PICKERINGTON, OH – October 4, 2023 – (Motor Sports NewsWire) – The American Motorcyclist Association offers its condolences to the family, friends and team of seven-time AMA Grand National Championship event winner and 1999 AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame Inductee Sammy Tanner, who passed away on Sept. 21.
Born May 23, 1939, in Houston, Tanner purchased his first motorcycle — a James Villiers — at 14 years old and fell in love with the sport right away. Shortly after purchasing his bike, Tanner started racing in local field meets throughout his home state of Texas, and soon after earned a support ride on a 500cc Triumph. Due to his 5-foot, 100-pound stature, Tanner was lovingly dubbed “The Flying Flea” by fans and fellow racers alike.
In 1958, Tanner made the leap to the professional ranks, finishing sixth in the AMA Grand National Championship during his rookie season and emerging as the top points earner in Half-Mile races, and duplicated that same feat in his sophomore campaign. In that same season, Tanner captured the first of his four AMA Grand National Championship wins at the legendary Ascot Half-Mile facility in Gardena, Calif.
After his first win at Ascot, Tanner ripped off three-straight victories at the famed Half-Mile track from 1964-66 while competing aboard both Triumphs and BSAs.
While Tanner’s dominance at Ascot is well-documented, his finest ride came at the 1964 Springfield Mile, in which he outlasted fellow AMA Motorcycle Hall of Famers Dick Mann and Ronnie Rall for the victory. His victory aboard the BSA broke a 10-year Harley-Davidson winning streak at the track.
In 1966, Tanner added Half-Mile victories in Elkhorn, Wis. and Heidelberg, Penn., and finished third in the Grand National Championship point standings behind fellow AMA Motorcycle Hall of Famers Bart Markel and Gary Nixon.
The Flying Flea retired in 1972, and operated an Arai helmet distributorship in Southern California following his racing career.
About the American Motorcyclist Association
Founded in 1924, the AMA is a not-for-profit member-based association whose mission is to promote the motorcycle lifestyle and protect the future of motorcycling. As the world’s largest motorcycling rights and event sanctioning organization, the AMA advocates for riders’ interests at all levels of government and sanctions thousands of competition and recreational events every year. Besides offering members money-saving discounts on products and services, the AMA also publishes American Motorcyclist, a recently revitalized and monthly full-color magazine (and digital version of same) that covers current events and motorcycle history with brilliant photography and compelling writing. American Motorcyclist is also North America’s largest-circulation magazine. Through the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame in Pickerington, Ohio, the AMA honors the heroes and heritage of motorcycling. For more information, visit americanmotorcyclist.com.
Not a member? Join the AMA today: americanmotorcyclist.com.
Source: American Motorcyclist Association