Ryan Dungey - Minnesota Motorcycle Hall of Fame Member

Ryan Dungey - Motocross

Breaking News for 2022 - Ryan is coming out of retirement and will be competing in the 450 Motocross Nationals for KTM USA.

Ryan turned pro in 2006, landing a spot in the factory Suzuki rig. As this was originally published in early 2007, the story of his career was about to be written. Each year, another chapter was added, and he just kept adding to his accomplishments. After a decade of racing nearly every single round at the highest level, on May 16, 2017, he announced his retirement from professional motocross racing.

He lands in rarified air, tied for third in championships and fourth in wins, setting a high bar for future Minnesota champions to match or exceed. He did it all with professionalism and sportsmanship, getting a level of outside attention, ESPY Award, Wheaties Box, ESPN stories, not seen since Jeremy McGrath. I can say without question, he’s the most accomplished racer I’ve ever seen at the Scott County Fairgrounds.

Photo by MNRacing.com

Years Pro: 2007-2017

Career Highlights
2009 250 (Lites) West Supercross Champion
8 Major AMA Championships, tied for 3rd All-Time with Jeremy McGrath
2009 250 Motocross Champion
2010 450 Supercross Champion
2010 450 Motocross Champion
2012 450 Motocross Champion
2015 450 Supercross Champion
2015 450 Motocross Champion
2016 450 Supercross Champion
2017 450 Supercross Champion
Finshed second or third 9 times

12 Lites/250 Supercross Wins including 2 East / West Shootouts
80 Overall MX and SX Wins, 4th All-Time
(7) 250 Motocross Wins
(34) 450 Supercross Wins
(39) 450 Motocross Wins

Competed in 271 AMA Supercross and Motocross events
209 Podiums
Finished outside of the Top Five 30 times in his career
Finished outside of the Top Ten 13 times in his career, only twice from 2009-2017

6 appearances and 3 Motocross des Nations Team championships (2 Individual), 2009, 2010, 2011. Also rode in 2012, 2013, 2014

This sign of early promise was discovered in the MX Bob 2005 Archives.

Yearly Recaps:

2007 – Ryan made his Supercross debut with a win at Atlanta. From there he had several rounds with bad luck sometimes bordering on bizarre. He escaped that black cloud and won the last three races of the East series, and topped it off with a win in the East/West Shootout. In the outdoors, he finished a season-high second at Unadilla and looked to have a shot at third in the championship until getting injured and missing the last three rounds. He still finished fifth.

2008 – This year saw Ryan switch from the East to the often more competitive West in Supercross.He won three races and lead the points for quite a while, but some late falls and bad luck saw him finish second in the championship. He capped that season off with another win in the East / West shootout. In the outdoors, he was the only rider not on Kawasaki to win an outdoor national in 2008, breaking through for his first win at Washougal. He followed that up by winning his home race at Millville and then again at Steel City, winning three of the last four nationals.

2009 – Competing again in the West, he won four races on his way to the West 250 Championship. In the outdoors, he fought with Christophe Pourcel all year, wining four more nationals on his way to eking out a hard-earned 250 AMA Motocross Championship over the more experienced Frenchman. He then switched to the 450 class, with his first race being as captain of the US MXdN team. He responded by taking the individual overall win and leading the team to its record-stretching 20th Motocross des Nations championship. He re-signed with Suzuki an was set to be their lead rider in the premier classes in Supercross and Motocross.

2010 - Ryan stepped up to the premier class in 2010 and had a season like few others before him. After winning six rounds on his way to the 450 Supercross championship, he then dominated the 450 nationals, winning ten of twelve rounds and 19 motos. He topped off the season by leading the USA to another Motocross Des Nations title.

2011 - Dungey had another strong year in 2011, winning one Supercross race, but coming up short to Ryan Villipoto in the Championship. In the outdoors he won four nationals, but the championship was again Villipoto’s. At the Motocross des Nations, Villopoto and Dungey went 1-2 in the third and deciding moto, giving Team USA another team win.

2012 – During the off-season, Ryan left the Makita Suzuki team, the only team he has ridden for as a professional, and switched to KTM, a move many called career suicide, given their record in the US premier class. With his mentor Roger DeCoster making the move the year before and the commitment the factory was making to him, essentially making a new model bike specifically for him, he was confident the move would work out. It only took one race to give the factory their first Supercross podium, and the next week in Phoenix, he gave them their first win. He ended up getting injured in the middle of the season, taking him out of the championship chase, but ended the season with four Supercross wins. In the Outdoors, with main rival, Ryan Villipoto out with injury, he was the favorite for the title, and he didn’t disappoint, winning 10 rounds, on his way to his second 450 Motocross title, and the first for KTM.

