Kevin Windham announced his retirement from the sport (effective immediately) during the opening ceremonies at the third round of the Monster Energy AMA Supercross series. K-Dub did want to race professionally until the end of the 2014 season. However, because of recent events Windham has decided to call it a career after nineteen years of racing at a professional-level.
I would argue that Kevin Windham is currently the most popular motocross rider worldwide. K-Dub is thirty-four-years old, and has raced against (and battled with) some of the legends of the sport. Throughout this time, Windham has picked up thousands of fans; he is the last rider from the 1990’s era. With his one-hundred-foot transfers during opening ceremonies, and his impeccable style, most did (and will continue to) look up to him.
I (and most fans) was shocked to see Kevin announce his retirement mid-season. However, you could argue that the writing was on the wall throughout the first two rounds. Recently, he has stated that he has started to feel scared, because of the intensity level in the 450SX class currently. It is undoubted that the speed is always climbing in that class, because of various factors including the influx of 250SX riders entering the 450SX class and the evolution of the bikes, also. K-Dub has been fortunate enough to avoid most injuries in recent years; however in the last twelve months he has had his fair share of problems to contend with.
At the Houston Supercross in 2012, Kevin Windham crashed hard over a triple whilst battling with James Stewart, and sustained a dislocated shoulder and damage to his wrist. Kevin now admits that it was at that time when thoughts about retiring before 2014 started to cross his mind. However, at the same time he did prove at that race that he is still competitive. James is considered to be the fastest man on the planet by most; just last year Windham could run his pace. Most of the veterans of the sport end up fading away; only a select few are able to stay competitive for a prolonged period of time (or in K-Dub’s case, nineteen years)!
Following those injuries, Kevin returned at the latest edition of the Monster Energy Cup. But unfortunately, he crashed in practice at that race and suffered a concussion. Undoubtedly, it [the crash] raised even more question marks about K-Dub’s future. Those successive injuries left Kevin worried about getting hurt. With a family to support, Windham would not want to spend his time injured, obviously. In the press release revealing that Kevin would be retiring, Mike LaRocco (the Geico Honda team manager) said that once a rider begins to think about racing that way, it is the beginning of the end. Evidently, Windham was no longer willing to push the boundaries in order to succeed. But he didn’t need to; he does not need to prove himself to the fans, or the industry anymore.
Coincidentally, Mike LaRocco is the man that Kevin Windham trails in all-time career starts. Kevin has started two-hundred-and-six AMA races, remarkably. Injuries are unavoidable in this sport; so for Kevin to have so many career starts is an impressive accomplishment. It is also worth noting that when he crashed out of the Houston supercross last year, his streak of consecutive starts in the AMA Supercross series ended at one-hundred-and-two. The streak spanned from the Orlando Supercross in 2006 (March 18th 2006) to the Toronto Supercross (March 24th 2012), where K-Dub finished third. Toronto last year was the scene of his last professional podium, also.
Of course, things were not always perfect throughout Kevin Windham’s career. Whilst riding a Suzuki in 2002 Kevin broke his femur in Atlanta, and did not return to the track for a year. I do believe that his hiatus from racing in parts of 2002, and 2003 was the reason that his career has spanned so many years. Before the injury, Windham was struggling massively; but now he has admitted that the time off did help him. It is amazing how he has bounced back from those issues; his future was uncertain in 2002. When he did return, he jumped on a Factory Connection Honda – the same team that he ended his career on, ten years later.
Now, Windham has time to reflect on what has been a successful professional career. Sure, he did not win a championship in the premier class; but he has more than made up for that with the vast amount of fans that chant his name every weekend. Of course, he does have the 1996, and 1997 125 West Region Supercross titles to his name, as well as nineteen race victories and three runner-up finishes in the 450SX class point’s standings.
Personally, I am happy that Kevin Windham got to retire on his terms, rather than having an injury (or another factor) force him out of the sport. But, I have a feeling that we have not seen the last of K-Dub; undoubtedly he will find himself a role within the industry quite quickly.
Words by Lewis Phillips