Motocross

Mitch Payton to be inducted into AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame

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Mitch Payton
Pro Circuit owner Mitch Payton has been named as the first member of the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame Class of 2010.

"In AMA Pro Motocross and Supercross, one team is perhaps more synonymous with winning than any other, Pro Circuit, and the motive force behind that team is one of the industry's most driven individuals, Mitch Payton," said Jack Penton, incoming AMA director of operations and a Hall of Famer himself. "Payton is an architect of not only championship teams, but champions, having developed some of this sport's greatest racers."

Payton's parents, James and Norma Payton, introduced him and his brother, James Jr., to motorcycling at a young age. By the time he was 10, Payton was competing in family enduros and a few years later was racing competitively in AMA District 37. In 1977, at the age of 17, Payton was one of the district's top desert racers and won the 125 class in that discipline. Unfortunately, the next year Payton's racing career was cut short by injury when he was paralyzed in an accident.

Instead of allowing discouragement to turn him away from motorcycling, Payton refocused his efforts on the business side of the sport. At 18, he bought and ran a local Husqvarna shop. His skill and reputation as a tuner grew, and his parts were being used by some of the biggest motocross teams of the mid-1980s. Then, in 1991, Honda asked Payton to run its 125 team. Payton accepted, and over the next 19 years, racing other brands as well, his teams won more championships than any other.

Tom White is chairman of the Hall of Fame Motocross/Supercross committee, and the company he founded, White Brothers, was one of the first distributors of Payton's products.

"I've known Mitch from when he was racing to when he was starting his company," White said. "It is one of my proudest moments to see somebody who overcame what some might see as a major disability and not only build the best motorcycles, but to be able to pick the riders and bring them up to a level of performance that makes them better than they ever thought they could be. Mitch Payton is absolutely what the Hall of Fame is about -- recognizing the people who have made the best and most lasting contributions to motorcycling."

Payton, an AMA Life Member, said that he's honored by his induction into the Hall of Fame. But, he said, he recognizes the legends he looked up to in his youth are the true heroes of the sport.

"I look around the industry, and there are a few guys I hold in real regard," Payton said. "One is Malcolm Smith. When I was a kid, we'd go to Malcolm's shop, and I was the 10-year-old punk who would bother the guys at the counter for stickers and sit on all the bikes. Another is Roger DeCoster. Those guys are just awesome.

"So, to be in the same Hall of Fame, for that honor, I'm really proud about that," Payton continued. "It's there forever. It means that anyone looking back on history years from now will see what you've done."

Payton, whose teams have collected 26 AMA Pro Championships in Motocross and Supercross since 1991, will be among the legends of motorcycling honored at the 2010 induction ceremony at the Red Rock Resort in Las Vegas this Nov. 19.

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