The American Motorcyclist Association recognized its greatest champions and hardest-working organizers from the 2016 season on Jan. 21 during the AMA Championship Banquet at the Hilton Downtown Columbus in Columbus, Ohio.
From left, AMA Board Chair Maggie McNally-Bradshaw, FIM Board Member Jos Driessen and AMA President and CEO Rob Dingman
More than 500 racers and supporters watched as the AMA presented awards to the top three finishers in national and regional competition, and announced the winners of the prestigious AMA Racer of the Year Awards.
"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," said AMA President and CEO Rob Dingman, addressing 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."
The world motorcycle sanctioning body, the Federation Internationale de Motocyclisme, also used the occasion to present U.S. riders and the AMA with world championship awards. FIM Board member Jos Driessen performed the honors for the FIM.
The program was emceed by Laurette Nicoll and Kevin Kelly.
Scottsdale, Ariz.'s Taylor Robert, who led the U.S. World Trophy Team to its first International Six Days Enduro world championship, was announced as the AMA Athlete of the Year from National Championship Series competition.
La Moille, Ill.'s Chase Sexton, the 2016 AMA Motocross Horizon Award winner, was selected as the AMA Athlete of the Year from Grand Championship events.
Sexton, who is competing in the 2017 AMA Supercross Championship Series, was unable to attend the banquet, but shared his gratitude in a video acceptance speech.
"I'm pumped to be chosen as the AMA Athlete of the Year and also the Horizon Award winner," Sexton said. "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. I can't thank everyone enough who supported me, like my team and my family. It's been a big year for me, and I'm ready to get started on my pro career in Supercross."
The FIM's Driessen presented attending members of the U.S. World Trophy Team -- Kailub Russell, Thad Duvall and Layne Michael -- with their 2016 ISDE gold medals. Land-speed racer Erin Okonek received her official world record recognition.
Driessen also presented AMA President and CEO Rob Dingman and AMA Board of Directors Chair Maggie McNally-Bradshaw with the 2016 FIM Women in Motorcycling Award for the AMA Get Women Riding Campaign.
"The AMA has a long and rich history of promoting motorcycling to all groups, including women," said Dingman, who thanked the FIM and Driessen for the honor. "The AMA Get Women Riding Campaign is just the latest example of that effort, and it certainly won't be the last. We ask all of our members to endorse motorcycling as a safe, fun and exciting activity to all demographics."
Grand National Cross Country racer Becca Sheets was the AMA Female Racer of the Year. The Columbus local was emotional on stage as she talked about her successful 2016 season.
"This is a huge honor to receive," Sheets said. "I've been an AMA member for 17 years. I dreamed about being where I am now as a professional racer when I was a little girl. So, winning this award is the icing on the cake for me."
Speedway racer Bart Bast from Forest Hill, Calif., was named AMA Vet Racer of the Year.
"Racing is my life," Bast said. " I've been an AMA member for 40 years, so winning this award means so much to me. I appreciate the AMA for this opportunity."
The 2016 AMA Youth Racer of the Year was motocross phenom Jett Reynolds from Bakersfield, Calif. Desert and hare scrambles racer Colt Brinkerhoff from Utah was the 2016 AMA ATV Racer of the Year.
Top-three finishers were recognized from six regional championships and 21 national championships, representing all disciplines of AMA-sanctioned competition.
Among the most decorated national champions was Russell, who in addition to being a member of the U.S. World Trophy Team won the overall for the Amsoil GNCC series, the AMA's national championship for hare scrambles competition.
"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."
The AMA Sportsman of the Year was Ricky Rickords, who works with the Brett Downey Safety Foundation to improve flagger training and other safety aspects of motorcycle racing. The AMA Sportsman of the Year Award honors an individual in the AMA racing community who exemplifies the spirit of fair competition and sportsmanship, as well a strong dedication to motorcycling.
Sponsors and supporters of the 2016 AMA Championship Banquet included FLY Racing, Motonation, Strider, Bridgestone, Anthony's Leatherworks/MX Boot Repair, Cycra Racing, Shoei Helmets, Liberty Sport, Maxima Racing Oils, Hinson Clutch Components Racing, Rocky Mountain ATV/MC, Twin Air and ASK Powersports.
Other award winners announced at the banquet were:
AMA Motocross Organizer of the Year
MX Sports Inc.
AMA Off-Road Organizer of the Year
Full Gas Sprint Enduro Series
AMA Track Racing Organizer of the Year
Fast Fridays Motorcycle Speedway
AMA ATV Organizer of the Year
Racer Productions (Grand National Cross Country Series)
AMA Recreational Road Riding Organizer of the Year
Roar on the Shore
AMA Recreational Off-Road Organizer of the Year
Knapp Creek Fire Department
AMA Club of the Year
AMA Media Award