Holding his left shoulder, Jeff Matiasevich lay in an emergency room bed at a Corona, CA hospital. The thoughts running through his head were not good. For months he had tried to forget how his shot at winning the 1990 AMA Supercross Championship imploded six months ago; now his chances of being competitive enough to win the 1991 title looked grim. Christmas was in a few days and new season started in three weeks. Then the man in the bed next to him died of a heart attack.
- March 17, 1990 – Las Vegas, NV
- 1988-89 125cc AMA Supercross West champion
- Two career AMA 125/250 Motocross wins
- 1995-1997 All-Japan Motocross Champion
“I remember sitting in the hospital wishing I was just [long pause] like, suicide would be the only answer to how, you know, I was so bummed,” Matiasevich said. “And then [hospital staff] brought in a guy and they started screaming. The guy had a heart attack right there in the bed next to me! I thought, ‘Well, I guess life isn’t that bad.’” Earlier that afternoon, Jeff “Chicken” Matiasevich was testing with Kawasaki when went over the bars in the whoops section. The torn muscles in his left shoulder blade caused his 1991 season to suffer.
It was a crushing blow. As a rookie, Matiasevich led the 1990 AMA Supercross Championship for 11 of the 18 rounds. At round seven in Las Vegas he took his only win of the season and, ultimately, his career. He dominated the race, leading 19 of the 20 laps. “The track was more technical and suited my style a little better,” he said. “You wake up on those days and everything seems real easy. From the first practice on I felt like I was just one step above everybody else. When I got in the lead, Jean-Michel Bayle was in second; I had about four seconds on him and I was marking him in every turn. That pace was like a walk in the park for me.”
With two hands in the air, ‘Chicken’ crossed the finish line and extended his series lead to 14 points over eventual champion, Jeff Stanton. Matiasevich was a consistent podium finisher until round 15 in Foxborough, MA where he struggled to a 9th place finish and allowed Stanton to close within one point of the championship lead. His season unraveled after that as Stanton won two of the last three. “I was pretty pissed off that I didn’t get that championship,” Matiasevich said. “In my whole racing career, the only thing I ever cared about was winning a 250cc supercross title. When I won the 125cc titles they didn’t really mean anything to me. I never had any doubts that I wasn’t going to get the [250cc] championship.”
In 1995, Matiasevich received an offer from Kawasaki of Japan to compete in the All-Japan Motocross Championship. For Kawasaki, appointing American riders helped them with production model development while raising the level of competition on their national motocross series. Matiasevich swept the series for three seasons before retiring from the sport.
Today he works on the sales team of Veg-Land, a Fullerton, CA based company founded by his father that specializes in produce consolidation, storage and transportation.
He still rides Kawaskis.
Found this article via Silodrome. All the names are coming back to me…Bayle, Stanton, Ward, Emig, Bradshaw, Junkyard Dog, TUF Racing. God I feel old. Thanks for the trip, though. :)
Denise! Thank you for visiting. Glad you found me. Get yourself signed up for the newsletter (I’m very infrequent, I promise). I have some more trips down memory lane coming this summer.
Saw a video recently with Matiasevich in it, he looks like Kieth Richards now.
oh, man! I remember my dad taking me to see the Rolling Stones in 1997. He was certain it was the last ever tour. We were all way, way off.
I’ve known Jeff since 1983. I used to wrench for him on his practice bikes before he got a factory ride. I also went to Japan and France as his mechanic for those supercross races (1993) I still see him all the time, and he hasn’t changed much other then his age. He is still a wild type of guy but also a true good guy. I know the whole Matiasevich family and they are a class act! I could tell you guys some pretty wild stories about times i spent with him and his family….but i won’t. lol He just bought a new Porsche and took me for a crazy fast ride. 0 to 60 in 2.4 seconds.
Hi, Johnny! Thanks so much for visiting We Went Fast. Jeff is a rad guy and I still remember that interview with him well (even though I did it 10 years ago). Crazy to think that win in Vegas was 30 years ago, right?!