This year the Monster Energy Kawasaki Team Green Program is celebrating its 30th anniversary of developing amateur motocross racers into today’s top riders.
Dreams, Sacrifice, and Success: Celebrating 30 Years of Team Green
What started out 30 years ago as an idea written on a napkin has grown into the most successful amateur race support program in the world. In 1981, Kawasaki Motors Corp., U.S.A. created the Team Green program to support Kawasaki racers at major amateur motocross events across the nation. Starting out as a couple of Kawasaki technicians in a van who traveled to races helping a few mini-cycle racers, the program has matured into a multi-million dollar program that has revolutionized the racing world. Proud to celebrate its 30 year anniversary, Monster Energy Kawasaki Team Green continues its ongoing tradition of developing amateur motocross racers into today’s top professionals.
The Foundation is Set
In 1981 the Team Green program was put into motion and captained by its first team manager, Dave Jordan. It is his vision that still remains the heart and soul of Kawasaki Team Green. The program’s structure was similar to a baseball minor league farm team in order to groom future champions. It was also geared to help the people who needed it most – not the pros – but the racers who had to put up every dime out of their pocket to go racing. The bottom line was, and still is, that being a Kawasaki owner is like being part of a bigger picture; a family of fellow owners, riders, dealers and technicians spread across the country. Jordan’s goal was to make winning on a Kawasaki motorcycle something that everyone wanted to be a part of by creating a tangible sense of community.
“If we learned one thing in those early years, it was to never put pressure on an amateur racer,” said Jordan. “Just pat them on the back and tell them to have a good time. If we gave them good support and good equipment, they’d win.”
In 1985 Mercedes Gonzalez was added to Team Green’s roster as it expanded into women’s motocross. She went on to claim five titles at Loretta Lynn’s and was crowned national champion nine times.
The Wheels Set in Motion
Jordan began growing Team Green by recruiting a talented roster of young riders like Billy Liles, Keith Turpin, Kyle Lewis, Scott Brown, Kyle Landrum, Hank Moree, and the Coombs brothers. By 1982 the team had already proven itself as the dominant force in American motocross racing, winning nearly fifty percent of the classes they entered in the Ponca City NMA Grand National Championships. Jordan also expanded the program to include a new enduro support program.
Team Green’s successful program continued to draw in more and more members from around the nation as the program continued to evolve. In 1983, the family continued to expand its horizons with the addition of Chris and Jimmy White and the three-wheel ATV support program. The new addition to Team Green was introduced with the inception of Kawasaki’s KXT250 Tecate ATV. The same year Bruce Stjernstrom was named Dave Jordan’s successor.
By 1985, Team Green’s amateur motocross racing program was running wide open competing regularly in Ponca City, the Mini Olympics, Lake Whitney GNC, World Mini, and Loretta Lynn’s. Mercedes Gonzalez was added to the roster of Team Green’s finest, marking the team’s expansion into women’s motocross. More successful women motocross racers would soon follow including Jessica Patterson, Dee Ann Wood, Christy Sealy, and Elizabeth Bash. Girls like Kelly Yancey and Heidi Landon were also brought on-board and rounded-off the team competing in the off-road and ATV disciplines.
The Big Leagues
Team Green continued expanding throughout the motorcycle world, and by 1986 its amateur racers had already gained a reputation, proving themselves many times over. Some of the industry’s most colorful riders were already part of the amateur roster including Jeff Emig, Jeremy McGrath, and Brian Deegan. Team Green was proving to be quite good at graduating amateur riders to the pro-ranks. As a result, a new branch of Team Green would develop, the Team Green Pro Support program, which assisted amateur riders who were transitioning into the pro ranks. The first Team Green pro support riders who blasted their way to the top ranks were Ronnie Tichenor, Donny Schmit, Rodney Barr, and Tyson Vohland.
Ricky Carmichael (center) was part of Kawasaki’s star-studded lineup that would forever change the industry.
With Mark Johnson taking over as Team Green Manager in 1987, and the addition of an off-road rider named Larry Roeseler, the Team Green off-road program was instantly supercharged, marking the beginning of their domination in Baja and other off-road races around the world. In their first attempt, Roeseler and teammate Ted Hunnicutt captured Kawasaki’s first victory in Baja, the start of many to come. The program would see many successful off-road racers like Ty Davis, Danny LaPorte, Marty Smith, and Danny Hamel. By 1993, the off-road team had won nine-straight Baja 1000 victories and dominated most of the races they attended.
As Team Green continued to grow, so did the roster of racers who would later set the bar for the entire motocross industry. In 1994, Ron Heben was hired as the amateur motocross supervisor, a position in which he immediately excelled. He was considered the primary mentor for Kevin Windham, Ricky Carmichael, and James Stewart.
By 1996, Heben was moved up to Team Green manager and Reid Nordin was hired from Kawasaki Research and Development to become the off-road supervisor. The team continued stacking up wins with Jimmy Gladis and Jeromy Buehl dominating the top-two spots in that year’s Arenacross championship. Team Green also got an upgrade with the addition of the very first state-of-the-art 18-wheeled transporter for the amateur ranks. By 1997, Team Green was proving to be an unstoppable force. Between riders Ty Davis and Jeff Emig, Kawasaki garnered eight AMA Pro national championship titles, AMA Pro Athlete of the Year, Motocross Manufacturer of the Year, and AMA Horizon and Rookie of the Year. Davis nailed the AMA National Hare & Hound and Western 4-stroke National Championships, while Emig walked away with the AMA 250cc Supercross and 250cc Motocross National Championships. The Heben era lasted until 2001, at which point Nordin took over as Team Green manager.
Team Green has produced more riders like James Stewart (left) and Kyle Chisholm (right) than any other organization.
Building Champions for Decades
More riders have been groomed for the professional ranks by Kawasaki’s Team Green staff than any other organization. Through the 90’s and the new millennium, talented riders have continued to join the team and put Kawasaki bikes on the podium. Riders like Ricky Carmichael, Jeremy McGrath, Jeff Emig, James Stewart, Kevin Windham, Ivan Tedesco, and Tim Ferry are Team Green graduates who have raised the bar. Our current team is constantly working to set the bar higher every day. Riders like Ryan Villopoto, Justin Soule, Blake Baggett, and Dean Wilson are the more recent Team Green graduates who are a testament to the continued success of the program.
Measure of Success
The enormous success of Team Green can be measured on many levels. From a sales standpoint, Team Green has been a huge success. It’s nearly impossible to go to any amateur motocross race and not find green bikes dominating the lineup. With an unmatched contingency program and track-side support, serious racers are always looking to go green. If success is measured by national, regional, and local race wins, then Team Green has been an enormous success. Team Green has won more amateur titles and groomed more of today’s top professionals than any other amateur motorcycle race program in history. For Team Green, the most important measure of success is, and always has been, in its ability to put smiles on young faces and help them realize their dreams.
30 Years and Counting…
After 30 successful years, Team Green continues to develop champions and engender the team spirit to anyone on a Kawasaki product. Originally developed to help Kawasaki grow, the Monster Energy Kawasaki Team Green program has evolved to do so much more by transforming the racing world into what it is today.