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MOTOCROSS : Huffman Has Them Fooled--Until the Racing Starts

May 15, 1993|PETE THOMAS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

You look at Damon Huffman and can't help but wonder if this is really the kid people say has the makings of a motocross champion.

He doesn't look the type. In fact, Huffman isn't the type. At 6 feet and about 135 pounds, he is not what anyone would call well built. He is baby-faced and his manner is subdued.

"Damon is 17, he looks like he's 12 and he's a very polite and shy young man," said Joe Colombero, sports promotion manager for Team Suzuki.

Added Guy Cooper, the team's veteran rider: "Damon, he's almost too quiet. You look at him and you go, 'This guy can't be a racer. He's way too quiet and he doesn't look like he's going to go out there and bang bars with other riders.' "

But Colombero and Cooper know otherwise. So does anyone else who has seen Huffman ride. On a bike he is aggressive, yet as smooth as many who have been on the motocross circuit for years.

Huffman, a senior at Saugus High, is among the favorites to win the 125cc race when the AMA Camel Supercross Series resumes tonight at 6:30 at the Rose Bowl.

Jeremy McGrath, a 21-year-old from Murietta, will be trying to wrap up the series championship in his first year in the 250cc class.

But Huffman, some say, is on a course similar to that taken by McGrath, who raced for three years in the 125cc class, finishing second before winning championships in 1991 and '92.

Huffman finished sixth in the 125cc Western Region Supercross series last year. He won his first Supercross last January at Anaheim and, with three races left, he has 72 points and is in third place behind teammate Phil Lawrence at 102, and Kawasaki's Jimmy Gaddis, at 109.

Huffman, who began riding when he was 5, said he is pleased with his success thus far.

"I'm going to stay with 125s for another two years, maybe win the championship next year and ride the following year with the No. 1 plate," he said.

Then, he said, he will graduate to the 250cc class.

Cooper, who won the 125cc outdoor national championship in 1990, said he sees no reason why Huffman won't eventually achieve his goal of becoming champion.

"But he still needs a lot of experience," Cooper said.

Meanwhile, Huffman has another graduation in mind.

"On June 23 I graduate from high school," he said.

No more long days of school, training, then home at dusk to do homework. No more explaining to teachers that he needs a few more days off for a race in another part of the country. No more explaining to fellow students how he did in that race when he returns to school.

"When I come back to school, they're always asking me about the race," he said. "It seems I tell the same story at least 10 times."

In his own quiet way, of course.

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