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Blast From the Past – “Indiana’s Rock”

March 16, 2024

Blast From the Past – “Indiana’s Rock”

By Broc Bridges

On March 21, 1992, Supercross visited Indiana for the first time in the aptly named Hoosier Dome. 50,000 fans packed the home of the Indianapolis Colts for this exciting mid-season battle, one that was shaping up to be a three man sprint to the L.A. Coliseum finale. Yamaha’s Damon Bradshaw led the series entering the Hoosier Dome by a slim margin over Honda teammates Jeff Stanton and Jean-Michel Bayle. The Main Event ended up being a pivotal moment in the series, setting the tone for 30+ years of galvanic Supercross racing in Indy. Off the gate and in the front were the contending trio of Bradshaw, Bayle, and Stanton. The trinity gave fans their money’s worth until calamity struck Bradshaw in the 12th lap. A crash where he landed on a lapper ended his night and almost his season. Bradshaw’s 19th place totaled his points lead handing it to Stanton and Bayle, who were now tied with 186 points. In the 125cc Class (now 250SX Class) Jimmy Button overcame stalling his bike while leading to win his second race in a row, in an

otherwise Brian Swink dominated Championship. The fans had plenty to roar about in the Hoosier Dome, but most were directing their loyalties to La Porte, Indiana’s own Mike LaRocco. LaRocco won Heat 2 and finished third in the Main Event, the first of many successful attempts he secured in his home state Supercross round.

Mike LaRocco debuted in 1987 hitting one round of the 125cc National Championship, a 12th in Millville. He only needed two 125cc Regional Supercross seasons before moving up to the Premier Class in 1990. In Motocross, LaRocco would split time between the Premier Class and 125cc Class through 1992, before jumping into the 1993 500MX Championship and winning it all. LaRocco became a two-time Motocross Champion in 1994 winning the Premier Class title easily over John Dowd, Jeremy McGrath, and Mike Kiedrowski. 1994 was also LaRocco’s first legitimate run for a Premier Class Supercross title, but McGrath’s nine wins were too much to handle and LaRocco settled for second. Unfortunately, LaRocco did not score another title after his magical 1994 summer, but when he hung his boots up, he had completed a career filled with victories, podiums, and above all else- appearances. Simply put, nobody has raced more than LaRocco. Indiana’s Rock accumulated 428 AMA starts across Supercross and Motocross in a 20-year career from 1987-2006. His 32 wins are good for 21st in AMA history. LaRocco garnered 160 podiums, 279 top fives, and 379 top-10s during his multi-decade run. Nobody has more Premier Class Motocross top five finishes or top-10 finishes than LaRocco, and he is second in Premier Class Supercross top fives and top-10s. Only Chad Reed is ahead in those categories including starts where he leads LaRocco 264-228. Inside of his incredible 428 starts are 13 near consecutive seasons of racing in the Hoosier Dome.

LaRocco never got a chance to race the 250SX Class in Indy but made 11 consecutive and 13 total 450SX Class starts there from 1992-2005 (only missing 2003). During his 11 consecutive seasons racing in the newly named “RCA Dome”, LaRocco frustratingly was never able to pull a home state win out for the crowd. By the 2003 season LaRocco had two runner ups and five podiums in Indianapolis, with missed opportunities in those rounds as well as in his Championship attempts. This sojourn of bad luck reached a head when LaRocco’s season came to a premature halt a week before the 2003 Indianapolis Supercross. Missing his home state race for the first time in his career, 2003 Supercross hopes dashed, and nursing an injury, all he could do was look forward to the Motocross season and beyond. A fifth overall in the point standings that summer proved to the field that the grizzled veteran was still able to hang with the cream of the crop, and a renaissance Supercross season was approaching.

By Anaheim 3 of 2004 the front-runners were clear as day- Yamaha’s Chad Reed and Honda’s Kevin Windham were duking it out and trading victories. Ricky Carmichael was sitting the season out, after three straight titles, with a knee injury, and all-world 125cc athlete James Stewart was still laying in wait for the Premier Class. David Vuillemin and LaRocco were separating themselves from the rest of the pack from there, with LaRocco securing seven straight top fives to start the season. LaRocco scored 15 top fives in 16 rounds, finishing third in the final Championship point standings. While LaRocco once again, for the fifth time, finished top three in arguably the most important SX/MX title in the world, it was Round 12 in Indianapolis that made the year so special. After almost 20 years and 11 attempts, LaRocco finally won Indy. “I think this is three Holeshots in 17 years,” the original Amsoil/Chaparral Honda rider said. “It was just cool. I could not believe how loud the crowd was. And when I got the Holeshot, it seemed like they never quieted down. It was actually difficult to think because I knew when I was out there to ride a smooth race and pay attention to where these guys were”. Reed went down with fellow Aussie Michael Byrne in the first turn, opening the opportunity for LaRocco to score the rare Holeshot over first turn artists such as Reed and Byrne.

The Rock hung around another two seasons, because why not, and secured another top five-point standings finish in 2005’s 450SX Class Championship. He scored a fourth-place finish in his final RCA Dome start in 2005, and still made 16 more starts after that appearance. He hung his frayed boots up for good following the 2006 Atlanta Supercross. In 2009 Indianapolis built Lucas Oil Stadium only a stone’s throw from the RCA Dome. Supercross has continued in this new, vibrant location to the tune of 16 rounds, including three in 2021. The 2024 Indy Supercross will be Lucas Oil’s 17th, which matches the number of rounds held in the RCA Dome. Ironman Mike will always be remembered as one of the greatest riders from Indiana and certainly the fan’s favorite.