Nearly a year after Vicki Golden, 22, became the first woman to complete Ricky Carmichael's Road to Supercross, which earned her an endorsement to compete in the 250 class in Monster Energy Supercross, the four-time X Games medalist has announced that she will make her supercross debut and race against men in the 250SX East Region next month.
Golden, with three X Games gold medals in Women's Moto X Racing and a bronze in Moto X Best Whip, will ride for the Mississippi-based Hanson Racing Team (HRT) aboard a Suzuki. Golden's first event will be Feb. 14 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
"I'm out there and I'm trying to race just like every single person on the track is -- because they believe they can do it," Golden said. "I believe I can go out there and make a night show. And that's why I'm going to do it."
Golden completed the Road to Supercross in March, which requires any rider wishing to race supercross to qualify within the top 30 of the premier Arenacross class at three separate events within the same competition season. The Road to Supercross program began in 2013 and allows any rider, male or female, the chance to qualify. Golden still spent four seasons on the circuit with one goal: earn her license to race supercross.
Although Golden was eligible to finish out the remainder of the 2014 supercross season and use her momentum to achieve her next goal, she decided to wait and put a full program together for 2015 and race a complete season.
"If I were to go and do the last two rounds (last) year, and I did poorly, it's not looked at as a learning experience, it's looked at as if I failed already," Golden said. "Because if I do one bad [race] in a one-event deal and there's no more to try and get redemption, then all my sponsors and everyone in this industry looks at it as a failure. It's definitely important for my situation to have the most chances as possible."
Even though HRT is KTM-supported, Todd Hanson, the team owner, will allow Golden to compete with her personal sponsors, which include Suzuki and One Industries. That freedom was important to Golden because the racing season for her only lasts from mid-February to late April and she will need her personal sponsors for the rest of the year for events like X Games and jump shows.
HRT is not paying Golden a salary, but the team is taking care of all expenses including bike transport, mechanic, travel, lodging and entry fees. Hanson said those costs alone are between $50,000 and $60,000 per rider. Hanson has been a silent benefactor to Golden's career since he met her at a Women's Motocross Championship race four years ago, and he's happy to finally be able to include her on his team.
"[Supercross] needs a shot in the arm," Hanson said. "They need to get excited about something. Vicki has proven that she can ride. She doesn't have a failure type attitude and just like Danica Patrick in NASCAR, Vicki can offer that balance, too. She has an excellent following and fan base and people will be able to see her professionalism when she debuts. She fits the profile. She's going to impress."
Golden doesn't see herself as a pioneer or an activist on behalf of women competing in male-dominated sports. And she's actually happy that she isn't the first female to compete in supercross. That honor goes to Dorene Payne who attempted to qualify for the 1983 San Diego Supercross at Jack Murphy Stadium. In 2000, Italian Stefy Bau attempted four events in what was then called the 125 class (now 250SX).
"Yes, she doesn't want the limelight," Hanson said. "She may not realize it but she's already a role model."
Golden's first objective is to qualify for what is called the "night show," and she would be the first female to do so. At each round of supercross, only 44 spots are available for the racing that spectators see and which appears on television. To earn one of those gate positions, a rider must record a lap time during the practice sessions within the top 44 times. During the night show, the 44 qualified riders then compete to get into the championship-points paying main event, where 22 positions are available.
Lining up for a main event is the ultimate goal for Golden but she's hesitant to look too far ahead because she said setting a fast lap has been a big hurdle. She's not nervous yet about her first race in Texas but said she eventually "probably will be".
In late August, Golden broke her left thumb at a motocross race in Washougal, Washington and spent two months off the bike. She started training at a supercross track in late October. Golden, who lives in Lake Elsinore, California, said the injury was a major contributing factor to racing 250SX East instead of 250SX West.
"Right now it's just more just getting in the track time," she said. "I have enough in to know there's a lot of work to be done. I just need to get my confidence back up on the track."