2013 - With a full year under his belt with the KTM, expectations were high coming into the Supercross season. He got off to a slow start, and by the time he got on track, Ryan Villopoto was in the midst of a long winning streak, cementing the title a round early. Dungey was only able to win two rounds, Anaheim and a wildly popular come-from-behind win in Minneapolis. In the Outdoors, Ryan was unable to stop the runaway freight train that was Ryan Villopoto. Although consistently in front of third place by 20 seconds or more, he did not quite have the pace of RV this year. He kept it close in points until suffering a mechanical DNF at Red Bud, making the inevitable happen all that much sooner (Round 11 of 12). He did win 3 Motocross overalls, moving himself up into the top 3 in that category.

2014 - The supercross did not goes as well as previous years. There was a stretch where he lost his trademark consistency, and that really hurt him in the points. He was still able to recover to finish second place in the points, his best overall finish since winning the championship in 2010, but only won one supercross race. In the end, Villopoto just had too much flat-out speed at his disposal.

Ryan was able to take the first 450 MX win of the year at Glen Helen, but then teammate, Ken Roczen started rolling, building up a lead, despite Dungey being near the front nearly every moto. He put on a charge late, winning 3 more nationals, but could not catch eventual champ, Roczen. Ryan once again represented USA at the MX des Nations, but the team fell short to France.

2015 - With the departure of defending, four-time champion Ryan Villopoto, the Supercross series marketing phrase was “Who’s Next?”, expecting one of the young guns to get their first crown. Ryan spoiled the campaign by having his best SX season ever, winning 8 races, and clinching the championship three rounds early. He credited the all-new KTM, and working with renowned trainer, Aldon Baker to his success. He looked more confident and in control than ever, and we’ll never know how he may have fared against the defending champion.

Ryan carried his momentum in the outdoor season, completing what was arguably his best season to date. He won seven overalls, including the last five, and clinched the 450 championship in the second to last round. His 67 National and Supercross wins, as well as his six championships brings him into some pretty elite company, and the way the season ended, although competition showed strong flashes, Ryan looks like he could continue winning for many seasons to come.

2016 – Ryan had a few uncharacteristic falls at the first round of the Supercross series, but still finishing second. He then ripped off three wins in a row and crossed the line no worse than second until Round 11 in Detroit. I say "crossed the line" because in Toronto, he became the first rider in the history of SX to have a win taken away. The referee made the highly-debatable call that he had jumped under the red-cross flag. Despite that, and a late-surge by chief rival, Ken Roczen, he still cruised to his third Supercross championship, the first time he had successfully defended a championship. Along the way he won nine races, moving himself up on both the combined and Supercross win lists.

The surge by Roczen at the end of the Supercross season carried into the outdoor season, and then some. Ryan trailed him in all the motos, gaining a moto and overall win at Hangtown when Roczen had a bike problem. At the third round, Ryan crashed early in moto two, coming from way back to finish fourth. That ride was even more impressive with the shocking, considering his record, announcement later that week that he had injured his neck and was out for the season. Just like that, his title defense was over. He took the time to fully recover, doing only a few off-season races. He was staying with the KTM Factory team going into 2017, but the competition was looking as tough as ever.

2017 - The first two rounds of the Supercross season looked much like the end of 2016, with Roczen jetting away with both wins. After completely losing touch with him the first round, Ryan was much closer in the second round. In the third round, Dungey was leading with Roczen trying to make up for a so-so start. Then Roczen had a terrible crash, and his season was done. Dungey was seemingly in the driver’s seat for another championship, especially with the struggles of his other main rival, Eli Tomac.

But then things took an unexpected turn. Tomac got hot and started winning, and Dungey just didn’t look the same as the last two years. He was finishing behind riders that he had always beaten, even getting passed late in races by teammate, Marvin Musquin, a few times. By the second to the last round, he had lost the points lead to Tomac, who now had 9 wins to Ryan’s 2.

While nearly everyone was getting ready to hand Tomac the crown, the race in NJ turned it all around. Tomac was out front with Dungey close behind, but then Tomac fell, took a very long time to get going, and could only manage an 8th place finish. Dungey meanwhile, ran up front with Musquin, until passing him (getting let by?) on the last lap. Now with a 9-point lead going into the last round, he withstood the “slow and obstruct” tactics Tomac resorted to in the last round, and took his fourth Supercross championship with only 3 Main Event wins.

During the season, there was much “What’s wrong with Dungey?” speculation. When he announced his retirement before the outdoors started, he was quite honest in what happened. After his neck injury the previous season, the doctor had told him that if the crash would have been slightly different, he could have had serious injuries, even paralysis. Between that and getting a long taste of life outside of racing, he had lost that intense desire that propelled him to so much success.

To me, the fact that he was riding scared, and I mean that in the kindest way possible, and still won the championship against a fierce competitor such as Tomac, makes this the most impressive championship of them all. He left on top, much as other recent greats of the sport had, leaving behind a legacy that will always be remembered.

This rare "Dungey on a Honda" photo was from a 2003 MNRacing.com page.