Mike Kidd was saddled with the title "Mr. Hard Luck" for much of his career. A series of machine failures, crashes and the resulting injuries plagued Kidd for many of his 12 racing seasons in the AMA Grand National Series. Kidd finally escaped the "Hard Luck" moniker in 1981 when he came through to win the AMA Grand National Championship.
The 1981 season was one of the most exciting in Grand National history. The championship battle came down to the final race at the famous Ascot half-mile dirt oval in Gardena, California. After 25 events, Kidd and Gary Scott were tied coming into the final race. The defending champ, Randy Goss, also had an outside chance to win the title if Kidd and Scott ran into bad luck. Goss won the race, but Kidd took a solid second-place finish to win the title by a mere five points over Scott, who finished fourth in the season finale.
Kidd was born in Ft. Worth, Texas, on July 20, 1953. As a youngster, he raced quarter-midget cars and won a national title in his age category. At 13, Kidd became enamored with motorcycles and started entering local dirt track and motocross races. Kidd found he was as good or better on two wheels than on four and he progressed through a successful amateur career, which included multiple Texas state championships.
In 1972, at age 18, Kidd turned pro, and at the Houston Astrodome short track finished second in his very first national to another rookie named Kenny Roberts. Kidd had an exceptional first year in the series, earning a trio of top-five finishes in his rookie season, but was overshadowed by fellow rookies Gary Scott and Roberts.
In 1974, Kidd picked up a ride with Triumph's factory team and earned his first national win at the Columbus, Ohio, half-mile, on June 23. In the middle of the 1974 season, Kidd was second in the Grand National Series standings when he badly broke his leg at the Santa Fe Speedway short track national in Hinsdale, Illinois, ending his season. A string of bad luck was about all Kidd found in the middle '70s. He lost his Triumph ride when the manufacturer got out of Grand National racing at the of the 1974 season. In 1975, on his first comeback attempt after suffering the broken leg, he crashed again and re-broke his leg, causing him to miss half of the '75 racing season. The next year, all of Kidd's racing bikes and gear were stolen from a hotel parking lot.
Things began looking up for Kidd in 1977, when he won three nationals and finished seventh in the series standings. Then in 1979, Kidd secured perhaps the most unique sponsor in the history of motorcycle racing -- the United States Army.
"The draft was gone and I knew the armed forces were aggressive in its recruitment efforts," Kidd explained. "I approached a lot of different companies and one of them was the Army, through its advertising agency in New York. The Army liked my proposal and became my sponsor for two years. They set up recruitment booths at the races, I made all kinds of appearances at high schools, I think I spent twice as much time working for the Army as I did racing."
The Army sponsorship came to an end after the 1980 season, but Kidd moved right into another top team in 1981, sponsored by former champions Mert Lawwill and Kenny Roberts. The Lawwill/Roberts team proved to be an excellent one and Kidd earned eight podium finishes, including wins at the Ascot Park Speedway Tourist Trophy national and the Du Quoin, Illinois, Mile to win the 1981 AMA Grand National Championship.
Kidd's final two years of racing were spent on the newly formed Honda dirt track team. Kidd relished the opportunity to race and help develop a new racing machine. Honda riders went on to win five AMA Grand National titles on bikes that Kidd helped develop. At the end of the '83 season, Kidd decided to retire from racing.
"I always told myself that I would quit racing when I turned 30," said Kidd, who had tallied 12 AMA national wins. "I had other opportunities coming my way, so I figured it was a good time to leave. Of course had I known that Honda would win the next four championships, I might have changed my mind."
Kidd stayed active in motorcycling, owning a Yamaha dealership for a time, before starting a racing promotions company. Mike Kidd Promotions became one of the leading promoters of AMA races in the 1980s and early 1990s. In 1985, he inaugurated the AMA Arenacross Series, which became a major success.
Kidd was inducted into the Motorcycle Hall of Fame in 1998 and was still managing the AMA Arenacross Series. He has been married to his wife, Sandra, since 1973 and the couple has two grown children, Randy and Tammy.