Top moment of 2012 for two-time World Speedway Champion Greg Hancock must have been nearly winning his third world title, right? Or placing second this past December to multi-time national champion Billy Janniro in an all-American main event at the inaugural Monster Energy Speedway Invitational?
Not a chance.
Actually, heading Hancock’s Best of 2012 list was watching his oldest son, Wilbur, finish third in his
international debut on that same eighth-mile oval—before a sellout crowd, no less—at the Industry Hills
Expo Center in Industry, California.
“It was awesome,” said Hancock. “I have to be honest, though: He jumped in there with a bunch of kids who are a little older and a lot more experienced than he is. But in that particular race, a couple of kids wiped out, so he ended up on the podium.” (Courtney Crone, 11, took victory in the Mini 150cc class. Max Ruml, 15, dominated Junior 250cc, winning his heat races and the main event.)
Wilbur, 7, made his two-wheel start on a Yamaha PW50. “I got him riding around in a big field, on a little
motocross track near our house and then on speedway tracks going around in circles,” said Hancock. “This
past year, he started riding a Kawasaki KLX110 and a Yamaha TT-R50, so he’s got the feel for two wheels,
brakes, coordination.” Then, another American world champion, Billy Hamill, loaned Wilbur a junior speedway bike. “That was it,” said Hancock. “He was hooked.”
Soon, dad was building son a bike: a British JHR chassis powered by a 125 Jialing—an air-cooled, sohc, four-stroke Single made in China. “We chose the colors we wanted,” said Hancock, “and I tried to make everything small; he’s just big enough to touch the ground. This thing was really cheap—around three grand. I don’t know how long it’s going to last, but I’m hoping both my boys get to use it.”
Like many kids his age, Wilbur just wants to win a trophy. “I’m trying to get him to understand that you
lose a lot, too. Never give up. Take the bad with the good. A good winner is also a good loser.”
Hancock’s younger son, Bill, who is 5, likes bikes, too. “They want to ride all the time—both of them. The
oldest one is the thinker; the younger one just wants to turn the throttle. I’m trying to hold the younger one back as long as I can. Now that they’re back in school, it’s just eating them up. When I load up my bike to go riding, I have to make up every excuse in the world to avoid telling them the truth.”
If Hancock’s boys pursue speedway, they could find themselves in Hamill’s hands. Speedway is making a
comeback in the U.S., says Hancock. “It’s huge, and it’s getting bigger and bigger. Billy has been behind a lot of it, trying to get a program started to bring the kids up. We had a really good program when we were kids. Not long after we moved to Europe, it started to die out. But it’s coming back now. It’s so great to see it.”
Hancock, 42, isn’t ready to hang up his helmet. “I feel good,” he said. “I have a good chance to run hard for another couple of years. As long as my body doesn’t shut down, my head’s going strong.”
That’s good, because with his wife, Jennie, pregnant with their third child, Hancock will soon have another mouth to feed. And maybe another bike to build.