A New Star on the Horizon

The Nicky Hayden AMA Flat Track Horizon Award is, without question, the highest honor an amateur flat track racer can earn prior to graduating to the pro ranks.

Awarded annually by the American Motorcycle Association at the conclusion of the week-long Mission Foods AMA Flat Track Grand Championship, the Nicky Hayden AMA Flat Track Horizon Award “recognizes the amateur racer who’s demonstrated the skill, character and aptitude to make a significant impact at the professional level.”

The latest to earn this most coveted crowning achievement is Clarke Morian V, who was named the 2022 recipient following this year’s edition of the Grand Championship, which played out from July 7-13 at the Du Quoin State Fairgrounds in Du Quoin, Illinois.

And as such, Morian should automatically be considered one to watch should he leave the AMA’s jurisdiction and step up to the pro ranks of Progressive American Flat Track in the near future.

Just how “automatically?”

The award set the highest possible bar when it was first awarded in 1997, bestowed to the rider it is now named after, Nicky Hayden. As anyone reading this surely knows, the late Hayden went on to become a multi-time Mission SuperTwins presented by S&S Cycle race winner, AMA Superbike and Supersport Champion, and, ultimately, MotoGP World Champion.

Ever since, the award has been a stunningly accurate predictor of professional success. That’s in sharp contrast to many other high-profile amateur awards, such as the Heisman Trophy and John Wooden Award, which frequently serve to demonstrate the wide gulf that separates the collegiate and pro ranks in football and basketball, respectively.

Consider that the last ten Mission SuperTwins titles (2012-2021) in succession have all gone to prior award winners: Jared Mees, Briar Bauman, Bryan Smith, and Brad Baker. And that’s looking increasingly likely to become 11 in a row as the top three riders in this year’s championship fight – Mees, Bauman, and Dallas Daniels – are past award winners.

Additionally, a full 39% (11 of 28) of the riders to win the award have gone on to win at least one national championship at the pro level (most have come in Progressive AFT, while a handful have come in other nations and/or two-wheeled disciplines). That number seems destined to soon grow with 2020 recipient Kody Kopp currently dominating the Parts Unlimited AFT Singles presented by KICKER title fight.

67% (19 of 28) have won races at the national level, 10 of them (36%) in Mission SuperTwins. That first number, too, is set to grow with last year’s winner, Chase Saathoff, looking as likely as anyone to end Kopp’s current four-race win streak.

And an incredible 82% (23 of 28) have gone on to claim at least one professional podium.

Amateur-to-pro projections don’t come any clearer than that. 

So congratulations once again to Clarke Morian V. The entire sport is looking forward to what comes next.