Legendary Motorcycle Racer Gary Nixon Dies of Complications From Heart Surgery
Gary Nixon, motorcycling legend, passed on yesterday at the age of 70, and his passing marked the loss of a true giant in the world of motorcycle racing.
Over the course of a distinguished career on the tracks of the world, Nixon won the A.M.A. Grand National Championship in 1967 and 1968, and the Daytona 1967 . His partnership with tuner Erv Kanemoto led to victory at the 1973 U.S. National Road Racing Championship, and in 1976 a Formula 750 world championship which was never acknowledged due to political squabbles within the organization
Nixon was inducted into the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame in 1998 and the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America in 2003. The versatile rider competed in vintage motorcycle racing and testing motorcycles automotive review program MotorWeek.
Nixon suffered a heart attack on July 29 2011 and died on August 5, 2011. He died Friday at St. Joseph Medical Center in Baltimore, Maryland.
“Evidently, he underwent some sort of procedure this morning and went to the recovery room, but he never made it out of recovery,” said longtime friend Mike Sponseller.
Sponseller added that Nixon was admitted to the hospital July 29 complaining of difficulty breathing and chest pains and suffered the heart attack later that night. Doctors inserted two stents his arteries early on the morning of July 30 and were waiting for the racer’s blood pressure to rise enough for him to safely undergo bypass surgery.
Born on January 25, 1941, in Anadarko, Oklahoma, Gary Nixon came to prominence in the racing world as a teenager in the late 1950s. By age 15, Nixon was already a drag racing champion and took up motorcycle scrambles racing.
Nixon began racing professionally in 1958 and had already reached the AMA Grand National level a couple of years later in 1960. A steady performer as a rookie, he qualified for a few nationals and notched the occasional top-10 finish, but then came from nowhere to win his first AMA national on August 4, 1963, in Windber, Pennsylvania. Three weeks later, Nixon won a short-track national at Santa Fe Park in Hinsdale, Illinois and his reputation was cemented. He finished his third season as a pro ranked sixth in the Grand National Series and had convincingly taken his place among the top riders in the sport.
When road racing began to go out of favor in the late 1970′s, Nixon developed business interests which led him to quit his racing leathers in 1979.
During 22 years of pro racing, Nixon took 19 AMA National victories and raced in – and finished – more than 150 Grand National races. His career stretched across three decades and saw him compete as a factory rider for Triumph, Kawasaki, Suzuki and Yamaha.
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