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Aug 5, 2011

Readers Remember Gary Nixon, R.I.P.


Via e-mail:

I have always been fan of Gary since the '60s and '70s. It was in the mid '70s that I had the opportunity to meet him. I was walking around the pits at West Palm in February 1977 and low and behold Gary was there for a race. Here was my chance to get a photo of me with him to show off to my friend who was also a fan. We started to talk for awhile and I could see he was friendly, although he was busy with the bike. As we stood next to the bike I said "can I sit on your Kawasaki for the photo"? and he said "sure."

We were ready to shoot and a young lady in the pit crew came over and started to complain about me sitting on the bike. Gray said "come on, he is not going to hurt it", she huffed away I got my shot"¦. me on the bike with Gary standing next to me.

This guy was a humble man and appreciated his fans. As we shook hands I wished him luck and asked him who he thought was going to win today. He looked at me with a puzzled face as if how could I ask such a question, and as we made eye contact he said "ME". As I looked into his eyes I could see all the determination of the winner he was, and was glad I was not racing him that day.

He went down during the race. I went over to see him and saw the big red mark on his hip. I knew it was not a good time for fan talk.

The last time I saw Gary was at Daytona. ('08 or '09) He was in the pits working with a team. I took a long shot with my telephoto of his face with the head set on the noise was loud. He saw me take the shot and mouthed "Thank you." What a terrific guy.

God speed Gary, to that checkered flag in the sky.

Tony Fania Sr.
Largo, Florida


Via e-mail:

I saw Gary Nixon race at Ontario and Riverside back in the '70s. I doubt he ever had equipment equal to his rivals, yet he was always competitive.

I specifically remember him in the pits at Ontario, in a wheelchair, with casts on all four limbs, yet he was still signing autographs. I can't think of anyone who compares to him.

The best compliment I can give his family: "I loved watching him race."

Mustafa Ibrahim
Washington, DC


Via e-mail:

During the mid to late '60s I was a big fan of AMA dirt track racing. Saw Gary ride Ascot, Sacramento, and break his leg at Santa Rosa.

Always thought of him as absolutely one of the toughest and bravest racers of all time. Over the years when I would see him he would always shake hands and say, "How's it going Seymour, don't touch the shoulder," or, whatever else was healing at the time.

At the end of the racing season when I worked for Bruce Brown making On Any Sunday, we had a big luau on the beach here in Capistrano Beach. I offered to take Gary surfing. As we were standing in calf-deep water a wave about 3 feet high came towards us. He looked at me and said, "I don't think I want to go out in those huge rollers!" We laughed and came back to the beach.

Nixon felt way more comfortable sideways on his Triumph, next to the fence at 100 mph.

R.I.P. Gary

Allan Seymour
Capistrano Beach, California


Via e-mail:

The benchmark for my generation of racers died today!

Steve McLaughlin
Frankfurt, Germany


Via e-mail:

Well, another of the great ones gone---I speak, of course, of Gary Nixon---what a motorcycle racer! Back in the day, AMA guys had to race the "Grand National" Series---this included; Road Racing, Dirt Track (Miles-Half Miles-Short Track and TTs)---I was privileged to get to see all the greats---too many to name really, so naturally, I am going to name just a few: Dick Mann-Cal Rayborn-Gary Scott-Jody
Nicholas (my old friend)-Roger Reiman-Gene Romero-Mert Lawwill and all the old crew, plus Gary Nixon. These guys could toss a motorcycle sideways at a hundred plus on a dirt track and then go out and beat the best "European Road Racers" on a flathead Harley! Gary was tough as nails, and like all racers old and new, would often suck-it-up and race while injured. Greatly skilled on a road race bike I saw him race Triumph-Suzuki-Kawasaki and Yamaha, winning on all!

My personal connection with Gary came in early 1979---I was the General Manager at Yoshimura R&D---then operating out of a shack on a side street in Burbank, California. We were getting ready for the six-hour race at Ontario Motor Speedway and Pops Yoshimura was taking the crew to a 24 hour race in France. The Ontario six-hour was about the most important Southern California race at the time, and Pops had been trying to win it for years---but always some issue would crop up. The
Yosh team already had the services of my late friend, David Emde, but we needed a second rider. Pops told me to make some calls and I thought it would be great to have Nixon on the bike. I called Gary and invited him, but he said he was at the very end of his racing career and thanks for the offer but no go. We got David Aldana to ride with Dave and won the race going away.

My next contact with Nixon was many many years later at Willow Springs for The Corsa Moto Classica, a vintage race held every year. I was lucky enough to photograph the races for Yoshi Kosaka, the sponsor of the races. Gary was there riding a real neat vintage Triumph triple (Rob North) and he rode right with the leaders---the old style, just leaning the bike, not hanging off, no knee on the ground. Later we
talked and this turned into a couple of hours of old stories---he was still crusty, funny and warm, wish I had a video. That was Gary Nixon---OLD SCHOOL motorcycle racer.

Vaya Con Dios, Mi Amigo!

Joe Weinroth
Los Angeles, California


View e-mail:

It was a cold, grey fall morning in Ontario, California. Mom got me out of school so we could attend the yearly race at OMS. I got my picture taken with my heroes. Mr. Nixon and Mr. Rayborn, DuHammel, Roberts and Brelsford. Then spent 2 days wearing Torco cologne and eating corn dogs.

Gary was a true gentleman. He took me in the garage to see up close the magical Kawasaki 3. The garage! I got my autograph, mugged up a picture on the trusty instamatic and wobbled away. I was on cloud nine until summer. None of my stick and ball buddies could ever understand a real athlete...and real bravery.

I saw him a few years ago and that feeling never faded, neither did his charisma. What a man, what a gentleman. Gnaw off that cast and race.

R.I.P Gary.

Grant Crandall
West Cajon Valley, California