Chris Martin of AMA Pro Road Racing took on a seemingly impossible task: ranking the top 10 AMA Superbike champions of all time. And with that kind of responsibility comes an unenviable task — leaving some deserving members off the list. In the near 40-year history of AMA Superbike racing, many great racers — and champions — have come and gone. And as one who has also compiled a top 10 list or two, I understand the difficulties and mental tug-of-wars that occur when there are more candidates than available spots.
Many factors played a hand in Martin’s list — statistics, longevity, level of competition, etc. — but the main thing to consider is the rider’s achievements in AMA Superbike. As you’ll see, some riders have had impressive international careers but may arguably be ranked low in the list. This is because their careers in America are what matter this time around. Below is Martin’s list, along with his reasoning for their position. Click on each link for a more detailed explanation.
10. Reg Pridmore. “When I first started brainstorming my list of the ten greatest champions in AMA Pro Superbike history, I instantly knew that Reg Pridmore was going to be included… and that he would be ranked tenth.”
9. Scott Russell. “Simultaneously easy-going and feisty, flashy and humble, Scott Russell stands as one of the most popular AMA Pro Superbike Champions the sport has ever produced.”
8. Nicky Hayden. “While Hayden’s tenure as an AMA Pro was relatively brief, once old enough to compete he took the series by storm and packed a lot of accolades, memories, and triumphs into just five full seasons.”
7. Miguel DuHamel. “DuHamel was a certified racing magician who epitomized the ‘never say die’ approach.”
6. Doug Chandler. “No, Chandler was not the tortoise — he was more like a Terminator; he just kept coming and coming, until his quarry made a mistake. And when he did, it was all over.”
5. Wayne Rainey. “While largely remembered for his achievements as one of the greatest 500 Grand Prix racers of all time, Rainey also stands as one of the very best in AMA Pro SuperBike history as well.”
4. Fred Merkel. “Flyin’ Fred Merkel stands as one of the most important figures in the history of Superbike racing, both in the United States and globally.”
3. Josh Hayes. “Earnest and driven, Hayes is as easy to root for as he is difficult to defeat.”
2. Mat Mladin. “Mat Mladin is quite simply the baddest man to ever throw a leg over a Superbike.”
1. Ben Spies. “If any racer is going to take the title of ‘Greatest AMA Pro SuperBike Champion’ away from the legendary Mat Mladin, it has to be the man who built his legacy taking titles away from him: Ben Spies.”
What do you think of Martin’s list? Tell us in the comments below.