For fans and fellow racers alike it’s hard to believe -- Ricky Carmichael’s final AMA Supercross race is upon us. This Saturday, March 17, Carmichael will turn his final lap in the Amp’d Mobile AMA Supercross Series when the championship comes to the Citrus Bowl in Orlando, Fla.
The racing world has known since the announcement was made before the season started that this would be Carmichael’s final season of racing motorcycles. The Floridian is making the transition from two wheels to four. He signed a developmental contract with Bobby Ginn Racing with the ultimate goal of racing in NASCAR. Still it’s hard for many to comprehend that they will no longer see the speedy No. 4 Makita Suzuki racing around America’s stadiums.
Carmichael was never considered to be a “natural Supercross racer like Jeremy McGrath. He was more of a fitness rider who thrived in the grueling world of motocross. Yet Carmichael wanted to prove he could win in Supercross and put countless hours in training to become a good stadium rider. In 2001 he broke through and unseated Supercross King McGrath and went on to win the first of five AMA Supercross titles. Now Carmichael stands as the second winningest rider in the sport’s history with 48-career victories. He would love to get win number 49 Saturday in Orlando, but he admits it’s going to be difficult.
“It’s been fun to watch the changes in the sport and to ride against some of the great riders, Carmichael said after finishing second last weekend in Daytona Beach. “I’ve been very fortunate and it’s sad it’s coming to an end, but at the same time I have to move forward. It’s going to be tough. There isn’t an opening ceremony that goes by that I don’t get a little choked up. It’s been a great road for me and my career is something I’m very proud of. I just want to be known as a great ambassador for the sport. It’s going to be tough this weekend to be focused on the race.
Another obstacle facing Carmichael in Orlando is current series leader James Stewart. Stewart seems to be hitting his stride and last weekend rode his factory Kawasaki to a convincing seventh win of the season in Daytona. Stewart extended his points lead over L&M Yamaha’s Chad Reed to 24 points.
Stewart’s victory in the Daytona Supercross was his 18th-career AMA Supercross win and moved him past Hall of Famers Mark Barnett and Jeff Stanton to seventh on the all-time series wins list.
“The Bomber’s probably going to charge me more to build my tracks now that I’ve beat his record, Stewart joked, referring to Mark Barnett, who was nicknamed the Bomber and now has a track-building business. “I don’t really think about the records, I’m just trying to win a championship.
Reed is still in the title chase, but with just six rounds remaining he has a tall task to catch Stewart.
“At this point I just want to feel good on the bike and ride to my potential, Reed said after finishing third last weekend.
After Ben Townley dropped out of the AMA Supercross Lites East season opener with a mechanical failure, it appeared his bid for a title was over. However, the former Motocross World Champion has stormed back with two victories on his Monster Energy Pro Circuit Kawasaki and moved within six points of series leader Ryan Morais, of the Boost Mobile Yamaha team.
“After what happened at the first round I just wanted to come back and focus race by race and it seems to be working out for me, said Townley, a native of New Zealand. “I’m riding consistent and just looking for a good result. At Daytona I made up some points and I’ll try to continue to move up the ladder in Orlando.
The Amp’d Mobile AMA Supercross Series round from Orlando will air on SPEED, Sunday, March 18, at 6:00 pm eastern.
Tickets for the Orlando Supercross at the Citrus Bowl are available at all Ticketmaster outlets, the TD Waterhouse Centre Box Office, select participating Yamaha dealers orr charge by phone at 407-839-3900. Gates open at 12:30 pm for the Orlando Supercross Pit Party and for fans to watch practice and qualifying. A special Family Section is also available for non-alcoholic family fun. When ordering tickets through Ticketmaster, request Family Section for an alcohol-free family atmosphere.