Rex Beauchamp was a Harley-Davidson factory rider in the AMA Grand National Championships of the 1970s. He showed so much potential as a junior he became the first non-Expert rider to sign a contact with Harley-Davidson. Beauchamp won four nationals during his short, seven-year professional racing career. The personable rider from Michigan was a serious contender for the AMA Grand National Championship in the mid-1970s, finishing ranked in the top-10 nationally four straight years. Beauchamp’s highest career ranking in the championship was fourth in 1974.
Beauchamp was born in Pontiac, Michigan, on August 20, 1950. It seemed fated that Beauchamp would become a leading national racer from the first time he threw a leg over a motorcycle. On his 14th birthday, he got an 80cc Yamaha as a gift. Two days later, he raced at a scrambles for the first time and won.
In August of 1968, Beauchamp turned 18 and received his AMA Novice racing license. After riding two events, winning one and placing second in the other, he laid off professional competition until the following season.
“I wanted to make sure I had enough seasoning as a Novice before I got into the Junior ranks,” Beauchamp said in a 1974 interview. “At the end of my second race I was just two points shy of transferring, so I had to wait for the year.”
Holding himself back proved to be a smart move. In 1969, Beauchamp went on a tear in the Novice ranks, winning all but one race he entered. He followed that up by finishing as the top Junior rider in 1970, winning four nationals en route. His rapid success prompted interest by Harley-Davidson and he was signed to the factory team for the 1971 season.
In 1971, his rookie expert season, Beauchamp scored three top-10 national finishes, including a runner-up result at the Santa Fe Short Track National, held in the Chicago suburb of Hinsdale, Illinois.
1972 saw steady improvement for Beauchamp. That year he tallied seven top-10 results and earned podium finishes on the Miles in Atlanta and Homewood, Illinois.
After coming so close so many times in his first two years of pro racing, Beauchamp’s frustration finally came to an end when he scored a breakthrough victory at the Terre Haute (Indiana) Half-Mile. He took the led from Dave Sehl with four laps to go and never looked back.
“Terre Haute was the highlight of the year for me. It represented finally accomplishing one of my goals,” Beauchamp said at the end of 1973. In addition to his first national win, Beauchamp also finished ranked in the top 10 for the first time, taking the sixth spot on the Grand National points ladder.
In 1974, Beauchamp scored his second national win, this time on the Toledo (Ohio) Raceway Park Half-Mile after holding off a determined charge by follow Michigan Mafia rider Corky Kenner. On the strength of four podium finishes, Beauchamp earned a very solid fourth in the final AMA Grand National standings that year, in spite of having a string of mechanical problems with his race bikes early in the year, and being forced to the sidelines for Santa Fe and Peoria after rupturing his spleen in a non-national race. After returning from his spleen injury, Beauchamp finished strong with runner-up finishes at Albany, New York and Gardena, California.
“The year  started out pretty grim mechanically,” Beauchamp said at the time. “Things didn’t start to pick up until the Ascot TT in July when I teamed up with Babe DeMay. Babe was a great racer himself and once he started tuning for me everything turned around.”
Beauchamp’s chances of obtaining the No. 1 plate were made extremely difficult because he didn’t road race. At the time, road races were part of the overall Grand National Championship and Beauchamp considered himself a dirt tracker only.
“I’ll have to do a lot of winning on the dirt,” Beauchamp said in 1974 on the possibility of him becoming champion, “but No. 1 isn’t out of the question for me. I’m still learning something at every race and I don’t feel I’m as good as I will be. I have no desire to road race, but I’m going to enjoy dirt tracking for a long time.”
In 1975, Beauchamp was a consistent finisher, scoring five podium finishes and winning on the San Jose (California) Mile. He finished ranked fifth in the final standings. The next year, Beauchamp scored his final national win, again at the San Jose Mile. In the race, Beauchamp barely held off Jay Springsteen for the win. His final victory was somewhat overshadowed by what happened after he took the checkered flag. After the race, Gary Scott paid the AMA $3,500 and claimed the engine from Beauchamp’s winning Harley-Davidson.
The 1976 season proved to be Beauchamp’s last season ranked in the top 10. In 1977, he scored a single top-five result (at the Louisville Half Mile). It would prove to be his final season in AMA Grand National competition. He retired after the 1977 season.
Beauchamp was well-liked by fans and fellow riders alike. He and his wife, Audrey, traveled the country by van and made lasting friendships along the way. The couple had two children, Andrea and Eric.
People enjoyed hanging out with Rex at the races. His personal grooming habits always kept people guessing. At one race he would have long hair and full beard, and at the next he’d be sporting a short-cropped haircut and a clean-shaven face. He enjoyed snowmobiling in the off season.
Beauchamp tragically died in a street accident in 1988. He will always be remembered for his rapid rise into the pro ranks, being hired by Harley-Davidson before he even became an expert, and for being one of the most consistent performers of the mid-1970s.