Remembering Donny Schmit
Donny’s Tribute
by Carrie Schmit

Dad said, "Yes."

On July 15, 1984 while watching my two brothers race motocross at a local track in Minnesota, my dad said "yes" to my first date with Peanut. Everyone called Donny "Peanut" because he was just a little guy. He was such a little kid he used a milk crate to hold himself up on his bike at the starting line.

I had met Donny a couple years prior to that and had watched him tear up the tracks all around Minnesota, moving up from one class to the next, growing into bigger bikes. Little did I know that on that fateful day in July, at the age of 15, I would set off on a huge adventure for the next 13 years of my life.

Donny was a person who could never sit still. His energy, zest for life and excitement were amazing. To me, he was invincible and to go along with him on the ride of his life was incredible. He was like a big, little kid who never slowed down.

Donny and I were just kids when we started to date. It still makes me laugh when I recall how important it was for him to tell me that he really liked me, but that I would always be second to his motorcycle. I didn't care at the time. I was just out to have fun. Then, several YEARS later we were sitting somewhere and he decided to tell me that I was just as important to him as his bike. I think I already knew that.

He was always thankful that I had the understanding about how his racing had to come first for him to try to obtain his goal of racing for a living. I admired his commitment and dedication to what he truly loved. The will power that kid had at such a young age was unbelievable. When other kids were doing whatever it is teenagers do, Donny was either riding, training or working on his bike.

Riding and racing were what made him feel alive and I'll never forget him asking his doctor a few days before he died how long it would be before he could ride his motorcycle. The doc told him at least a year or two after his bone marrow transplant. He had a very sad, confused look in his eyes.

At my senior prom we had to leave by 10:00 because he had a flight to catch that night for a race the next day. I was happy to have had him there at all.

Donny was successful not because he was the most talented rider, but because he had what it took in his mind. He was so strong willed and could mentally handle anything. I gave him so much credit for not losing sight of what he truly wanted and believed in along the way. There were so many temptations in his path to reaching his goal. However, he never lost focus and if something or someone got in his way, he didn't have much time for it. Some people thought he was a bit crazy for the way he lived and that he was way too hard on himself but it worked for him and he was happy.

Donny never let himself have the luxury of anything that would spoil him or make him a wimp in a race. That also meant that I had to experience a lot of the not so pleasant training methods. Air conditioning was forbidden. On the hottest, humid, Minnesota summer days, we'd be out practicing. When we were done, he'd make us ride home in the van, gear on and windows up, with the heat on! Donnie would smirk; "Gotta get ready for those hot and humid races!"

I thought I was going to die! But, we were a team and I made the commitment to go along for the ride and support his ways of training that made him feel he possibly had one up on his competition.

Food… Donny and his food. Anyone who is reading this and knew Donny is laughing and shaking their head at this very moment. I still shake my head. Donny was extremely fit and ate like a saint so I had to learn how to sneak very well! Even a piece of hard candy from Pizza Hut was sinning. On race days, when he felt he did well, we did get a treat. If in states, it was a frosty from Wendy's. If in Europe, it was usually mocha gelati (Italian ice cream).

The first two years we lived in Europe, racing for Suzuki, our team was sponsored by an ice cream factory in Belgium. The race shop was IN the actual ice cream factory!! Dangerous or what!?! We could literally walk across the parking lot and grab any flavor, kind and amount of ice cream we wanted. Two years of this! Here's the good part. It became a ritual for me to drive over to the shop and pick up his practice bike while he was out running or bicycling in the morning. I would then meet him at the practice track and he'd do his motos. He always thought I was just doing this to save him time (sorry Donny), but I always got there about the time that our mechanic, Harry Nolte, and team manager, Sylvan Geboers were taking a break.

I got to be an expert on the many kinds of Belgian ice cream. Good memories!

Donny always loved to come home to his family. They were very special to him and he enjoyed spending time with them. We had lots of gatherings and many years of special times. Golfing with his father was one thing he never liked to pass up. That was their special time together as was hunting with his older brother.

He loved sharing stories about his childhood memories up at his cabin and how very lucky he was to have had the family he did. He loved watching his sister play softball and taking his brother, Dan bowling. Donny was always trying to keep up with his little brother and thought he was in heaven when he got a coffee can full of his moms chocolate chip cookies. He didn't share very well!

