The U.S. Open is only a day away, and with all the money on the line people are beginning to place their bets on the rider they think is going to take home the dough. Over the last couple of days there have been line-up changes and unexpected bike changes, but one thing is still certain: in Vegas, there are no sure bets. Here at TransWorld Motocross, we already know who we’re going to wager on, but you might not. So we decided to fill you in on who’s riding what, who’s going all in, and who’s going to be missing.
As most people already know, last year’s U.S. Open Champion, Team Yamaha’s Chad Reed, will be watching from the sidelines. Reed says he needs to heal up from injuries, and wants to be completely certain he is ready for the ’06 season. Today, at the pre-race press conference, Team Kawasaki’s James Stewart, Team Makita Suzuki’s Ricky Carmichael, and Rockstar Energy/Bill’s Pipes/Suzuki’s Greg Schnell all took turns answering questions from the press.
The major theme of the day--RC verses Bubba. Everyone wants to know what they are thinking. Is Stewart healthy after a string of crashes outdoors? Is Carmichael ready to switch gears and hang it out indoors? Both say yes.
“I’m 100 percent,” Stewart said. “Those last couple of Nationals that I got to take off have helped me out a lot. It’s going to be a good race. Ricky is a good rider and he has proven it here. I just want to come here and race, and have fun.”
RC is also here to win, but like Stewart he wants to, above all, just have fun. “It would definitely be nice to win,” Carmichael said. “But I’m here to have a good time. I’ve been wide open since the beginning of the Supercross season. I haven’t prepared as well as I should have, but I feel that I am in good enough shape, and my bike is good enough. Anything can happen; I’ve seen amazing things happen here.”
As for what bikes that RC and Bubba will be riding, Carmichael plans to be on his familiar RM-Z450, while Stewart will be aboard his trusty steed: the KX250.”I am riding the 450,” Ricky said. “I haven’t really had time to ride the 250. I have ridden the 450 all summer long and I really like it. I didn’t feel like getting acclimated to the 250. It was a tough decision because Roger (DeCoster) really wanted me to ride the 250, but I wasn’t comfortable enough.”
Stewart, on the other hand, will be riding pretty much the same bike that he rode during the ’05 Supercross season. “There is nothing different from ’05 and ’06 on the 250s,” Stewart said. “So we are racing ’05s. It’s just about getting the bike set up the way you want it. You could ride a 500 if you have it set up right.”
Another factor being thrown into the mix at the last minute is Team Amsoil/Chaparral/Honda’s Kevin Windham. Originally K-Dub had planned on sitting out, since he needed surgery to repair a hernia he has been battling all season long. Today, however, it was confirmed that the Mississippi native called up Clear Channel’s Todd Jendro last night to formally put his name in the hat. Add into the mix his Amsoil/Chaparral/Honda teammate Mike LaRocco, last year’s third place finisher Nick Wey, Team Honda’s Ernesto Fonseca, Tyler Evans, Team Kawasaki’s Michael Byrne, and a slew of other hopefuls, and it is going to be one action-packed weekend.
As always the 125cc class is going to be extremely competitive. With both of the ’05 regional champions electing not to compete, the door is going to be wide open for anyone. Most people are pointing towards Team Honda’s Andrew Short, and Team Makita Suzuki’s Broc Hepler as the men to beat, however, there are many riders that are equally qualified. One of which is last year’s champion Gregg Schnell. Even though this is a big race for him, he is looking at it as a warm-up for the up-coming season, and isn’t concerning himself with competition. “I’m just kind of using this as a warm up race for the National Arenacross series,” Schnell said. “I really haven’t even looked at the entry list.””
As always, the U.S. Open is going to prove to be one of the most exciting and unpredictable races of the year. After all, why not, it’s Vegas; nothing is ever what it seems.