MXi magazine has become, as far as I am concerned, the "bible" of prize money statistics for pro motocross in America, and I always look forward to each issue to see numbers that amaze and confound me. In the November 13 issue, MXi listed the rankings current as of October 23rd. These are essentially the end of the year standings, and it should be no surprise to anyone to see "Lucky" Grant Langston finish in the top three after adding the U.S. Open win to his 450F National Championship, bringing his total winnings to $138,920.
I must admit that it seems weird that Chad Reed grabbed the second place spot ($271,250) without winning a single major title AND while sitting out all but one race of the entire outdoor season, but such is Supercross, an earnings powerhouse for the right riders.
The prize money is correctly skewed towards the winningest riders, but the funds drop off steeply as it moves down the list. It is hard to believe that only five professional racers were able to win more than $100,000. The fact that three guys on this list of 35 didn't even pass $20k in winnings seems even more implausible because these are well-known racers: Kevin Johnson, Tyler Evans and Kyle Lewis!
Now I know that many if not most of the racers on the list make the bulk of their earnings from salaries and endorsements among other things, and that some people think that therefore prize money is superfluous, and in any case, those who win should get the lion's share of the purse (killed that metaphor), but... looking at this list still bugs me. I think racers of the quality that we feature in the American series deserve the honor of competing for large stakes. Hell, would the U.S. Open be as popular with the riders if the top prize was only $10k?
Well, maybe, but only because these guys are hungry!
Remember Yamaha of Troy fast guy Jason Lawrence? The one who caught a wheel in the grill at Hangtown, courtesy of now TWO-time 250F National Champion Ryan Villopoto? Yeah, J-Law only won $20,565... good for 32nd place on the money list.
Speaking of RV, winning ALL of his possible titles brought him all the way up to tenth place on the leaderboard... but even he only took home $51,360. 250F racing does not pay.
More weirdness: Travis Preston nailed 20th on the list... and I can't even remember if he raced this year. Seriously, I'm not sure if he finished SX and sat out MX or what... but whatever he did, he was able to win $35,050. Mike Gosselaar's new rider, the guy who took an astounding second place in the 450F title chase, Mike Alessi, made less than that: $32,870. That just don't seem right.
And fittingly, considering the lopsidedness of the purses for the two series, the dude who won BOTH Supercross crowns won the most prize money. James Stewart won $402,090. That's only about $75k less than what golfer Ernie Els won for finishing third in the 2007 PGA Championship. Um, that's just one event. One weekend. But I digress.
To put it plainly, supercross kicked motocross' ass. The earnings list vividly demonstrates that focusing on supercross is in the financial benefits of these racers. The question now is, what is motocross going to do about it?