During his nine-year career as a pro motocross racer, Mike Kiedrowski won championships as easily as he did fans. Between 1988 and 1997, he was a four-time AMA National Motocross Champion. In addition to his titles, Kiedrowski’s career included nine top-five season finishes in motocross and six top-five season finishes in AMA Supercross. He was one of only two riders in AMA Motocross history to win the "hat trick" of 125cc, 250cc and 500cc AMA Motocross National Championships. Kiedrowski was also a member of four U.S. Motocross des Nations teams. Three of those were victorious. After motocross, Kiedrowski moved to racing off-road events for Suzuki. He was a member of the 2003 U.S. ISDE team that went to Brazil, where he earned a Gold Medal.
Kiedrowski was born on January 13, 1969, and was raised in Canyon Country, California. His father was a desert racer and a young Mike grew up riding off road at an early age. He first entered motocross races when he was just 7 years old and became a member of Kawasaki’s amateur racing program called Team Green. The dedication of Kiedrowski’s parents, Dan and Jean Kiedrowski, paid off and Mike was ready to launch his pro career. In 1987 and ’88, Kiedrowski raced a few AMA Motocross Nationals and AMA 125cc Supercross races with Team Green and showed great promise. In AMA 125 West Supercross, he even managed to score podium results in 1988 and finished the year ranked runner-up in that regional championship, making Kiedrowski one of the top prospects in the country.
Kiedrowski’s mechanic, Shane Nalley, came up with the "MX Kied" nickname that would stick with Mike for the rest of his career.
Honda hired Kiedrowski in 1989 and the combination was an immediate success. He won three 125cc nationals en route to earning the AMA 125 Motocross Championship in his first full season in the series. Interestingly, his bike wore the distinctly amateur-looking number of 762 in 1989. He would wear the No. 1 the following season. Also in 1989 he finished a close second in the AMA 125 East Supercross Series, just a single point behind rival Damon Bradshaw.
Kiedrowski explained his rapid rise from up-and-comer to national champion in a single season. "I think riding with Honda and training with teammates like Rick Johnson and Jeff Stanton helped my speed and endurance," Kiedrowski said.
His first national victory came at the Gatorback National in Gainesville, Florida, in March of 1989.
"It was a great feeling to win my first national," Kiedrowski remembers. "I couldn’t believe I’d done it. Mitch Payton and Bones [Jim Bacon] from Pro Circuit were there celebrating and were really excited for me. I’ll never forget it."
Kiedrowski and Bradshaw had an epic battle for the 125cc title in ‘89 and Kiedrowski came out on top by three points over his Yamaha rival to earn his first national title.
In 1990, Kiedrowski had an equally exciting championship battle in the 125s against Suzuki’s Guy Cooper. This time it was Kiedrowski who came up just one point short of defending his title, despite making a dramatic late-season charge, winning three of the last four races. In the 1990 AMA Supercross Series, Kiedrowski made the move to the premier 250 class and finished the season ranked fourth.
Kiedrowski moved back to Kawasaki in 1991. There, he got revenge on Cooper by beating him for the 1991 AMA 125 Motocross Championship. It marked Kiedrowski’s second title in the class and brought the championship back to Kawasaki for the first time in seven years.
In 1992, the "MX Kied" moved up to the 500cc Motocross class and won that title, in another close contest, by three points over Jeff Stanton. In the 250 class he finished runner-up to Stanton.
The 1993 season proved to be an historic one for Kiedrowski. He won six of the eight 250cc nationals that year on his way to earning his fourth AMA national title. That gave Kiedrowski a rare feat – a championship in each of the major motocross categories of the day: 125, 250, and 500cc. He became only the second rider in AMA racing history to accomplish that. Jeff Ward was the other.
"The year before I’d won some 250 nationals so I knew I was capable of winning that championship," Kiedrowski said. "In 1993, Kawasaki had a great motorcycle and Mike LaRocco and I were sort of checking out at every national. I wrapped up the championship with one race to go. It was a big thing to win all three championships. Back in the day Jeff Ward had been such a dominant rider and to come along be the only other rider to match his record was pretty cool."
Kiedrowski also had his most successful Supercross season in 1993, by finishing runner-up in the championship to Jeremy McGrath. While Kiedrowski never won an AMA Supercross title, he was always a contender and scored five Supercross victories. His biggest claim to fame in Supercross was winning the Daytona Supercross three years in a row – 1993, 1994 and 1995.
Kiedrowski most vividly remembers his first win in the prestigious race.
"Jeff Stanton had won four in a row and we came to the line in 1993 and something was wrong with his bike’s rear suspension linkage," Kiedrowski recalls. "As his team was trying to repair his bike Jeff came over to me and said 'If I don’t start this race you’d better win.' It just put chills down my back. I went around the second turn and all of a sudden Jeff came around and passed me. A lap later he pulled off with the suspension problems and I went on to win Daytona for the first time. I came back and was able to win it two more times. It was great to win there."
Daytona International Speedway later installed Kiedrowski in its Legends of Daytona Walk of Fame.
Kiedrowski credits his long-time mechanic Shane Nalley for consistently giving him a strong and reliable motorcycle that held up year after year at the grueling Daytona event and beyond.
In 1994, Kiedrowski was battling LaRocco atop the 250 Motocross standings when during practice at Unadilla a rock flew up and broke Kiedrowski’s hand. It ended his hopes of defending his title.
In 1995, Kiedrowski continued to be very competitive, winning 250 nationals at Hangtown and Millville, but he called that season one of his worst. "My results looked decent on paper," he said, "but after all the great years I had, finishing third in the championship was disappointing."
So let down was Kiedrowski that he went into temporary retirement from racing. In 1996, he was a consultant for Kawasaki’s racing team. In 1997, he decided to make another go of racing and returned with Honda of Troy. A series of hard-luck injuries kept Kiedrowski off the track more often than not. He retired from professional motocross for good after the ’97 season.
He was out of racing for a few years before Suzuki asked him to return to its off-road racing squad in 2000. Kiedrowski raced for Team Suzuki in AMA Grand National Cross Country (GNCC) and was a consistent top finisher for the next few seasons, earning a career-best ranking of third in that series. In 2001, Kiedrowski moved to the West Coast WORCS off-road series and twice won that title.
Internationally, Kiedrowski earned fame for being a part of Team USA four times in the Motocross des Nations. He was named to the team in 1989, his first full season as a pro, and he was the top scoring 125cc rider in the international competition. Kiedrowski, along with Jeff Ward and Jeff Stanton, won the des Nations that year. Kiedrowski went on to be part of winning Motocross des Nations teams in 1991 and 1993. The ’93 competition was especially memorable, since Kiedrowski said late in the race he was given the signal that he had to pass two more riders for the U.S. team to win. He pulled out the stops and gave the team the points it needed to earn a record 13th consecutive victory – a record that will likely never be broken.
In 2003, Kiedrowski was named to represent the United States in the International Six Day Enduro in Brazil, where he earned a Gold Medal. Few riders have represented the United States in both the Motocross des Nations and ISDE.
In all Kiedrowski won a total of 30 combined AMA Motocross and Supercross nationals, ranking him in the top 10 on the all-time combined wins list when he retired.
When inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2007, Kiedrowski continued racing off-road events on the West Coast and was raising a family with his wife, Kim. He will always be remembered as one of the great riders in American motocross and his friendly personality made Kiedrowski one of the favorites of the fans and his fellow riders.