The superstitious fear of the number 13 has a long history in many countries and cultures, usually rooted in myth. Though the fear of the number is ancient, it is bunk. Still, intelligent people continue to avoid the number 13. Highly educated architects omit the 13th floor, skipping from 12 to 14. Of course, there really is a 13th floor—isn’t there? If you are superstitious, you need to watch out in 2013, because there are two Friday the 13ths (September and December).
The AMA has never forced a rider to take National #13. In the past, when AMA National numbers actually referred to where you finished the year before, if a rider had qualms about 13, the AMA let him bounce to 14, pushing everyone behind him up a number. With today’s relatively meaningless assigned AMA numbers, however, the ominous number 13 is available to any rider with enough career points to claim it. Most won’t.
In the 37 years that the AMA has handed out the National #13, only nine riders have ever accepted it—Bruce Baron, Gaylon Mosier, Rick Johnson, Phil Lawrence, Brian Swink, Mike Craig, Sebastien Tortelli, Heath Voss and Blake Wharton.
THE FEW, THE BRAVE & THE NUMERICALLY CHALLENGED
The MXA wrecking crew decided to step back in time and look at the riders who went against superstition and opted to run National #13.
Bruce Baron: Here is one for the record books. Bruce’s earned AMA points would have scored him a very high two-digit National number. Since the rider who earned the #13 plate decided not to run the #13 plate, Bruce asked the AMA if he could! Today, Bruce’s whereabouts are unknown. That is Mickey Kessler(65) next to Bruce.
Gaylon Mosier: “Gassin’ Gaylon” laughed in the face of danger and wore the #13 on his Maico with pride. The number worked for him, as he earned himself a Team Kawasaki ride for the next season. Gaylon was killed several years later in a traffic accident.
Phil Lawrence: “Factory Phil” jumped from National #42 to #13 in 1995. He was proud of his accomplishment and wasn’t interested in the #14 plate. Did bad luck strike? Nope. Phil earned National #12 for 1996.
Brian Swink: The “Swinkster” took #13 in 1997 (based on his 1996 results). Since the Swinkster had done all of his winning over a 16-month period, from January 11, 1991 to April 12, 1992, his poor results in 1997 weren’t related to his choice of numbers.
Rick Johnson: His wrist was smashed in 1989 when Danny Storbeck jumped on top of him, but that was the year before Rick wore the #13 plate. He came back from the injury, wore the #13, won the first AMA 250 National of 1990, and then called it quits.
Mike Craig: He was riding for Honda of Troy when he earned and opted to run National #13 after the 1997 season. Mike crashed hard at the 1998 Budds Creek National and broke his leg. Mike never blamed the number. He blamed the kicker bump he hit.
Blake Wharton: In a move that few AMA riders are willing to take, Blake Wharton elected to run #13 for the 2013 season. Should he change his mind sometime during the season, the AMA will allow him to choose another number.
Sebastien Tortelli: The #13 didn’t do Tortelli in. Supercross did. The guy was accident-prone from the time he moved to America. Sebastien missed all of the 2003 season and most of 2004. It would have happened no matter what number he had on his bike, but Tortelli gave in to myth and changed from #13 to #103.
Heath Voss: The 2004 World Supercross Champion got a factory Yamaha ride in 2006 and took the #13 with him (Voss was teamed with Chad Reed at Yamaha). As for the number 13, Voss said, “I took it because everyone was scared of it. Superstitious people said, ‘You can’t do that.’ A lot of good things have happened for me on the 13th. I bought my ranch in Texas on July 13th. I started racing when I was 13. I don’t think there’s anything about the number 13 that is out to get me.”