David Bailey looked as if he had just been dragged through a wheat field behind a fast tractor. He was sweaty, covered in grime and limping with an ankle injury. But just minutes after victory, the 21-year-old professional motocross racer from Axton, Va., was already talking about next week's work.

"There'll be no partying and no running around," said Bailey, who rode a 250cc dirt bike and some hometown favoritism yesterday at RFK Stadium to a $27,000 first place in the Miller High Life super bowl of motocross.

"Come next weekend these guys are gonna be out to shave my tail."

Bailey came from the middle of the pack to beat 18 riders in the 20-lap final around a course of bumps and jumps that might have been designed by an out-of-work chiropractor.

He passed Bob (Hurricane) Hannah, a five-time national champion from Nevada and the old man of this sport at 26, with seven laps to go.

Bailey held on through the obstacle course to win by 25 yards. In third place was Mark Barnett a 5-foot-7 rider from Alabama who led for the first half of the race.

This was the first appearance in Washington of supercross, a 10-year-old sport that packs European motocross into American stadiums. If popularity can be measured by the amount of time a crowd stands on its feet screaming, nearly every one of an estimated 15,000 people liked what they saw.

"I can see why he is crazy about this," said Deborah Hinton of Woodbridge, Va., who succumbed to her 11-year-old son Mark's pleadings to attend. "But to me this looks like every mother's nightmare."

From the upper deck, the supercross sounds like an army of lumberjacks halving hornets' nests with buzz saw. The riders appear to be catapulted up and out by invisible springs.

"The main strategy is to go fast and hang on," said Mista Fiest, the sister, mechanic, and financial backer of 22-year-old Conrad Fiest of Indiana.

Fiest has been riding since he was 6 and racing since 12. In 1981 he was the national amateur motocross champion. But before today's races he admitted he was somewhat out of his league. "I'm better than maybe four guys out here. That should tell you how great these guys are."

One rider who did not get a chance to prove himself against the best was Mike Twigg, 22, of Hagerstown, Md. He blew a transmission during a practice run before the start.

Twigg had followed the transcontinental supercross circuit for two years until financial pressure forced him out six months ago. He went back to his grandfather's cycle shop in Hagerstown and began competing in local events. It did not sit well with him.

"You can make two or three hundred dollars a week at local races. But you just have to be content to stay home. Right now I'm not. Here's the big time," said Twigg. "I guess I'll watch these races along with everyone else."

Mike Goodwin, who invented this hybrid sport 10 years ago and has been revving up its popularity ever since, had hoped for 37,000 at RFK. Although there was no official crowd figure available, there appeared to be no more than half that number in the stadium. Goodwin blamed a free air show in Maryland for drawing many people who otherwise would have paid $8 to $15 to see his entertainment.

"That's just the way it goes," he said over the noise of screaming motorcycle engines. "I'm doing all right here." CAPTION: Picture, David Bailey, with roof line of Robert F. Kennedy Stadium in background, rides high en route to first place by 25 yards in the Miller High Life super bowl of motorcross. The victory was worth $27,000; by Gary A. Cameron -- The Washington Post