Kevin Schwantz was one of America’s best road racers during the mid-1980s. By the late 1980s, he had moved to international competition in the 500cc Grand Prix World Championships, winning the world title in 1993.
Here are a dozen things you may not know about Schwantz.
1. Schwantz was born in 1964 in Houston, where his parents owned a motorcycle dealership. He learned to ride motorcycles at the age of 3. His first machine was a Bonanza mini-bike powered by a Briggs & Stratton lawnmower engine.
2. Schwantz’ father competed in observed trials and the young Kevin joined his dad in that sport.
3. His first racing hero was British observed trials legend Mick Andrews.
4. Andrews would come to the Schwantz dealership to teach trials once a year. Andrews would teach Schwantz trials and Schwantz would teach Andrews billiards. Schwantz’ claim to fame as a kid was beating Andrews and Gary Nixon at billiards in the same year.
5. Schwantz moved from trials to motocross in his mid-teens and became a top regional MX racer.
6. He also raced a few amateur dirt track races using motorcycles borrowed from his uncle, AMA Grand National racer Darryl Hurst.
7. Schwantz got his first taste of road racing at an event through the streets of Austin, Texas. He won the race over a slew of the best road racers in Texas riding his uncle’s Yamaha short-track racer.
8. After suffering a bruising heat race crash in qualifying for the Houston Supercross in 1983, Schwantz decided to quit motocross.
9. A few months later, a friend walked into the shop and asked him race an endurance road race with him. Schwantz didn’t even know what it was, but he agreed and found himself road racing a shaft-drive Yamaha XJ750.
10. During his first year of endurance racing, Schwantz impressed journalist and racer John Ulrich. Ulrich arranged a try-out for Schwantz with the Yoshimura Suzuki Superbike team at the end of the 1984 season. Yoshimura signed him but only contested Daytona and the West Coast Superbike races in 1985.
11. Schwantz unexpectedly retired early in the 1995 season. He had suffered a slew of crashes and injuries in 1994 and early in 1995. A talk with his old rival Rainey (who had been paralyzed in a racing accident two years before, while battling Schwantz for the world championship) made Schwantz realize that he no longer enjoyed racing like he once had.
12. After retiring from motorcycle racing, Schwantz spent some time competing in NASCAR and touring car races. He also served as a consultant for Team Suzuki and continued to make appearances and race in special events on behalf of Suzuki.