Talk about a blast from the past: Jeff Ward is returning to his two-wheel roots in 2019.
The 57-year-old was inducted into the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame all the way back in 1999, but 20 years on, he’ll be getting back on a bike for select American Flat Track rounds. Ward plans on running all five of this year’s TT steeplechase races, and should be present for at least one short track event, as he extends a racing career that dates all the way back to the late 1970s.
For those who may not have been around to see him ride, Ward was one of the first true stars of motocross in the United States. Having moved from Scotland to California as a young child, Ward quickly became one of the top mini-bike racers of the 1970s before making the jump to professional racing in 1978. The next year, he landed a factory ride with Kawasaki, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Ward earned his first AMA national motocross title in the 125 class in 1984, and swept the motocross and Supercross titles the next year. Throughout the late 1980s, Ward’s battles with Ricky Johnson were the stuff of legend, including close fights in both 1987 and 1988. In 1989, Ward topped the 500 class to become the first racer to win every national AMA title available.
After retiring from motocross in 1992, he turned his attention to open-wheel racing, and eventually worked his way up from Indy Lights to the Indy Racing League in 1997. That year, he won the Rookie of the Race Award at the Indianapolis 500, finishing third for Eddie Cheever; Ward would add a runner-up finish in 1999 and fourth place run in 2000. Two years later, he’d win his only IndyCar race as a member of Chip Ganassi Racing at Texas Motor Speedway.
Ward’s tour de force of motorsports continued in the 2000s as he won two AMA Supermoto titles and two Moto X gold medals at X Games and later became a front-runner in the Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series. He returned to Chip Ganassi Racing in 2015 as a fill-in driver for Brian Deegan at select Red Bull Global Rallycross events, with his strong results earning him a larger role in the series at SH Rallycross in 2016.
That brings us back to the present, where Ward will take on yet another challenge starting in March at the iconic Daytona International Speedway. The last time he debuted in a different form of racing in Daytona, he was one of the fastest drivers on track and nearly earned a GRC podium. A word of advice: don’t bet against him this time around, either.