Tony DiStefano, or “Tony D,” as he was known in the racing world, was a top motocross champion of the 1970s who won three AMA 250cc National Motocross Championships and an Inter-AMA title during his nine-year pro career.
Here are 12 interesting facts about “Tony D,” who was inducted into the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame in 1999.
1. DiStefano was born in Bristol, Pa., in 1957. His father owned a small motorcycle shop and a young Tony began riding minibikes by the time he was 5. By age 8, DiStefano began racing locally in scrambles events and steadily improved through his early teenage years.
2. By the time he was 14, DiStefano started competing in the burgeoning sport of motocross, riding a CZ. He quickly became one of the fastest riders in his district.
3. DiStefano was so eager to race in the pros that he illegally raced on an older rider’s license and began racing in pro motocross events by the time he was 15 (at the time, the AMA required riders to be 18 to obtain a pro license). The fun for DiStefano came to a temporary halt when he was caught with the other rider’s license and was suspended from competition.
4. Fortunately for DiStefano, the AMA changed its rules and lowered the age that riders could turn pro to 16. The change took effect just before his 16th birthday, so Tony D was soon reinstated and back on the track.
5. DiStefano’s first full year on the pro circuit was 1973 and he showed great promise from the very start. Riding a privateer CZ, he earned 11 top-10 finishes in the 500cc outdoor nationals and finished the season ranked ninth in the series.
6. DiStephano was 6-foot-1-inch tall and 200 pounds, built more like a football player than a motocrosser.
7. in 1974, DiStefano teamed up with future AMA Motorcycle Hall of Famers Jim Pomeroy, Brad Lackey and Jimmy Weinert to finish second in the Motocross des Nations held that year in Sweden, which proved that American motocross was finally on par with the established European motocross racers. DiStefano was a member of four U.S. Motocross des Nations teams.
9. DiStefano won 16 AMA nationals, including victories in Supercross, 250cc and 500cc motocross and Inter-AMA and Trans-AMA competition.
10. By the late 1970s, DiStefano’s popularity was such that he had a line of off-road apparel bearing the name of “Tony D.”
11. Things began to take a downward turn for DiStefano in 1978. He crashed hard at the Houston Supercross and injured his knee. He never fully recovered from that injury that season. At the end of 1979, DiStefano seriously injured his eye in a home construction accident. He made a valiant effort to come back despite being nearly blind in one eye, but never recovered his winning form.
12. He retired from professional racing in 1981 and started a motocross school in 1982. In 1988, while practicing at a track in New Jersey, DiStefano crashed, broke his back and became paralyzed. He continued teaching his school using an ATV to get around the tracks and watch his students.