Even though he didn't get to see them very often, his nieces and nephews were a huge part of his life and he cherished the time he did have with them.

Donny was a lover of life. Those of us who were blessed to have him in our life will always smile when we think of his bubbly personality and quick-witted sense of humor. I believe Donny is somewhere over the rainbow in a land where he is riding his most awesome bike on his dream track (similar to Millville) with all his buddies. He then gets done and takes his bow and hits the woods with his brother and Brian and together they drive out the most beautiful 10-point buck that he bags. Then we all sit around the fire and tell stories about how the day couldn't have been any better.

Life can be taken away at the snap of a finger. Donny would tell each one of us that. He was here, so full of life one day and then just gone. It can happen to anyone that fast, even the healthiest of people. Days before he died Donny told me he lived life to the fullest and took advantage of each day and opportunity that came his way.

He said if he had to die tomorrow, he'd be happy because he lived the life of a dozen people… and he did. I saw it first hand. He must have told me that, just days before his death, for some reason. So, I'm passing that on to you. I believe his point was that we must live life to the fullest and grab opportunities that come our way. Life really is short and those opportunities might not ever come again. Take some risks and don't just talk about it but actually DO them. I know I have… and I have no regrets.

Thank you, Donny

Carrie Schmit
July 2001

 

DONNY'S TRIBUTE
by Floyd Carlson

During Donny’s amateur campaigns to numerous AMA national titles, certain obstacles sure to stop mortal men were only bumps on the road for Donny.

One such episode occurred while at a Minnesota qualifier. Donny twice broke a chain on his 250. Not dismayed, he found out there was a last chance qualifier near Denver, Colorado. He asked his usual racing contacts about making the trip, but no one appeared anxious or willing, except Carrie and me.

So the three musketeers set out Friday after work. We drove all night on Skittles and Mountain Dew to arrive just in time for the last practice. Without walking the track he just jumped on and went out. I showed a local his lap times from my stopwatch. “Near the track record!” he said.

When I told Donny, as he looked off at the nearby mountains, he said, “Lets leave right after my qualifying heat (which he won) and camp in the mountains.”

We did, right alongside a mountain stream.

Early Sunday morning, Donny and I walked the track for the first time. Later that day he utilized some new lines he saw to pulverize the competition. He won by half a lap. He advised me to stand by a large jump to get snapshots of him doing some styling.

We then loaded and left before the other races were over or the trophies handed out. Then it was Mountain Dew and Skittles all night on the way home, and back to work on Monday morning. I often wonder if those locals knew who that masked man was. The stranger who came, who saw, who conquered and later won the National 250 Title at Loretta Lynn’s.

The years passed and just a few weeks prior to his passing we raced our snowmobiles head to head, corner to corner. My Mod 600cc 120 H.P. against his 440cc 85 H.P., and now I know why he was and is "The Champ".

God Speed Donny and thanks for the memories.

Floyd Carlson
Father-in-law
July 2001

 

DONNY'S TRIBUTE
by Brian Fisher

I whispered to him, "Slower and quieter than you've ever done before."

He nodded, "Okay, I really want to do this."

I said, "This is the only chance you'll have on him."

We dropped him off by the side of the sparsely wooded hillside. The road was low and covered in shade to hide us. I gave him a smile and thumbs up with a good luck added in. “We can watch you from the next road through binoculars,” I said and we proceeded to drive off.

We had a tough Minnesota hunt the year before, and Colorado was proving to be just as challenging. But Donny was the most determined person I'd ever met. When he decided he was going to accomplish something, that's just the way it was going to be.

This memory is actually very hard to write about. Maybe I feel selfish and want to keep it all to myself. Maybe Donny would want it that way? Maybe I'm not sure if people want to know the personal side of him, or just want to know about the motocross champion side of him.

This story isn't about accomplishing something great while in front of thousands of cheering fans. It's about accomplishing something great in front of a couple of friends.

