PICKERINGTON, Ohio -- The American Motorcyclist Association is pleased to announce the recipients of its 2017 AMA Awards. The individuals and organizations selected by the AMA Board of Directors have made outstanding contributions to the motorcycling community and their efforts support the AMA mission to promote the motorcycle lifestyle and protect the future of motorcycling.
The AMA Dud Perkins Lifetime Achievement Award is the most prestigious of the awards and is presented for 2017 to John Ulrich of Lake Elsinore, Calif. Ulrich, a competitive road racer, team owner and publisher, was elected to the AMA Board of Directors in 2005 and served with distinction until 2015. At the conclusion of Ulrich’s term, AMA Chair McNally-Bradshaw said, "Few grasp the intricacies of both professional and amateur road racing as John, and his contributions to the board have been extensive and long-lasting."
Other 2017 award recipients include:
- AMA Outstanding Road Rider Award: Denny “Budman” Kobza Jr., Palo Alto, Calif.
- AMA Outstanding Off-Road Rider Award: Russ Ehnes, Great Falls, Mont.
- AMA Hazel Kolb Brighter Image Award: Backcountry Discovery Routes, Seattle
- AMA Bessie Stringfield Award: Michelle Kumbier, Colgate, Wisc.
- Friend of the AMA Award: Perry King, Cool, Calif.; Louisville Vintage Motorworks, Louisville, Ky.; Nitro Circus, San Clemente, Calif.; Kelly Inman, Huntington Beach, Calif.; David O. DeWitt, Fort Wayne, Ind.
AMA Dud Perkins Lifetime Achievement Award
In addition to his many years of service as an AMA board member, Ulrich has dedicated his life to road racing. He first competed in 1973 and has won races in five decades, including the 1983 and 1984 WERA National Endurance Championships and the 1996 WERA National Challenge Series 125cc Grand Prix Championship.
Ulrich also co-founded Team Hammer in 1980. Team Hammer has won numerous amateur and professional championships to become one of the most successful road racing teams in the United States.
In addition, Ulrich is the founder and publisher of Roadracing World magazine and the Roadracing World Action Fund, a nonprofit that advocates and promotes the use of soft barriers to prevent racetrack injuries and provides education on the value of adequate pre-race practice, rider training, and proper racetrack preparation.
“In 1969 I bought my first motorcycle, loved riding it, and haven't looked back,” Ulrich said. “Since then I've made a lot of lifelong friends and had a lot of fun riding and racing, and I am thankful for the experiences I have had. It’s been a wild ride!”
Of his work to improve the safety conditions at roadracing tracks, Ulrich said: “I looked around one day and realized that the typical response to expressing safety concerns just wasn’t good enough. We did what race officials and naysayers said could not be done, and it became the not-for-profit Roadracing World Action Fund, raising well over $1.5 million for soft barriers deployed at roadracing events across the nation. I am really proud of that.”
Ulrich’s commitment to motorcycling includes his family and his business.
“I am also proud of what my family and kids and I have done in the motorcycle business, especially Roadracing World & Motorcycle Technology, now in its 27th year of publication; of roadracingworld.com; and of the success of Team Hammer, racing and winning for 37 consecutive seasons.”
AMA Outstanding Road Rider Award
The AMA Outstanding Road Rider Award is presented annually to recognize those who have contributed to the promotion of the motorcycle lifestyle and the protection of on-highway motorcycling.
The recipient of the 2017 award, Denny Kobza, has played a pivotal role in grassroots advocacy in California. Most recently, he was instrumental in the passing of the state’s lane-splitting bill. He is also a member of Vision Zero San Francisco, the first motorcyclist to be appointed to work with the city’s Vision Zero committee. Kobza serves on the California Motorcycle Safety Committee and the California Motorcyclist Safety Program advisory committee.
In addition, Kobza is the owner and moderator of the Bay Area Riders Forum, an Internet-based community of tens of thousands of registered members who exchange information and opinions on all things motorcycling.
“I am actually both shocked and stoked to receive this award from the AMA,” Kobza said. “This  was a big year for motorcyclists in California, and I am proud of BARF’s influence on these actions. Working with the state in the committees I am on, and with the AMA and Assemblymember Quirk on A.B.51, the lane splitting bill, was extremely satisfying and successful. Thanks very much to the AMA board for this recognition and to all the riders who supported the efforts made by BARF. It is really all you folks who deserve the kudos for allowing us to be an influence on our motorcycle lifestyle.”
AMA Outstanding Off-Road Rider Award
The AMA Outstanding Off-Road Rider Award highlights the achievements of those who have contributed to the promotion of the motorcycle lifestyle and the protection of off-highway motorcycling.
For 2017, recipient Russ Ehnes is being recognized for his nearly 20 years as the executive director of the National Off-Highway Vehicle Conservation Council, a nonprofit organization that develops and provides programs, materials and information to individuals, clubs, associations and agencies to further a positive future for responsible OHV recreation.
Ehnes is also a dedicated OHV advocate in Montana as a charter member and officer of the Great Falls Trail Bike Riders Association and helped launch the Montana Trail Vehicle Riders Association. He continues to play active roles in both organizations.
"I am truly honored to receive this award from the AMA,” Ehnes said. “I've worked hard to promote safe, responsible OHV recreation, so we and our families can continue to ride now and in the future. I appreciate the recognition, but want to be sure everyone knows that it's been a team effort and wouldn't get done without the hard work and support of great partners and the people around me."
AMA Bessie Stringfield Award
The AMA Bessie Stringfield Award recognizes efforts to introduce motorcycling to new or underserved markets, in memory of the accomplishments of AMA Motorcycle Hall of Famer Bessie Stringfield.
