Marty Smith, the motocross legend, has died at the age of 63. Smith died on April 27 in a dune buggy accident alongside his wife, Nancy. Smith and his wife had been married since 1980. The couple had three children together, daughters Brooke and Jillyin and son Tyler.
Motocross journalist Brett Smith confirmed Smith’s death in a tweet on April 28 that read, “You’ll always be #1, Marty. Marty Smith and his wife, Nancy died in California yesterday after an accident in an off-road vehicle. Marty, a 3-time AMA Pro Motocross Champion, was 63.”
1. Smith Was Killed at the Glamis Dunes Close to the California-Arizona Border
Racer X Online reported that Smith was killed close to the California-Arizona border at the Glamis Dunes on the night of April 27. There a multiple photos on Smith’s Facebook page showing him with his family at the Glamis Dunes with dune buggies.
In May 2013, Racer X placed Smith at No. 16 on their list of the greatest motocrossers of all time. In that article, Smith was described as the “original superstar of American motocross.”
The piece described Smith, a native of San Diego, as being “a good-looking, polite and supremely-talented kid” who “looked more like a surfer than the old stereotype of a leather-jacked motorcycle rider.” Smith was a graduate of Pointe Loma Senior High School in San Diego. He began his professional career while still a senior at the school.
2. Smith Began Racing at the Age of 13 Under the Influence of His Father
Smith told Moto X Addicts in a December 2019 interview that he began racing on motorcycles at the age of 13 under the influence of his father. Smith’s father, Al, was a firefighter in San Diego. Smith said his father and his friends converted the bikes from street motorcycles to off-road motorcycles. Smith called his father and friends “real pioneers.”
During the same interview, Smith spoke about what it was like to race against “grown men” while still being a teenager. Smith said, “I mean they were all grown men, and all rode 125’s. I would line up on the gate against a guy with a big old beer belly and a big beard. It was intimidating, but I wouldn’t look at them and let them take me down that way. I was racing and I loved riding, having a blast.”
3. During His Career, Smith Suffered Multiple Injuries Including a Broken Pelvis
Smith retired from the sport at the age of 24 after he suffered numerous injuries including a broken pelvis and a separated shoulder. His last race was at Carlsbad in August 1981. Smith said in his interview with Moto X Addicts that the worst injury he received was when he dislocated his hip in 1975. Smith said, “I had never been hurt before riding, and a dislocated hip is probably one of the most painful injuries a rider can have.”
Smith was inducted into the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame in 2000. His profile on the hall of fame’s website details his many achievements during his short career. Smith won three national championships, the 1974 and ’75 AMA 125cc and 1977 AMA 500cc motocross championships. The profile called Smith “one of the most stylish riders in motocross history.” The profile also quoted Smith’s mechanic, Dave Arnold, as saying there were “no bad photos” of the legendary rider. In 1976, Smith earned a bronze medal at the Motocross World Championships.
4. Early in His Career, Smith Began Using His Money to Invest in Property in His Native San Diego
Smith’s popularity led to him being used in advertising with Honda in the 1970s. His exploits being the face of Honda were the subject of a feature in the January 1976 edition of American Motorcyclist. Smith was quoted in the article as saying of Honda, “They pay good.”
Smith won all of his national championships while racing for Honda. Smith told the magazine that he had already begun to invest his money in property in his home city of San Diego. The same magazine named Smith as “possibly America’s best motocrosser” in September 1976.
5. Despite the World Knowing Smith as ‘Marty,’ Nancy Said in 1976 That She Referred to Him as ‘Martin’
Prior to their marriage, Nancy Smith, then known as Nancy Sauer, was profiled by Motocross Action magazine in 1976. In the article, Nancy said that despite her then-boyfriend being known to the world as “Marty,” she said, “He’s just Martin to me.”
A section on Smith’s AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame profile details that in his early years as a motocross star, Smith was a “teen idol.” The profile said that Smith was harassed at hotels by women seeking autographs and hugs. The bio adds, “Eventually a tanned blonde named Nancy Sauer won his heart and the two were married in 1980.”
Smith told Moto X Addicts in 2019 that despite the attention he received from female fans, he wanted to focus on racing. Smith said, “It was a crazy life. I wasn’t used to it, and I was just racing because I loved it, but I was getting all this attention from magazines and fans at the races, and the girls, they used to call pit tootsies.”