We had it all to ourselves with no one to spoil it for us. It was an awesome day. I could go on about how he was the two-time world champion in the 125 and 250 classes, or how he was the 4-Stroke World Champion on an underpowered ancient CCM. How he had gotten a road racing national number on a stock Honda. Or how he came out of retirement to finish 4th in a motocross national at Millville. If he wanted to, or had the time, he easily could have been top 10 in the world on a trials bike. These are just a few of the accomplishments in his life. I was fortunate to experience others with him.

Although the sport of bow hunting is not for everyone, it proved immensely challenging for the champ. Donny had come out of the woods very frustrated many times with me. I would just smile, slap him on the back and say, "We'll get one next time."

We had gone to Wisconsin the year before together and hunted some islands by boat on the Wolf River. It was a very exciting way to hunt. We would push deer to each other and hope for a shot. Bow hunting was relatively new to Donny and there was a time when I pushed several deer by him and he missed an easy shot on a doe. He was so mad at himself, and thought he let me down. He couldn't believe I just laughed about it. I think that's when he started to really enjoy it and the only pressure was the pressure he put on himself. I would say "That's bow hunting!"

Since we both were using re-curve bows (he built his own) and not fast compound archery equipment, it was very hard to be successful. That made him even more determined to shoot a deer. Fortunately, on that hunt I was able to take a 10-point buck. It was great. I think Donny was happier than I was and that made me feel good. On the long drive home he made sure he could see the horns on the buck the whole way. He positioned the deer so it stuck out of the side of the bed of the truck so it was in full view of his rear view mirror. He looked at it the whole way home.

Donny had at least four missed shots that year and almost wasn't going to go to Colorado with me. He thought he wasn't good enough yet. He was very frustrated with archery. I thought to myself, finally, I can do something better than him!

I could see the fine 10-point mule deer from our spot about a ¼ mile away. I said to my brother Dan, "I think he's just about where he needs to be."

Dan said, "Okay, I see Donny. He's just below the buck."

We couldn't believe he had stalked that far. The ground was so noisy from being so dry that year. Suddenly we saw the buck look up and dart away. We then looked at Donny. He looked very frustrated, and threw his arms up in the air like "Man, what the ____!!"

We hiked back to him and got his story. He said, "I did just what you told me, I went slower and more quiet than I've ever gone before. I was moving twigs from the path before each step I went so slowly. Suddenly there he was, 20 yards up the hill. I think he saw me the same time I saw him. I shot so fast I don't know if I hit him or not!"

We searched for a blood trail. You could see Donny was getting bummed out, he thought he'd missed another. He wanted this one so bad I think his will alone might have done it. Just then, my brother Dan yelled up from the valley below, "Hey don't you think somebody should come down here and tag this buck?"

I thought we were going to explode! We hugged each other, let out some long awaited yells and began running. I don't think I had ever seen Donny so happy in all my life. He was ecstatic. It was a great day for all of us. I've never been so proud of him. Donny proved once again that he was the champ.

Brian P. Fisher
July 2001

 

DONNY'S TRIBUTE
by Anna Fox

I met Donny Schmit and Carrie Carlson in 1989. He was about to begin the SX season that year and they stopped by to visit for a few days. I quickly learned that Donny and Carrie were one of the unique couple-teams in motocross. The other couple-team in motocross that I later learned reminded me of Carrie and Donny were Doug and Stacy Henry.

Carrie traveled everywhere with Donny, ate the same racer "diet" -- by diet I mean eating healthy foods and staying away from sugary high calorie fake food and alcohol. She ran with him and kept up with much of his exercise regimen and she attended races and practices like they were her own schedule.

This was well before MX racing had 18-wheelers. This was the time of vans, lawn furniture, camping out, etc. There are a few pros today that remember those early days and then there are those who will only remember those times as a part of their childhood and amateur career.

I remember Donny as very boy-next-door, but serious. A leader with his own vision, and strong-willed about what he wanted to do. When they visited in 1989 we celebrated Donny's birthday. He loved carrot cake. At that first SX race in Anaheim in '89 Donny was injured and his hopes that season were gone.

Thereafter Carrie and Donny lived quite contentedly racing over in Europe. I hadn't heard of any American racers before or since who transitioned to racing life in Europe as well as they did. Each Christmas, I got a picture holiday card from some place in Europe. It was mostly Italy. One card I remember well Carrie was sitting a-top Donny's shoulders, both giving the camera a thumb's up, big smiles, out in the green rolling Italian countryside.

