- Associated Press - Friday, February 13, 2015

Vicki Golden was ready to give up motocross racing. She had proven herself to be competitive, yet was having a hard time finding a racing sponsor and, well, it kind of hurt.

“It is all business, but it’s hard to not take it personal when it’s you they’re not interested in,” Golden said. “It got rough, for sure.”

Less than two years later, she’s on the cusp of history.

Already an accomplished gender-busting X Games rider, Golden will attempt to become the first female rider to qualify for a Supercross race in the sport’s 42-year history when she twists the throttle in the 250SX class at AT&T; Stadium in North Texas on Saturday night.

Unlike other women who have tried, Golden appears to have a legitimate shot at not only qualifying, but competing with the men.

“She definitely can ride and she also has the guts to come out here and put it all on the line to race with the boys and show she can do it,” said Dave Prater, director of Supercross for Feld Motorsports. “Everyone’s getting behind her, not just the females. Everyone wants to see what she can do.”

Golden has already had plenty of success on a dirt bike.

The 22-year-old from El Cajon, California, is a three-time X Games gold medalist in Women’s Moto X and in 2013 was the first woman to compete against the men in the Best Whip competition, where she took bronze.

Competing against the men at the X Games broke ground, but qualifying for a Supercross event could cause a much larger ripple.

Other women have tried qualifying for Supercross events in the past; Dorene Payne in 1983 at San Diego and Italy’s Stefy Bau in 2000, but fell short.

Golden earned her chance by becoming the first woman to complete Ricky Carmichael’s Road to Supercross, racing in the lower-level Arenacross series since 2011. She had some bumps along the way - a broken collarbone in 2012, nearly quitting because of sponsorship issues - but earned her certification to race in Supercross last March, setting up this weekend’s history-making attempt.

“It definitely was a huge relief,” Golden said. “It took longer and things weren’t exactly working out, especially almost quitting. It’s definitely opposites ends of what I expected.”

Women have been making inroads in male-dominated motorsports for years.

Danica Patrick made the biggest splash, racing in the IndyCar Series before moving to NASCAR. Women have been a part of drag racing for decades, from Shirley Muldowney in the 1970s to the Force sisters of today.

Motocross racing has been a much tougher barrier to break.

It’s considered one of the most physically demanding sports anywhere, not just for the power needed to maneuver the dirt bikes over and around the humps and bumps of the tracks, but also the endurance required to do it for two motos and a main event.

“Motocross is one of the most physically demanding sports and I honestly believe it’s the No. 1 most mentally demanding because of everything we’re doing,” Golden said. It’s definitely gnarly. Even myself doing it, it’s no joke for sure.”

Golden has proven she can handle a dirt bike against men, both with her bronze at the X Games and by finishing in the top 10 on the Arenacross circuit.

To take the next step, she’ll need to be among the top 40 riders from a field of about 60 during qualifying to earn a spot in the night event, which includes two motos (heat races) and a main event.

The men racing against Golden certainly won’t take it easier on her and the course, not to mention the setting, will be on a grander scale than anything she’s experienced before.

Get through all that and she could clear the way for the next wave of female riders.

“If she can become the first one, it will be huge,” Prater said. “And then there’s quite a few younger girls coming up that she can pave the way for.

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