T-Dog’s Takes: Denny Stephenson’s Favorite Race

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One of my favorite things to ask riders when I interview them is, “What is your all-time favorite race that you were a part of?” It could be amateur or it could be pro, but I want to know when, where, and why. I want to know everything that the rider remembers about it too. After all, racing is the main reason we’re all here, right? So many great races have happened in the history of the sport and it’s time that we look back on the heritage of the sport here on Vurbmoto. We’ve always got the next wave or the future of the sport on lock, but we always save room for the legends as well. 

I had 1990 125cc East Region Champion Denny Stephenson on my Squad Pod (available on the Vurbmoto Podcast Network weekly) to discuss a lot of topics. I asked him about his favorite race and of course he couldn’t pick just one and he remembered every detail. I just watched one of them last week before I interviewed him, so it was fresh on my mind as well. Take it from here DBo!

“I guess it would be three different ones. One would be my first win in Atlanta, which was just awesome because that was my first win ever. After I got off the podium I went and sat in the stands by myself that night and watched the 250 main, which is probably one of the best 250 main events in history, next to probably 86’ Anaheim. The race had like six different lead changes, (Guy) Cooper led for a while RJ (Rick Johnson) led for a while and Wardy (Jeff Ward) ended up winning on the last lap. 

“Daytona meant a lot, just because it is such an iconic event. Then years later Fro (Jeff Emig) was in the Hall of Fame, kind of walking around and taking photos and he called me like, ‘Hey man, our names are on the wall here in the Daytona Hall of Fame.” To even fathom that we’re at Daytona with all the cars and NASCAR, to have your name on that is just mind blowing.

“Then it’s a combination of Pontiac and Foxborough. I crashed and I was able to come through the pack and I passed Jonesy (Mike Jones) on the last lap. Later in life I became good friends with Mike racing Arenacross and stuff. I don’t know if you know, but Pontiac that first night my parade lap I was riding around that first double just before the tunnel jump. I decided that I was going to seat bounce the thing and do a little whip. I seat bounce and the bike went ‘bwop’ and disappeared and dropped. The gas was off. Someone had turned my gas off and I didn’t check it. So, I’m panicking, I get my bike and get to the line. I think my front brake or clutch cable is messed up. They’re zip tying it to get it fixed and then I get the thing right before the gate drops. I get up in the stands and Vohland falls in front of me. I was dead last, like man what a way to start a night right now! Yeah, I’ll never forget that night. Just that whole year was iconic for me, just like the feeling. I look back on the videos and just see how pumped my dad was as my mechanic. 

“I’ll never forget Rick Johnson at one of the races he saw my dad and I after we had won, just not really celebrating that much or something. He kind of noticed. He stopped by our truck and he gave my dad and I a quick lesson. He said, ‘You know what, you treat every win like it’s your last because you just never know when the last will come.” To Ricky that couldn’t have been anymore true. To have that come from a rider of his stature, who was my idol growing up, I had his posters on my wall, to have him give me that time, respect, and advice was pretty meaningful. When people say that when you celebrate you should act like you’ve been there, when RJ tells you to celebrate every win like it’s your last, you celebrate every win like it’s your last. I think from then on my dad and I did that. 

“Even in Arenacross we ran 72 events one year and I think I won like 20 of them. Every one of them meant a lot. This is a tough sport. If you can find success in it you better grab ahold of it because it won’t last. You’ll be racing Loretta’s in the old man’s class and still chasing that dream as Fro and those guys are doing now. It’s a feeling that will always stick with you and you’ll be chasing it the rest of your life for sure.”  

Main image: Provided by Denny Stephenson

Written by Troy Dog

Faster than Slaw Dog. Editor-in-Chief

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