I think I recall that they spent a full 5+ years racing over there before returning to the U.S. for good, getting married in St. Paul (their holiday card that year was of them cutting wedding cake at their reception), and settling down in their home state of Minnesota. Carrie got her teaching credential and they bought a house with property, with dreams of building a trophy room and a track.

My most prominent memory of Donny himself will be that he did whatever was necessary to race. He got local sponsorship, lived to train and ride, and worked his talent up to the national SX ranks, and then took his routine to Europe to keep racing. He was driven to race motocross.

Anna Fox
July 2001

 

DAZZLIN' DONNY
by Kip P. Trainor

Donny Schmit had a style that was powered by a determination and a will to win. As a fan and a friend, I saw a drive and love for the sport that made him the person he was outside winning two world championships.

I'll never forget Donny's first National race in 1987 on his home turf in Millville, Minnesota. As I saw Donny plummet down the big down hill it sent chills down my back and brought tears to my eyes. The crowd went wild, which sent an electrifying energy into the air. That day Donny went on to win the race and take the overall win. Donny seemed to some way always dazzle the crowd.

Donny Schmit carved his name on the first Terrafirma video and I was there to witness the ice being cut. That day Donny gave motocross a new flavor for wintertime fun! Donny also took it upon himself to pilot my van sideways around the ice in order to give me the "scenic tour" first hand! That was a great day and a day that I will always remember.

Donny Schmit was one of the most amazing and talented people that I have ever met. His excitement for life and his love to ride made him the special person that he was. I will always hold his memory close to my heart.

Donny Schmit - never forgotten.

Kip "Bugs" Trainor
July 2001

 

Fox Racing Remembers Donny Schmit
1967-1996

by Michael J. Miles

Sometimes there are people who want it more than anyone around them. They can’t be distracted from pursuing their goals and giving every ounce of their energy in an effort to obtain them. They’re absolutely convinced that to do it any other way would compromise their chances for success. These precious few, determined individuals also possess the key human quality to make this approach work… undeniable will power. Donny Schmit was one of these people.

And when people have the strength that makes them work that hard, they generate enough energy and momentum to pull other people into the vortex. The allure of being around someone who is so focused is very powerful, yet at times frustrating. Donny Schmit was lucky enough to have been blessed with a lot of wonderful family and friends that loved him so much... they were the perfect support system for his demanding approach. Throughout a career that young motocrossers can only dream of, Donny’s drive endeared him to those who knew him intimately and those who admired him simply because he showed the heart it took to become a champion.

When thinking of Donny you can’t help but wonder who deserves more praise; the person who has things come easy to them in terms of pure talent or the individual who has to scratch and scrape for every victory. When the hard worker earns a win there are always a few guys somewhere behind, to whom things came easy, but who simply didn’t train properly. Donny never wanted to be the guy that came up short, because he just didn’t work hard enough. He went to extreme measures to make sure that never happened.

Donny’s career and life were filled with numerous championships as well as personal triumphs. But this collection of memories is more than just a recitation of Donny’s race stories. It’s also a close look at what made Donny a special person. Often times you can get a truer picture of what people thought of someone after that person leaves us. What makes this tribute so special is the fact it’s been written almost entirely by some of the people that knew and loved him the most.

Donny’s relationship with Fox Racing went beyond sponsor and rider. Donny was close with the Fox family and so it’s with great pleasure and in loving memory that this tribute was put together for the Fox Racing website.

A vast majority of the credit for this project should go to those who contributed so many warm recollections: Carrie Schmit, Floyd Carlson, Brian Fisher, Anna Fox and Kip Trainor. Special thanks go to Carrie, who was highly instrumental throughout this project and also provided the photos. She is also an exceptional person and a major reason for Donny’s success. Thanks also to the folks at Fox Racing, including Sandy Syrett.

by Michael J. Miles

 

This collection and other gems were rescued from the old District 23 web site, shortly before the wrecking ball hit in the mid-2000s. They were housed at MX Bob web site for years, moving over to RockerHiker.com when MX Bob was retired, then moving to the new MXBob.com.