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The iron man Height: 5' 11" Weight: 189 lbs. Birth date: Feb. 12, 1971 Birthplace: Michigan City, Ind. Residence: South Bend, Ind. Turned pro: 1987

For local rider Mike LaRocco, getting dirty is just a way of life They make it look so easy. Or so it seems. Welcome to 125cc and 250cc Stadium Motorcycle Racing. For the uninitiated to the sport of supercross, it’s a volatile mixture of speed, talent, luck, skill, adrenaline-pumping jumps, spine-cracking landings, and in the end, a victor who overcomes all those elements. With this kind of action, it’s easy to see why the supercross series is taking off in popularity in the United States. The track is

the RCA Dome for a night of unforgettable racing on the indoor custom-built dirt track filled with plenty of rough terrain. The top supercross riders in the world will be in town for the event: David Vuillemin, Chad Reed, James “Bubba” Stewart are just a few of the riders battling hills, valleys and each other for the checkered flag. In a sport where your body is covered with dirt and a bone-jarring injury is one dirt hill away, one rider has the moxie to stay

For the uninitiated to the sport of supercross, it’s a volatile mixture of speed, talent, luck, skill, adrenalinepumping jumps and spine-cracking landings. close up and there’s no bad seat in the house. It’s also a sport that welcomes families — this Saturday’s race features a Family Section that’s alcohol-free. THQ World Supercross GP is a 17-round global series produced and promoted by Clear Channel Entertainment and Dorna Off Road S.L. Riders must compete in the international rounds to be eligible to win the world championship. In 2003-2004, the 17-event THQ World Supercross GP includes two international events in Seville, Spain and Arnhem, Holland, and 15 of the 16 THQ AMA Supercross Series events are conducted in major cities throughout the United States. A THQ AMA Supercross Series rider will be crowned as the national champion for the events conducted in the United States only. This Saturday night, that series comes to

airborne. A Michigan City kid and South Bend resident, Mike “The Rock” LaRocco is wellknown to fans of the sport as the “Iron Man,” not only due to his three decades of racing professionally, but he’s also sustained many injuries while racing that would have ended a lesser man’s career. LaRocco’s past experiences at the RCA Dome have included a few podium finishes, and he hopes to take the checkered flag this year. “I’ve raced at all of the Indianapolis races except last year when I was hurt,” LaRocco said. LaRocco’s strategy for the upcoming race is to get a good start and be fast early — something he admits is tough to do. “I end up having the speed at some point in the race. I’ve been recently ironing out By Joe Soria Custom Publications

those starts in those first couple of laps … which is the difference between where I am at now and winning,” he said. At a recent race in Daytona, LaRocco fell at the beginning of the race but was able to recover and even scored a third-place podium finish, the sixth time he’s accomplished that feat this season. For those who have never attended a supercross race, the experience of being a spectator is more in your face than most other kinds of racing. “It’s a pretty intense sport. In a stadium you can see everything going on … right there on the floor. We’re jumping 30 feet up in the air and 70 feet across; it’s pretty exciting to watch that kind of racing. It’s pretty cool for most people,” LaRocco said. LaRocco is still having a great time riding competitively, despite his recent injuries. He attributes his 16-year career in the sport to his love of racing. At 33, LaRocco is at a point in his career where most riders have already retired or have been forced to hang it up due to the bone-breaking nature of the sport. Recently, LaRocco completed a recordbreaking 200th race and doesn’t seem to be anywhere close to stopping. “I’m just not ready to retire at this point. I still like doing it. I’m still learning and accepting the challenge,” LaRocco said. For this Hoosier native, the only things stopping him from racing is a gnarly hill of dirt, a flat tire or the checkered flag. ✵

Year-end rankings: 2003: 14th (SX), 5th (250MX) 2002: 11th (SX), 6th (250MX) 2001: 3rd (SX) 2000: 3rd (SX), 5th (250MX) 1999: 3rd (SX), 3rd (250MX) 1998: 5th (SX), 3rd (250MX) 1997: 6th (SX), 5th (250MX) 1996: 6th (SX), 3rd (250MX) 1995: 6th (SX), 7th (250MX) 1994: 2nd (SX), 1st (250MX) 1993: 12th (SX), 1st (500MX), 2nd (250MX) 1992: 6th (SX), 2nd (125MX) 1991: 9th (SX), 5th (250MX), 12th (125MX) 1990: 7th (SX), 3rd (250MX), 8th (125MX) 1989: 14th (SX), 2nd (WSX), 5th (125MX) 1988: 3rd (ESX), 7th (125MX) Personal: Known as one of pro racing’s most fit riders. Hobbies include jet skiing, radio-controlled cars and computers. Racing heroes: Marty Smith and Bob Hannah. Father raced motorcycles. Avid radio listener. Enjoys health foods, pasta and Granny Smith apples.

Credits Leigh Hedger Custom Publications Editor (317) 444-7038 Beth Winchell Custom Publications Graphics Supervisor (317) 444-7283 Joe Soria Custom Publications Senior Graphic Designer Dave Wilson Custom Publications Development and Advertising (317) 444-7232 This publication is a product of Custom Publications, a division of the Advertising Department of The Indianapolis Star.


Interview with Mike LaRacco for SuperCross publication.