Ryan Dungey | Our Top 3 Memories
By Jeff McConkey and Billy Rainford
When Ryan Dungey announced his retirement from Professional Supercross and Motocross Tuesday, I don’t think any of us were surprised. Yes, he was scheduled to compete in the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship this summer, but you got the sense Ryan was finished when the final checkered flag waved at Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas.
With nothing left to prove, and the thought of injury looming ever-bigger in the back of his mind, the time was right for him to step away and close this chapter of his life.
I always tell people the story of a friend of mine who ‘got the fear’ after morning practice for a race at the famed Copetown track. He loaded his bike, told me that was it, and never raced again. No, he didn’t have millions in the bank or fans who cheer for him every weekend around the world, nor was he faced with the daunting task of racing a motivated Eli Tomac all summer, but it’s not so different. We all give up the competitive side, sometime.
Ryan was plucked from the B class by Roger Decoster to skip his A class year and go straight to the Pro ranks and race for Team Suzuki. It looked like a long shot, but it played out as one of the greatest crystal ball readings of all time.
Ryan leaves the sport as a 4-time motocross and 4-time Supercross champion. We wanted to pay tribute and share our thoughts on 3 of the top moments we witnessed from Ryan Dungey’s illustrious career.
I’d have to say my biggest Ryan Dungey memory would have to be Southwick 2011. Ryan was the defending National Champion, and in a tough title fight with Ryan Villopoto. Dungey won the first moto and headed down to prep his first-picked gate for moto 2.
As time went on, Ryan’s RMZ 450 still hadn’t arrived for moto 2 and he was forced to give up his gate. After trying to hold the line, the board went sideways and the pack took off without the defending champ. I remember seeing a frustrated and emotional Dungey watch his day and championship fall apart as the 39 other riders blasted off the start.
Finally Goose (Ryan’s mechanic, Mike Gosselaar) popped over the hill with Ryan’s bike and he finally joined the race, well over a minute behind leader Justin Barcia. Dungey was so far behind, he was close to being lapped. What happened next was a pure display of heart, determination, and skill as Ryan rode the wheels off of his Factory Suzuki and fought all of the way back to a very impressive 7th place in moto 2 for 3rd overall with 1-7 scores behind Brett Metcalfe (3-2) and Ryan Villopoto (2-4).
Unfortunately Dungey finished 2nd in the Championship to Villopoto that season, trailing him by 12 points, but his ride and heart from that day at Southwick will always stand out in my mind. Ryan was a great competitor and class act, and will go down as one of the best ever. Nice guys don’t finish last and hard work certainly does pay off. Ryan Dungey is proof of that.
I’m going to go one extra and mention two moments in Ryan’s list of millions that stand out in my mind.
At Red Bud in 2008, Ryan Dungey was still racing the 250 class. After finishing 8th in the first moto, he was charging in the second and heading up towards Larocco’s Leap when his bike quite on him.
He kicked and kicked but the bike just wouldn’t re-fire. The crowd was cheering him on loudly, and I’m sure that’s what made him kick until his right leg almost fell off.
Ryan walked away and looked to be headed back to the pits with his head hung low. The crowd just kept cheering for him and yelling words of encouragement.
Ryan decided to turn around and make a bunch of fans for life. He actually tossed his helmet and gloves into the adoring crowd. You can see the gloves flying in the photo and his helmet went to the left, as shown in my rudimentary Photoshop diagram.
He then went one step further and walked right up to the fence and shook some hands. If you think these people aren’t huge fans of Ryan to this day, you’d be wrong.
As you can see in the above photo, Ryan was devastated by the DNF in moto 2. However, he’s been a true professional from day 1 and understood the importance of the fans and representing his sponsors in a positive way.
Ryan’s day looked like this: 8-24 for 14th and he finished the 2008 season 2nd to Ryan Villopoto. The era of The Ryans was on…
OK, this next one has always been one of my favourite photos of a moment I’ve ever captured.
Also in 2008, this shot is after the 250 second moto where Ryan had finished behind his nemesis, RV2, in the 2nd moto and in the overall.
He was obviously upset at being beaten 3-2 to RV’s 1-1, but didn’t sulk in the trailer. Instead, he and his mentor, Roger DeCoster, calmly walked over to the side of the hill, sat down, and watched the final 450 moto together. Ryan didn’t even change out of his gear. I always thought this was a meaningful moment.
Those are only 3 of the many, many moments we were able to catch of Ryan during his Hall of Fame career. Of course, we’re all going to miss the action at the front of the pack in his absence, but to leave this sport at the top of your game, with money in the bank for life, there’s no way anyone can fault him for that.
Good luck with whatever comes next, Ryan. We’ll be there with our cameras pointed in your direction, whatever it ends up being. Thanks for the memories…