Jeff Ward, easily the most prolific motocross competitor of the 1980s, was inducted into the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America, with ceremonies held in front of a black-tie audience at Detroit’s Stage Theater. The multi-time champion, who spent his entire motocross career aboard Kawasaki’s, will join six other well known figures from the motorsports world.
Ward, who lives in Newport Beach, Calif., won his first AMA professional title in 1984 when he captured the 125cc class motocross series. The following year, Kawasaki moved the well-liked racer into the 250cc category and he responded with titles in both the 250cc class motocross series and the Supercross series. He again won the Supercross championship in 1987 and chalked up his second 250cc AMA motocross title the following season. But it was in 1989 that Ward truly made history by becoming the first competitor to hold titles in every national AMA category when he took the series honors in the 500cc motocross class.
Jeff represents the best of what has made this sport so popular, said Bruce Stjernstrom, Kawasaki’s director of marketing. He always handled himself professionally and represented himself, Kawasaki, and the industry in a manner that set a standard for others to follow.
Ward retired from motocross racing in 1992, but not before he had accumulated 20 career Supercross victories, 54 national motocross wins, and having represented the United States on seven victorious Motocross des Nations teams.
He also was named AMA Athlete of the Year, AMA Sportsman of the Year, and was the first rider to ever win seven national titles with a single manufacturer.
Ward’s induction into the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America puts him in very good company, indeed. The select group of inductees from the motorcycling world include Don Vesco, Eddie Lawson, Kenny Roberts, Roger DeCoster, Joe Leonard, Malcolm Smith, Gary Nixon, Bob Hannah, and very few others.
According to Stjernstrom, It’s a who’s who of motorcycle racing, and Jeff certainly belongs with them. His competitive nature and commitment to racing created so much success for Jeff and our team. Everyone at Kawasaki truly enjoyed sharing in Jeff’s accomplishments.
Following his career with Kawasaki, Ward competed in Indy Lights races and began preparing for competition at the famed Brickyard in the Indianapolis 500.
In 1997 he led 49 laps of the Indianapolis 500 in his debut year, finishing in third place and taking home Rookie of the Year honors. In 1998 he earned his first career PPG Pole at the Phoenix event and went on that season to lead 327 laps, second only to Tony Stewart among Indy Racing League drivers. The following year, he finished second at Indianapolis, only 6.562 seconds off Kenny Brack’s victory pace. Ward made it to the top of the victory podium in 2002 at the IRL race at Texas Motor Speedway. All told, his IRL earnings approached $5 million.
Joining Ward in this year’s induction ceremonies are Nigel Mansell, 1992 Formula 1 champion, Elliott Forbes-Robinson, a multi-series auto racing champion, Hershel McGriff, who is tied for third on the all-time NASCAR West win list, Chris Karamesines, Chicago-area drag racer with numerous titles to his name, Tom Carnegie, the “voice” of the Indianapolis 500, and Curtis Turner, who will be posthumously recognized for his NASCAR successes in the 1950s and 1960s.
Kawasaki Motors Corp., U.S.A. (KMC) markets and distributes Kawasaki motorcycles, ATVs, personal watercraft and utility vehicles through a network of more than 1,500 independent retailers, with an additional 7,700 retailers specializing in power products and general purpose engines. KMC and its affiliates employ nearly 2,400 people in the United States, with 400 of them located at the Irvine, California headquarters.