Celebrating flat track and speedway legends in Las Vegas
For the third year in a row something extraordinary took place at the corner of Las Vegas Boulevard and Fremont Street upstairs from Gene Wood’s Racing Experience. Motorcycle industry icons gathered on Saturday, January 28th for an evening of bench racing and to celebrate the 2023 inductees into the Hot Shoe Hall of Fame (HSHoF) at the Notoriety Theatre in Neonopolis in the Las Vegas Fremont Street Experience.
Rick Rohde and his Shell Thuet Yamaha XS650. Rick purchased this Shell Thuet Yamaha that had been converted to a Street Tracker and was featured in a magazine. Rick rebuilt this treasure back to Shell’s original design, a true competition dirt tracker. Rick told us that it is a full Shell Thuet race bike including the Shell Racing Specialties designed and built frame. He also told me that it has all of the performance parts, except for the OW72 heads.
What began three years ago in 2020, when Gene Woods asked fellow speedway motorcycle riders if they would donate their steel riding shoes (hot shoes) to his budding collection, has now grown into more than just a small display on the walls of his indoor go karting track. It has become more than just a way to remember and honor the riders and industry members for their skills, development, and achievements in the sport. Through Gene’s vision the Hot Shoe Hall of Fame Museum is now an organized 501(c)3 charity which helps to provide new footwear, “Heart Shoes” to the needy. Always helping to give back to his local and the motorcycle communities, Gene continues to extend his generosity to others. Rookies of ’79 and Friends were present to help raise money for injured flat track riders by selling a chance to win a Bryan Smith XR750 donated by Tony Westbrook.
Left and right sides of Rick’s Yamaha XS650. The number plates that are installed are correct with the #14 of Hank Scott, who rode for Shell back in 1975. The #11R number plate on the right side is for Eddie Lawson, who rode for Shell as a Junior in 1977. The full right foot controls where reinstalled to era correct functions. Shell would rework the transmission and cases for the shift shaft to exit on the right. At the time, H-D and the British twins were right foot shift, so it also prevented shifting damage in a low side. Rick quipped, “It will straighten your arms.”
Mecum was also in town January 25th-29th for their annual motorcycle auction featuring many special bikes from notable collections on the block. This event draws collectors and motorcycle industry personalities from all over the United States, many of whom also attended Gene’s Hot Shoe Hall of Fame annual event. The event is free to the public each year with prior online registration. The fun begins on Friday, as past and new inductees arrive in town and drop by the event location. We have attended the past two years and have enjoyed giving the vintage photos we have taken of some of the inductees to them to enjoy. It is always special to present a photo to a rider and have them say, “Who took this?” Geoff replies, “I did!” then the story of when and where unfolds and the reminiscing begins.
After 40 plus years we don’t always recognize our riding heroes, but after brief introductions all the emotion and excitement of the past came alive again. Rick Rohde, Mike Kidd, Walt Fulton III, and Mickey Fay were four of this year’s inductees we had the pleasure of talking with. Rick Rohde arrived with his friend and fellow competitor Dave Bateman from Phoenix with his Shell Racing Specialties Yamaha XS650 bored out to 750cc and signed by Shell Thuet on the fuel tank. This bike has never been raced. He purchased it as a street tracker and put it back to a dirt tracker. Rick graciously let Geoff and others straddle the bike to feel what the actual offset foot pegs were like. The left peg is roughly 3 inches higher than the right to prevent the left peg from grounding out.
Mike Kidd’s 1982 Honda Factory Racing Team NS750. From the liquid cooled Honda XC500, shaft drive, V-twin beginnings. There were many alterations to this bike from its origination in 1980. The engine was rotated 90 degrees in the frame, the shift shaft was moved to the right side, the cylinders were rotated 180 degrees on the cases and converted to chain and sprocket final drive.
Each year one inductee is awarded the Maely Lifetime Achievement Award for their contributions to the motorcycling industry. This year Brad Lackey joined Larry Huffman, Kenny Roberts, and Judy Maely as Lifetime Members of the Hot Shoe Hall of Fame. Last year’s winner, Larry “Super Mouth” Huffman conducted interviews with Brad Lackey and Kenny Roberts. Brad raced in Northern California competing at short tracks and scrambles before winning the 1982 500cc World Motocross title on his Suzuki. Kenny’s wittiness was evident when he responded to Larry’s question, “Have you ever raced cars?” to which the King replied, “Every time I get in one!” The award is named after Ken Maely who invented the original Hot Shoe for flat track racers.
With all of the foot controls and twin carburetors on the right, the left side of the NS750 dirt tracker only has the curving shielded twin high exhaust. The NS750 had only one win, with Scott Pearson at the controls in the 1982 Louisville Half-Mile. Mike always told himself that he would retire at 30 years of age, and he did at the end of the 1982 season. He also said that he would have continued racing, if he had known the success of the full racing design of the RS750 would bring (Bubba Shobert 4 and Ricky Graham 2 Grand National Championships).
Jerry Bernardo, a long time ESPN X Games host, interviewed the newly honored desert and freestyle racers. Ricky Brabec raced and won the motorcycle division of the Dakar Rally in 2020. His desert 450 Honda was featured on stage. He continues to compete in desert racing and rally events. Along with Ricky was Johnny Campbell, the owner of JCR and member of the OFMHF (Off Road Motorsports Hall of Fame). He has won 17 consecutive SCORE Baja 1000 races and fielded Ricky’s Honda 450 in the Dakar Rally.
Ricky Brabec’s 2020 Dakar Rally winning Honda HRC 450 Rally. Ricky won the Dakar that year, being the first American to win the motorcycle division in its 40 year history. Ricky dominated the 12 stages and over 3,000 miles of the previously unknown course. With a lot of carbon fiber and titanium to keep it as light as possible, as well as the large fuel capacity and special route instrumentation, the 450 Rally still had to be durable for the toughest race in the world.
Laughter and inside stories about the bikes ridden and races run could be heard everywhere. The attendees and inductees reconnected with old friends and competitors as well as looked back at their careers, achievements, and contributions to the sport of motorcycling. We hope to see you there next year and hear your stories about your favorite motorcycle legends and what makes them your favorite rider.
More Hot Shoe Hall of Fame photos in our gallery: https://www.nicklessphotos2.com/Hot-Shoe-Hall-of-Fame
Barb & Geoff
*We’ll follow up on Wednesday with selected photos and descriptions of the Hot Shoe inductees from back in their racing years, courtesy of Geoff and Barb. -Ed.
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Very cool thank you guys
You are quite welcome! Our pleasure to highlight the Hot Shoe.