JEFF EMIGKansas City, Kansas
Jeff Emig was one of the top AMA Motocross and Supercross riders of the 1990s. In all, Emig won four AMA national championships, an FIM World Supercross title and was a six-time member of the U.S. Motocross des Nations team. Emig helped mold the MX lifestyle that came to prominence in the 1990s and was characterized by a style of dress, music and a love for the sport of motocross. He earned a fanatical following of fans who wore giant fake afros in honor of Emig’s popular nickname “Fro.”
During his 11-year professional career, Emig earned 37 AMA national wins. When he retired, he was fourth on the all-time AMA 250 National Motocross wins list, sixth on the all-time AMA 125 motocross list and tied for seventh on the combined AMA Motocross/Supercross wins list.
Cam Jeffrey Emig was born in Kansas City, Kansas, on December 1, 1970. When Emig was a boy, his father and friends began trail riding motorcycles and the family would take trips to the hills of southern Missouri to ride. Emig’s older brother, Brian, was the first to take up the family hobby and young Jeff quickly followed in his footsteps. Again, it was Brian who started racing first and Jeff who followed him into the sport at the age of 7. It didn’t take long for Jeff to start winning, and racing rapidly became a focal point for the Emig family.
Jeff began making a name for himself in the amateur ranks in the early 1980s, winning many of the big amateur races of the day such as Ponca City and four titles at the AMA Amateur Motocross Nationals at the Loretta Lynn Ranch in Tennessee. Emig’s dad moved from his race car building business to running a motorcycle shop. He proved to be an excellent motorcycle builder as well and worked on all of Jeff’s bikes. As a result, Jeff always had some of the best equipment at the races.
From his earliest amateur days, Emig had sponsorship for his racing program. In the mid-1980s, he signed as part of Kawasaki’s well-regarded Team Green amateur racing program. At the end of 1988, Emig had the urge get his feet wet on the professional circuit and entered the final AMA Motocross National of the season in Washougal, Washington. In his very first pro race, Emig’s raw potential was there for all to see. He got the holeshot in the first moto and led the early laps of the race. He faded towards the end of the race and was so exhausted that he told his dad he didn’t even want to line-up for the second moto. He crashed in the second moto, but as a result of his surprising debut, motocross fans now knew about the young Jeff Emig.
In 1989, Emig continued his transition into the pro ranks and, like he had in his first outdoor national, Emig lead the early laps in his first AMA 125 West Supercross race at Anaheim in 1989. A week later, he broke his elbow and worked through the injury the rest of the season.
In 1990, Emig became a factory Kawasaki rider alongside some of the biggest stars in the sport: Jeff Ward, Johnny O’Mara and Jeff Matiasevich. Emig won two AMA West Region 125 Supercross races that year and finished fourth in that series. Emig also finished fifth in the AMA 125 Motocross Championship.
Yamaha pursued Emig and he switched to that team in 1991, saying he felt the team would be able to give him more attention than he had at the stacked Kawasaki squad. For the first time, Emig was assigned a factory mechanic. That year, he and Jeremy McGrath began their career-long rivalry in the AMA 125 West Supercross Series. Emig won four 125 Supercrosses that season and was just beaten out by a scant three points for the title by McGrath. In addition, Emig rode some main AMA Supercross races and scored three top-10 finishes. He continued to climb the ladder in the nationals finishing third in the final 1991 AMA 125 Motocross National Championship.
The 1992 season was a breakthrough year for Emig. That year, he earned his first AMA national win in the 125 class at Red Bud Track ‘n Trail in Buchanan, Michigan. Emig remembers his first big win vividly.
“I won the first moto,” Emig recalls. “In the second moto, I had a problem with my rear brake but I still finished second and was able to take the overall win. It was like the floodgates opened after that. I had the taste of winning and I just kept it going.”
Emig was well behind Mike LaRocco in the championship points, but after his Red Bud victory Emig was nearly unstoppable. He closed out the second half of the season winning six of the seven nationals, chasing down LaRocco in the points and earning his first AMA National Championship.