The Grand Slam
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In the days when AMA Grand National competition consisted of dirt track and road racing, the ultimate prize was winning the Grand Slam. To win the Slam a rider needed to earn national victories in each of the four forms of dirt-track racing - Mile, Half Mile, Short Track and TT in addition to a road-race national. Many came close, winning four of the five categories, but only four riders - Dick Mann, Kenny Roberts, Bubba Shobert and Doug Chandler - in AMA racing history have won the mythical Grand Slam of motorcycle racing.

Mann, Roberts and Shobert won the Slam under the old combined dirt-track/road-racing AMA Grand National system, while Chandler earned his by virtue of winning an AMA Superbike race after the Grand National Series dropped road racing after the 1985 season.

The chances of anyone ever winning the Grand Slam again are remote. Chandler was the last rider to complete it in 1989. Chris Carr made a serious bid at it during his days with the Harley-Davidson Superbike factory team in the mid-1990s. As a footnote, Carr should perhaps be awarded an honorary Slam for being the only rider to put the ill-fated VR1000 Superbike on the pole.

Nicky Hayden came up a bikelength short of winning a National on a Mile at Del Mar in 1999. Had Hayden beaten Scott Parker in the season finale that year, it would have ruined Parker's retirement party, but it also would have set Hayden up to be a Grand Slam winner after he earned his first AMA Superbike victory the following season.

The Grand Slam first became a possibility when the Santa Fe Short Track in the Chicago suburb of Hinsdale first became a National in 1961 .That was the first AMA Grand National Short Track event ever held, and it presented the first opportunity for the Slam.

Three-time AMA Grand National Champion Joe Leonard surely would have won the Slam had Short Track races been part of the nationals earlier. Leonard, who set a record of eight AMA Grand National wins in one season in 1954 that took 32 years to break, could win on any track. By the early 1960's, however, Leonard was already beginning to turn his attention to car racing and just missed out on becoming the first Slam winner.

Carroll Resweber knocked Leonard from Grand National dominance in the late 1960's and, same as Leonard, Resweber was fast on any type of racetrack. He never won a TT although he finished second twice at Peoria. Resweber never saw TT tracks growing up racing in Louisiana and Texas.

"Peoria was about the only TT we had back then," Resweber said. "Harley always made me a special bike for that race every year, but I just never felt like I could hang it out on such a small track. I liked the faster tracks and riding that big old Harley around Peoria... well, you almost had to give it a bear hug. Later on they came out with the smaller bikes. I wished I would have had one of those in my day, and maybe I could have won the thing."

Gary Nixon and Mann both made strong runs at the Grand Slam in the 1960's. Nixon was the same as Resweber, in that he couldn't get it done on a TT.

"I had 10 lengths on 'Bugs' [Mann] at Peoria in '67," said Nixon. "I was riding it like a road racer going into there, hitting the brakes and turning. The white flag came out and Bugs stuck a wheel up under me and I thought. 'It's that goddamn [Bart] Markel, he's gonna wreck me.' Then he stuck a wheel under again and I pitched it in the turn hard to protect the line and just slid it sideways and it was Bugs. He got me by a bikelength or so."

Mann went on to win four-fifths of Grand Slam. He only lacked a win on a Mile, and as his racing career wound down, it looked as if he wasn't going to complete the Slam. Then he won on his BSA, somewhat unexpectedly, on the deeply rutted and cushioned surface of Washington Park Mile in Homewood, Illinois, in August of 1972.

Mann says the hoopla about the Grand Slam didn't start until months after he won finally won on a Mile.

"I didn't even think about it after I'd won a Mile," Mann said. "There was no such thing as a Grand Slam then. It was thought up after I won all of them. Fortunately for me I won that race in Chicago only after a bunch of the cushion-track specialists retired. Had they still been around would have finished eighth or ninth like I always had.

"It took my entire racing career to win the Grand' Slam; Kenny Roberts did it in a single season," Mann adds.

After Mann set the standard by becoming the first one to complete the Slam in 1972, Roberts accomplished the feat two years later by winning the Peoria TT. In 1975 Roberts again completed the Grand Slam, this time doing it in a single season - the only rider in history to achieve that mark.

"Winning the Grand Slam wasn't something I though about much," Roberts said. "I was just trying to win races and championships.

"The only reason it took Dick Mann so long [to complete the Slam] was because he was such a bad mechanic," Roberts quipped. "When he won it, he was about 80. Listen, anytime I pulled up to a track that was full of bumps and holes, the rider you had to beat was Dick Mann. The only reason the Slam meant anything to me, was it meant I was in there with Dick Mann, who was a hero."

Many people think Bubba Shobert completed the Slam when he shocked the road-racing establishment by coming straight off the dirt tracks to win the Mid-Ohio road-race National in 1984. In fact, it was almost two years later that Shobert earned his Grand Slam by winning on a Half Mile in Phoenix in April of 1986.

Three years later, Mid-Ohio was the site of Chandler's first Superbike win and his completion of the Grand Slam. Chandler later won an AMA Supermoto National, perhaps qualifying him for Super Slam status.

Will a rider ever win the Grand Slam again? With dirt track and road racing so specialized now, it doesn't seem likely. The one name that always comes up when talking about a future Grand Slam winner is Nicky Hayden.

The Del Mar Mile loss still haunts Hayden.

"I don't have many regrets in my life, but losing at Del Mar is one of them," Hayden said. "I reeled Parker in and, on the last lap, caught, going into three. I got a little too excited and tried to pass him on the outside and slipped off the groove. If I had it all to do over again, I'd have gone to the inside and maybe push him a bit wide. But it was Parker's last race and I was just some young kid, so I think I did the right thing, but it sure did break my heart.

"I'd like to think I could come back someday and try to win on a Mile again, but I've got to be honest, those guys are good and only getting better. I dream about coming back to Springfield and stealing a win there. The Grand Slam would make up a little for not being able to pursue my childhood dream of winning the Grand National title, but to come back and actually do it will probably always be just a dream."

Others believe Hayden has the best chance of anyone to win the Slam.

"Hell, he's only 25," says Gary Nixon of Hayden "He's got 10 prime years in front of him. He could come back and win a Mile after he's done road racing."

Roberts agrees.

"If Nicky's going to do it he needs to come back and get a good bike and do it while he's still in his prime. I tried to come back and race Springfield, but I waited too long after I retired. I think Nicky could do it, but he shouldn't mess around and wait too long."

The legend of motorcycle racing's Grand Slam lives on. The fact that only four riders in history have managed to win it makes the prize all that more attractive for a future generation of racers.