The 2017 award recipient, Michelle Kumbier, has been instrumental in leading the transformation of Harley-Davidson’s product development process through her role as senior vice president of motorcycle operations. In so doing, she has helped the company become a leader in bringing new products to new markets, with a focus on women and the next generation of riders.
Kumbier also is dedicated to activities outside of her work, including leadership for United Way activities and its Women’s Business Resources Employee Group, and she received a science, technology, engineering and production, or STEP, award in 2014.
“I am honored to be awarded the Bessie Stringfield Award by the AMA,” Kumbier said. “Bessie Stringfield was a trail blazer and a woman who never let adversity stand in the way of her dreams, and I am proud that this recognition pays tribute to her legacy. Like Bessie, I have a passion for the sport and Harley-Davidson motorcycles, and, as a woman in the industry, I feel it’s important to be a role model for other women, so they can see what’s possible.”
AMA Hazel Kolb Brighter Image Award
Backcountry Discovery Routes, recipient of the 2017 AMA Hazel Kolb Brighter Image Award, is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to establish and preserve off-highway routes for dual-sport and adventure motorcycle travel. In so doing, BDR has generated significant positive publicity for motorcycling, honoring the award's namesake, Hall of Famer Hazel Kolb.
Backcountry Discovery Routes
The organization works with the U.S. Forest Service, land managers and other public land agencies to keep trails and remote roads open for motorcycling through a combination of education, advocacy and the promotion of responsible motorcycle travel.
"The BDR team, including Director of Operations Inna Thorn and Director of Route Development Rob Watt, is honored to receive the Hazel Kolb Brighter Image Award," said Paul Guillien, president of Backcountry Discovery Routes. "We know the AMA does most of the heavy lifting to protect the interest of us motorcyclists, so we're over the moon to be recognized by them for doing our small part to show the brighter side of motorcycling. We are humbled by the success our small nonprofit organization has achieved over the last few years pursuing its mission to create and preserve off-highway riding opportunities for dual-sport and adventure motorcycles."
Friend of the AMA Award
The AMA Board of Directors selected five recipients for recognition in 2017: Perry King, Louisville Vintage Motorworks, Nitro Circus, Kelly Inman and David O. DeWitt.
Within the motorcycling community, few are more passionate about riding than Perry King. A well-known actor of stage, screen and television for more than 40 years, King is a longtime AMA member and enthusiast. For years, King has given his time and talent to both the AMA and the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame. He is a past member of the AMA Board of Directors and has also provided voiceover for numerous AMA public service announcements.
“I’ve received a lot of awards over the years, but this one means more to me than all the others put together - I’m not exaggerating!” King said. “I am so honored to receive it, and it’s because I have always considered the AMA my friend and the friend of every motorcyclist out there, member or not. Thank you again for this thrilling news.”
Louisville Vintage Motorworks is an open community of self-described gear-heads and enthusiasts. Established in 2008, the group has become a broad-based collection of riders driven simply by participation. Its followers are part of the nationwide, organic motorcycle movement that loves to modify older, less expensive motorcycles that become a visual statement for the builder.
Louisville Vintage Motorworks. Photo by Cheryl and Mike Lewis
“Being recognized by the American Motorcyclist Association with the 2017 Friend of the AMA Award is a tremendous honor and very humbling, given the vast amount of work the AMA does to benefit and advocate for all motorcyclists,” said Andrew "The Captain" Raitz. “Since its inception, Louisville Vintage Motorworks has been a tight-knit community of people sharing a healthy passion for motorcycles spanning all manufacturers and riding disciplines, from building to racing to riding and all things vintage and motorized. On behalf of all LouVin members, we would like to give the AMA our heartfelt appreciation and gratitude both for their work and their recognition of our group.”
Nitro Circus has become one of the most popular displays of riding skill anywhere in the world, showcasing the thrill of motorcycling to riders and nonriders of all ages in an exciting, yet safe, environment. It arose from humble beginnings in 2003, with co-founders Jeremy Rawle, Gregg Godfrey and action sports superstar Travis Pastrana producing DVDs from a garage in Utah.
“It's an honor to be recognized by the organization that helped spark our desire to ride,” Pastrana said. “Most of the riders in Nitro Circus got their start racing with the AMA. Since the first time my parents got me on a bike when I was 4 years old, riding has been my greatest passion. Over the years, I've found other people who share that passion for riding and, collectively, we are the Nitro Circus. Our priority is to show the world the excitement of motorcycles and our way of life through innovation and safety.”
Kelly Inman is a longtime promoter of speedway racing who is equally avid in his support of the AMA and its mission. His company, Industry Racing, won the 2014 AMA Track Racing Organizer of the Year. Inman recognizes that the sport needs new, young talent to survive and has done an exemplary job putting together races for the younger riders.
“It is quite an honor to be recognized, and given the ‘Friend of AMA Award,’” Inman said. “I graciously accept the award, and need to say that this award represents my whole team at Industry Racing/Speedway at the Grand, and their commitment to help make AMA speedway so great. I have always had a great working relationship with the AMA and am proud to be affiliated with them in the promotion of world class speedway motorcycle racing. Thank you for another great award from AMA, I am truly proud.”
AMA Charter Life Member David. O. “Skip” DeWitt joined the AMA in 1962 and has worked tirelessly in his AMA-chartered club, Old Fort Motorcycle Club of Columbia City, Ind., to promote responsible riding. Now 86, he looks back with fondness on the many people who touched his life as a motorcyclist.
“I’ve dedicated myself to the AMA most of my life,” DeWitt said. “Our club was down in membership and activities at one time, but through the hard work of many, we are thriving again. The AMA has been there for us, and I am glad to have been a part of its success.”
For more information about the AMA Awards Program, to see past recipients and learn how to submit individual's names for future consideration, please visit http://www.americanmotorcyclist.com/For-Members/AMA-Awards