The Grand Slam
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
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
"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
"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
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."
"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.