Thursday, May 29, 2014 | 2 a.m.
Carey Hart would rush home from school, grab gas money off the kitchen counter for his motorcycle and head to the desert near Vo-Tech High School.
“Every day we’d meet up after school. We’d ride until the sun went down,” said Hart, a Las Vegas native and Green Valley High graduate.
None of the others were as good as Hart. And not only in the Southern Nevada deserts.
He became one of freestyle motocross racing’s pioneers, winning races and awards, and championing the sport’s growth through his daring style. He was the first rider to complete a back flip on a 250cc bike in competition — a trick that helped fuel the popularity of motocross and make it more mainstream.
On Friday, Hart will be one of five people inducted into the Southern Nevada Sports Hall of Fame during a ceremony at the Orleans Arena.
Hart admits being shocked when his manager called in late March with news he was selected because he didn’t think someone from motocross would be considered.
“I can honestly say, growing up in Las Vegas back in the 1980s, I didn’t think I would be in this position,” said Hart, 38.
Hart, who was one of the first to start competing in motocross in the mid-1990s, has won medals in multiple X-Games and Gravity Games competitions, and has been the main attraction at other events for his risk-taking in performing tricks.
Although he retired in 2012, he’s still one of motocross’s most in-demand figures. Through sponsorships, he travels the nation doing everything from appearances to filming commercials.
He was cleared in February to get back on his bike after having a spinal fusion. It’s one of multiple injuries he has endured over the years, including breaking his arms and legs on multiple occasions.
In 2003, he broke both his arms and legs and had blood clotting so severe it almost killed him after jumping 75 feet into a brick wall in a botched trick at Tony Hawk’s Boom Boom HuckJam tour. And in 2008, Hart’s brother Anthony died after crashing during a practice session in Connecticut.
“Being injured is one of those things that is expected,” he said. “If you compare it to stick and ball sports, it’s like aspiring to be a professional football player. You know there’s a risk of certain injuries. That is also part of motocross.”
The fear of being injured has never slowed him.
He landed the back flip at the 2000 Gravity Games despite never attempting it in practice on a motorcycle. That was before the training tool of foam landing pits were in existence, forcing Hart to practice the back-flip movements on a BMX bike.
The trick was featured on “Ripley’s Believe It or Not!” The attention put Hart and motocross firmly on the map.
“That was the natural progression of the sport,” he said of the flip. “There was about 15 of us who were pushing the envelope. I guess it was my turn to do the next big thing.”
He’s parlayed his popularity into a lucrative clothing line and tattoo company. In 2004, he opened Hart & Huntington Tattoo Co. at the Palms, and the store was featured on an A&E reality show. It’s now at the Hard Rock Hotel in Las Vegas, and there are also stores in Orlando, Fla., Honolulu and Niagara Falls, Ontario.
He’s also known for his marriage to singer Pink.
Hart initially started riding as a toddler as a way to spend time with his father. They’d travel to California to find competition and better facilities, quickly realizing the father-son pastime could blossom into something bigger.
“I was a broke construction worker’s kid,” he said. “You had to beat those Southern California guys to make your mark.”
Hart won’t have an acceptance speech prepared for Friday. That’s just not his style.
“I’ve been trying to think about (the speech) too much. It makes me nervous,” Hart said. “I’m more of a wing-it type of guy (when it comes to public speaking). I guess I’ve never been too comfortable taking a compliment.”
Other members of the induction class are UNLV baseball coach Tim Chambers, golfer and former UNLV All-American Chris Riley, drag racer Ken Black and the Herbst family.
The Orleans Arena, a Boyd Gaming facility located just west of the Las Vegas Strip, is one of the nation’s leading mid-sized arenas, and was recently ranked No. 1 in the United States and No. 5 internationally among venues of similar size by Venues Today Magazine.
The Arena hosts more than 200 events each year, including concerts by top names like Carrie Underwood, Daughtry, Van Halen, Brooks & Dunn, Black Eyed Peas, Akon and Rihanna; family favorites like The Harlem Globetrotters and Circus Spectacular; and a wide variety of sporting events, including NCAA basketball tournaments, the West Coast Conference and Western Athletic Conference Basketball Championships, mixed martial arts with Superior Cage Combat, and major motorsports events.
The arena serves as home to the Las Vegas Wranglers professional ECHL hockey team, the Las Vegas Legends professional indoor soccer team, and the Lingerie Football League’s Las Vegas Sin. Stay connected to the Orleans Arena on Facebook (www.facebook.com/orleansarena) and on Twitter (@orleansarena).