barcia (#51) turned 30 in late March 2022. Jason Anderson (#21) turns 30 in mid-February 2023.

Kevin Windham is the Tricenarian King

Kevin Windham holds two quirky records within an already quirky statistical category. Not only does he have the most Supercross wins (5) by riders in their 30s, he’s the ‘youngest’ 30-year-old to do it. Eight days after his 30th birthday – February 28, 2008 – he won the Daytona Supercross on March 7, which is now remembered as a trial of survival rather than a race.

Kevin Windham, 2008 Daytona Supercross
That feeling when you not only survive one of the muddiest supercross races ever, but win it. Kevin Windham put his name in the Daytona record books in 2008. Frank Hoppen Photo

FOOTNOTE: here’s a statistical absurdity for the true geeks out there. Jason Anderson will line up in Arlington eight days after he turns 30. Because 2008 was a Leap Year, Windham’s first Supercross as a 30-year-old also happened eight days after his birthday. If Anderson wins in Arlington, someone’s going to have to call Mrs. Windham and Mrs. Anderson and ask them what time of day their children were born. For now, Windham is the ‘youngest’ 30-year-old to win a Supercross.

Also, Windham became the first rider post-30 to win two main events in the same season when he won St. Louis 2008. A week later, he got a third win on the season in Seattle. This main event win brought him to within 10 points of Chad Reed going into the final round in Las Vegas, which Reed won.

Marvin Musquin is the closest active rider on the list. He needs 4 main event wins to pass Kevin Windham

The fact that 5 of Windham’s 18 career Supercross wins came after he turned 30 easily explains why he was so cherished by the fans. It’s easier for the average fan to identify with an athlete who has a wife and four kids and grinds away at his craft and still wins. Especially in conditions that just, well, for lack of a better term, suck. Take Salt Lake City 2010, for example: the final Supercross victory of his career. Windham led a Honda sweep of Davi Millsaps and Andrew Short to win in a quagmire main event where he lapped the already-crowned-champion, Ryan Dungey, who finished fourth.

The joy on his face as he approached the podium that night said everything you need to know about how much fun he had riding a dirt bike in conditions that were simply not fun for most riders.

Main Event Winners Aged 30+ (oldest to youngest)

Supercross Races won by Tricenarians
These are the 15 supercross main events won by riders in their thirties.

30. But One and Done

Justin Brayton holds the crown for oldest rider to win a supercross main event. It was also his only win. In March 2018, a nearly 34-year-old Brayton won the Daytona Supercross, his 131st 450SX career start. He bested Mike LaRocco as the oldest winner by 11 months. The Daytona stunner ended up being the only Supercross win of Brayton’s career.

But Brayton isn’t the only one hit wonder in his 30s. Zach Osborne’s single victory came at the 2020 season finale in Salt Lake City. That was the night (um, afternoon) Husqvarna swept the podium with Osborne, Jason Anderson, and Dean Wilson. Tomac took fifth and clinched his first 450SX title. Osborne finished in the Top 5 in all 7 SLC residency races that June in the pandemic-delayed season. And he took that momentum all the way to the 2020 Pro Motocross championship. 

John Dowd used a similar tactic back in 1998. After winning the Charlotte Supercross, the 32-year-old went to Dallas a week later and won the 125SX main event and the Western Regional championship over David Vuillemin. He lined up for 23 more 250/450SX main events but never got another win.

Malcolm Stewart, 2022 Detroit Supercross
Third overall in 2022, Malcolm Stewart turned 30 in October 2022.

Don’t Be Surprised

With so many factory level riders competing into their 30s, it’s safe to assume the list of seven riders will grow quickly. Musquin is the only active rider on the list of 30+ main event winners. (Marvin is so timeless it’s easy to forget he turned 30 in Dec. 2019).

Why are more riders competing into their 30s? We don’t want to stray too far from the data and statistics driving this report, and anything we say is strictly opinion but you can find many answers in medical advancements, improved and calculated training programs, and modern motorcycle equipment/technology.

Marvin Musquin, KTM 2022
Doesn’t look a day over 29! Marvin Musquin turns 33 on Dec. 30, 2022.

How else to explain Chad Reed, Mike LaRocco and Kevin Windham achieving an incredible 265, 228 and 207 career starts? They hold 10 of the 15 30+ wins AND they’re ranked 1-2-3 in all-time career starts. Justin Brayton’s 190 career starts has him 5th all-time on that list. 

While the odds for 30-year-old-and-up riders look better, winning is still a gift. Here’s a brief argument about how the list could stay how it is for the next couple of years:

  • Chase Sexton, Cooper Webb and Ken Roczen won’t make it easy for Tomac and the other 30 year olds.
  • Jason Anderson gets to enjoy the first six rounds at 29.
  • Maybe 26-year-old Adam Cianciarulo has a breakthrough.
  • Aaron Plessinger and Dylan Ferrandis are always enticing sleepers.
  • And, in case you needed a reminder, Jett Lawrence is coming in 2024. 
Eli Tomac, 2022 Seattle Supercross
The freshest tricenarian: Eli Tomac turned 30 just 7 weeks prior to the start of the 2023 Supercross season.

Don’t Bet Against Eli Tomac, But…

The defending champion, of course, is going to win several races in 2023. It would be preposterous to think otherwise. Right!? Historically, it’s taken Tomac almost 6 races to get a win. In the nine 450SX seasons he’s completed as a full-time 450 rider, his average is 5.5 races before getting his first win. This is assuming an assigned value of ‘17’ from 2014 when he did not win a race at all.

Could you have ever predicted defending champion Jeremy McGrath only winning two races in 2001? He was 29 that season and never won again. Would you have guessed that defending champion Jeff Stanton would only get one win in 1993, which was his last? He was only 24 years old. 

After Detroit, Toronto and St. Louis 2014, we would have called you crazy if you tried to convince us that those three consecutive races were James Stewart’s last Supercross wins. In 2016, Stewart was just 19 days past his 30th birthday when his career effectively ended in the final corner of lap two of the opening round’s main event. A collision with Ryan Dungey caused Stewart to slam violently into the dirt. Officials red flagged the race and Stewart only lined up for three more Supercross races in his career, all later in 2016. His best finish was 14th in Atlanta.

Skip to 3:15 if you want to see the collision between Dungey and Stewart

Some of the greats were long gone before the age of 30. The birthday cakes of Dungey, Ryan Villopoto and Ricky Carmichael were all several candles shy of 30 when they retired. 

No one knows when that last win is coming. We certainly wouldn’t bet that Tomac earned his last at Seattle 2022. But we’re definitely going to point out that winning after 30 is something special in this sport. We do hope that Tomac gets to experience that.

Fun Fact: To become the oldest Supercross main event winner (Justin Brayton, 33 yrs. 11 mos.), Marvin Musquin needs to win in 2024 and Tomac would have to win a race in the year 2027 or beyond!    

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This report was compiled and written by Brett Smith and Clinton Fowler.