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Hall of Fame motorcycle racer “Magoo” Chandler dead at 50

By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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Foresthill Divide motocross racer Danny “Magoo” Chandler, whose star shone brightest on the international stage in the 1980s until a crash left him a quadriplegic, died late Tuesday. He was 50. Longtime friend and fan Brett Freed confirmed Wednesday that Chandler died at his home in Colfax. Chandler, an American Motorcycle Hall of Famer, was known during his short racing career as a no-holds-barred competitor who would risk life and limb to best the competition. His aggressive riding techniques included flying over other racers on jumps instead of passing around them. Freed said Chandler knew his end was near and talked to him about his wishes in the last few months. “He didn’t want a funeral – he wanted a race in his name,” Freed said. News traveled fast within the tight-knit motorcycle community and Freed had already heard from an Arizona auto dealership owner who was willing to pay for whatever Chandler had wished in terms of funeral arrangements. Chandler had a magnetic personality burnished by his successes, daring and bad boy reputation, Freed said. One time, after a conflict with race officials, he finished a race backward on his bike, he said. “Danny said that bad publicity wasn’t always bad publicity,” Freed said. Chandler gained the nickname “Magoo” after the 1960s TV cartoon “Mr. Magoo” because of his propensity to crash into things and it stuck, with fans in the U.S. and Europe chanting his name at events. Chandler’s list of victories included the prestigious U.S. 500 cc Motorcross Grand Prix. In 1982, he won both races in the Motorcross des Nations and the Trophee des Nations. The European wins in both events were a first for a rider. Chandler’s career ended in late 1985 when he let go of his handlebars during a jump and landed off-balance during the Paris Supercross. Paralyzed, Chandler returned to Foresthill after earning millions on the motocross circuit and from endorsements. Over the final 20 years of his life, Chandler would lead a full life promoting races, safety and ways others with spinal chord injuries could get involved with motor sports. Fred Sumrall, co-owner of Foresthill Valero and a chaplain with the Cross Country Racing motorcycle group, said Wednesday that he saw Chandler struggle with his limitations. “Talk about a free spirit,” Sumrall said. “He just never could get over it. But he was an exceptional man. He loved motorcycling more than he loved life itself.”