1. Jeremy McGrath
1993-1996 & 1998-2000 AMA 250cc/450cc (Premier Class) Supercross Champion
Premier-Class Wins: 72
Most Premier-Class Wins in a Season: 14 out of 15 (1996)
Who did you expect to head this list?
The King of Supercross, Jeremy McGrath got his first taste of victory on a Team Green Kawasaki KX125 in 1990 before signing on with a startup team run by a man named Mitch Payton of Pro Circuit. In 1991 and 1992, McGrath dominated the 125cc Western Regional SX Championships on his Peak/Pro Circuit Honda CR125s, then moved up to the 250cc class in 1993. Starting slow with a fourth and a fifth place in the first two rounds, McGrath got a holeshot at round three in Anaheim, and that was that. That was his first win of four in a row, and a new-record 10 wins on the year (the previous record fell in consecutive years prior, with Jean-Michel Bayle winning a record 8 in 1991, and Damon Bradshaw winning 9 in 1992). McGrath became the first-ever rookie to win the premier-class championship, and then he followed that 1993 title with three more in 1994, 1995 and 1996, all while racing for Team Honda.
In 1997, Honda introduced its first aluminum perimeter frame on their CR250R, and McGrath–who had somewhat secretly been racing a on a 1993 CR250R chassis for four years–either had to race on the new frame or switch to another team. He chose the latter, switching to Suzuki in 1997 where he struggled with setup problems and only managed two wins on the season. Still, he was in the championship hunt until a flat tire late in the series landed him seventh place in Charlotte. Aother lackluster result at the finale in Las Vegas–which happened to be the first supercross race ever won by a four-stroke, in the hands of Doug Henry–meant that McGrath lost the title by 15 points to Jeff Emig. Starting in 1998, McGrath formed his own team with the support of Factory Yamaha. Riding under a then-controversial “supercross-only” contract, he returned to his previous form, winning 25 races in three consecutive championship-winning years, 1998, 1999 and 2000.
McGrath started off 2001 where he left off in 2000. Then 29 years old–which may as well be 60 in the sport of supercross–he dominated round one in Anaheim, finished third in San Diego (behind Kawasaki’s Ricky Carmichael and Factory Connection Honda’s Mike LaRocco), then won round three back in Anaheim. However, at round four in Phoenix, Carmichael fell in the first turn, then came back to chase McGrath down and win the main event. That was figuratively the end, as McGrath never won another supercross race again. He struggled with arm-pump and other ailments in 2002, then signed to ride KTMs with his team in 2003, but that venture ended quickly with a badly dislocated hip. And that was it.
McGrath eventually came back to race a few supercrosses for fun in his mid-30s, riding factory Honda CR250R two-strokes and CRF450R four-strokes, and at the Phoenix Supercross in 2006, McGrath managed to get the last-ever holeshot for a two-stroke in supercross racing, snatching the lead at the start of the main event, then throwing his characteristic NacNac over the track’s first triple jump while leading. McGrath finished fourth in that main event, at 35 years old, on a two-stroke, behind Ricky Carmichael (Suzuki RM-Z450), Chad Reed (Yamaha YZ450F) and James Stewart (Kawasaki KX450F).
To date, no one has come close to matching McGrath’s career supercross records, nor have they come close to matching his influence. Always a fan-favorite, McGrath is still The King over a decade after the last time he lined up on a supercross starting gate.