No racer has been more successful changing disciplines than Jeff Ward.
Ward, a 44-year-old Newport Beach resident, was a supercross champion long before the sport's most famous name, Jeremy McGrath, won his first race. He quit in his prime to begin open-wheel racing and soon began a string of top-five finishes at the Indianapolis 500.
Ward accepted a late offer to drive in the Indy 500 in May, but his passion the last two years has returned to two-wheel racing. In November, he won the American Motocross Assn. supermoto championship, the eighth AMA title of his career and first since 1990.
Thanks to ESPN, which added supermoto as an X Games event last year, Ward is back on stage, the oldest competitor at the games. He'll be on the 20-man starting line Sunday at the Home Depot Center, when the X Games unfolds its latest version of supermoto.
The 45-lap race that combines dirt track and road racing is twice as long as a year ago, and riders must complete a mandatory pit stop on the fifth lap. Ward said he believes the changes, which include course redesigns, are good for spectators but will add an element for the racing teams, which normally don't pit during a race.
Ward isn't concerned, however.
The race doesn't count toward the AMA standings and isn't as time-consuming and hair-raising as the Indy 500.
"The X Games are a little more laid-back for me," he said. "I'm more comfortable racing a motorcycle and feel like I have a little more control over the outcome."
Ward said that the Indy 500 probably was his last open-wheel race. He started a management company that works with young racers and their sponsors, and two of his four kids are also burgeoning motocross racers. And then there's his two-wheel racing career, which appears far from over.
"I still feel competitive when I finish," he said.