Bench Racing Ammo: Rockin' RookiesTuesday, September 12, 2006 | 5:54 AM
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Although technically this year may not be considered Ryan Villopoto’s pure rookie season (he raced the last three nationals in 2005), the fact that he won the championship in his first full year is very impressive. He will almost certainly be named the AMA’s Rookie of the Year.
And I have to admit, prior to the season I didn’t have Villopoto in my top three list of title contenders. Although he wrapped up his 2005 season at Glen Helen with a very impressive second overall, there were still some areas for concern—including a few tracks that he never raced on—clearly giving the advantage to the many other veterans of the 250F class. But a combination of persistence, consistency, and sheer speed can be volatile to the competition, and Villopoto was able to win half of the races this year on his Monster Energy/Pro Circuit Kawasaki to claim the first major championship of his professional career. Congratulations, Ryan!
While Ryan and his team and family celebrate his championship (and prepare for the 2006 Motocross des Nations), we started thinking about other impressive rookie seasons. Just last year we saw Mike Alessi—the runner-up this time—have a good run at the title, only to fall a moto short to Ivan Tedesco.
In 2002 James Stewart won his first-ever pro national at Glen Helen and went on to win 10 of 12 races and the AMA 125cc National Championship by 137 points over Suzuki’s Branden Jesseman. Stewart was awarded 2002 AMA Rookie of the Year honors that season.
Although Carmichael raced one outdoor national in 1996 (and received the AMA Rookie of the Year Award for doing so), his first full outdoor season came in 1997, and similar to Stewart, RC came out swinging at Round 1. Instead of Glen Helen, the first race of that season was in RC’s home state of Florida at Gatorback Cycle Park in Gainesville, FL. Carmichael went 2-1 there and notched seven more overall wins that season to take the title from Team Honda’s Steve Lamson.
In 1989, Honda-mounted Mike Kiedrowski battled down to the wire with fellow rookie Damon Bradshaw of the Yamaha team for the AMA 125cc National title. Although Bradshaw won the final round of the series at Steel City, as well as the Rookie of the Year Award, the “MX Kied” took the championship by three points on the #762 Honda, then helped Team USA win at the Motocross des Nations that fall (just as Pastrana did in 2000).
So congratulations to Ryan Villopoto on joining a long and storied list of AMA Motocross rookies who also earned a championship in their very first seasons!
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