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A warrior on wheels

Once a fearless motorcross rider, Danny Chandler is now a tireless advocate for safety in the sport
By: Todd Mordhorst, Journal Sports Editor
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Danny “Magoo” Chandler’s story is inspirational and cautionary at the same time. In the early 1980s, the Auburn resident was one of the top motocross riders in the country and a legend for his bold moves on the track and uncanny ability to go airborne on a motorcycle. “I was one of the guys that wanted to out-jump everybody,” Chandler said. “They had contests at the races with prizes for guys that could jump the furthest on the straightaways. I don’t think I ever lost one of those.” These days Chandler is still involved in motocross. From his wheelchair, he tries to spread his message to young riders about wearing proper safety equipment and promoting the sport in a positive way. Chandler had just signed a contract with Kawasaki and was enjoying international stardom when, in December of 1985, he crashed after crossing the finish line in a heat race at the Paris Supercross. Chandler flipped over his motorcycle and landed on his head. He was paralyzed from the waist down and his brilliant racing career was over. Brad Lackey was Chandler’s hero in his riding days. Lackey was the first American to win the 500cc World Motocross Championship in 1982. “Brad was my idol, the one I wanted to live up to,” Chandler said. “When he went to Europe, I wanted to go to Europe. I used to scrape his boots after his races when I was a kid.” Lackey is still close with Chandler and he’s helped organize a campaign to raise funds for a new van for Chandler so that he can continue to travel and share his story with young riders. Last September, Lackey produced a short YouTube video with highlights from Chandler’s career. There is an online auction this week for a painting featuring Chandler by Bay Area artist Kelly Telfer. The original painting features a portrait of Chandler alongside a scene of him soaring over a jump in 1975 when he was just beginning to make noise around Northern California with his fearless style of riding. Lackey points to Chandler as one of the pioneers of modern day freestyle riding. Growing up in Foresthill, Chandler was riding by age 4, racing by 9 and making money as a pro by 16. He won national titles on 125cc, 250 and 500 bikes and won all four motos at the renowned Motocross de Nations, where he rode on the three-man team representing the United States. “He’s the only man to ever do that,” Lackey said. “He went over there and he beat everybody in ’82.” Chandler is truly grateful for Lackey’s continuing support along with the motocross community, which has already raised nearly $40,000 in donations. “He’s been a tremendous help,” Chandler said of Lackey. “He’s taken it upon himself to make sure I’m OK.” For more information or to donate to Chandler’s cause, visit www.bradlackey.com or www.dannymagoo.com.