By Ashley Price
More than 500 people, including the country’s best motorcycle racers and organizers, came together on January 21 to celebrate the 2016 successes of competitors and promoters from every discipline of motorcycle racing the AMA sanctions—from motocross, to GNCCs and hare scrambles, all the way to vintage dirt track racing—in the ballroom of the Hilton Downtown Columbus in Columbus, Ohio.
“It is well known in this room that the American Motorcyclist Association is the largest motorcycle and all-terrain-vehicle sanctioning body in the world,” AMA President and CEO Rob Dingman told the crowd. “Our greatness comes from our racers, many who are here tonight. We have the young and the not-so-young and everyone in between. We are from a range of social and economic backgrounds and we come from all corners of America. What we all share is our love of riding and racing motorcycles—and our status as AMA members.”
While each champion from his or her respective racing discipline was recognized on stage with a No. 1 plate and medal, the most prestigious honors presented by the AMA were the Athlete of the Year Awards.
Taylor Robert, captain of the U.S. World Trophy Team at the International Six Days Enduro, received the AMA Athlete of the Year from National Championship Competition. He led the U.S. World Trophy Team to victory in the ISDE for the first time in the race’s 91-year history.
The audience rose to its feet as the attending members of the U.S. World Trophy Team—Kailub Russell, Thad Duvall and Layne Michael—were welcomed on stage by Federation Internationale de Motorcyclisme board member Jos Driessen to be awarded their World Championship medals.
“Winning the [World] Trophy was an unreal feeling,” Russell said. “It was so great to be over there with all the guys and be able to bond together and then celebrate with them afterward. A lot of hard work was put into winning this. I can’t thank the AMA enough for their efforts in supporting racing and making all of this possible.”
Motocross’s Chase Sexton was the recipient of the award for the AMA Athlete of the Year from Grand Championship Competition. After winning the AMA Motocross Horizon Award at the Amateur National Motocross Championship in August, Sexton went on to launch his professional career, so he was unable to attend the banquet because of his obligations to the 2017 AMA Supercross Championship Series.
“I’m pumped to be chosen as the AMA Athlete of the Year and also the Horizon Award winner,” Sexton said in an acceptance video from his home in Clermont, Fla. “Thank you to all the people who voted for me. I’m really excited to have this as one of my accomplishments. It’s my biggest one so far, and I can’t thank everyone enough who supported me, like my team and family. It’s been a big year for me.”
Emotions were high for all winners, but Becca Sheets was moved to tears after being named AMA Female Racer of the Year. The Hilliard, Ohio, woman said she dreamed of being where she is now as a racer when she was little girl.