The following is a transcript of the U.S. Open pre-race press conference with James Stewart and Ricky Carmichael.
HOST: James, it was a pretty good summer for you, you gotta be looking forward to the race this weekend.
JAMES: Yeah, it should be good coming off the summer, here I just want to get through this and have fun. It’s a good event and I haven’t raced it since ’99. Last year I tried and had some bad luck. I’m just excited about getting through this and getting ready for the upcoming supercross season.
HOST: We have the Toyota Trifecta on line – it’s something you’ve never been involved with before where the qualifying lap and the holeshot contributes to how much money you can make. Have you thought about that, is there any change in strategy for you to go out and get all the money?
JAMES: No, I mean if we had that in supercross, I’ll be rich. It’s cool, I think it’s something that’s just a little bit different this year; you know they’re going to throw it in to spice up the event this year, and I think it’s going to be exciting. It’s going to make you try a little harder and practice a bit more for a lot of guys but I feel good. I just go out there and do my deal and I’ll be fine.
HOST: Now, I know you wanted to race this race last year and you’re here this year. What makes the U.S. Open so important? It’s not a points paying race for a championship but all the top racers want to race it. Why do you circle this one on your calendar and come out and race?
JAMES: Well, I just think it’s just a good event. You know, Live Nation does a good job in all their events so pretty much for me it’s nothing really rewarding here you know, you got three months here before Anaheim starts so it’s almost like I’m just kinda doin’ it for these guys and you know to help us out throughout the year and I just come out here and want to race for them and plus it’s just an off-season race to keep you in the rhythm of racing for the fans that come out so it’s a good event.
HOST: The track here is a little tighter than a normal supercross. They say you gotta be aggressive to make passes. Can you handle that kind of competition?
JAMES: Yeah. I just try to get a good start and there’s a lot of laps and I know it’s quick but a lot of guys will probably get tired out here. I know it’s a long race so you just got to be smart for both nights. You can’t win it in one night, you got to be there for the second night too so it’s gonna be good. It’s kinda like arenacross and I like watching that so if you have to get rough, I mean, that’s just what you have to do.
HOST: Awesome. Where do you stand as far as your equipment goes and your training goes? Is this all ’06 stuff you’re running? Do you use this to get ready for ’07? What kind of bike are you riding right now?
JAMES: No, we’re still riding the ’06 stuff. The bike we raced in supercross and we’ve made some changes that have helped it out a lot so I’m really excited about just getting on that and trying that out to make ’07 better. And as far as training, I’ve been training since we got back from the motocross des nations so all that’s fine and I’ll take a week or two off after this and get back into it and get ready for Canada.
HOST: One more question and we’ll open up to the media. Ricky Carmichael probably won’t race the full series next year so we’re running out of opportunities for you two to race each other so is there a little extra incentive knowing that opportunities are limited to go out and battle with Ricky?
JAMES: No, I mean I enjoy racing the guy every time I race him. This is not the last time. I hear he’s going to be racing in Canada so we’ll get to have fun there but there’s not more pressure on me to go out there and do anything different from what I normally do. I’m here to race and have fun and show a good time to the crowd and get ready for next year so there’s no pressure on this at all.
MEDIA: How important is this race for confidence or anything like that? Does it make a difference since our top guys are here to beat them before Canada and Anaheim 1?
JAMES: Well, for me and I guess for all of us, you want to win the race but this is nothing. I mean this is a long series. You got 18 races and I didn’t race this race last year and I did fine through the supercross season so this is no confidence boost or anything like that. It just gives you the chance to do an off-season race and just show the people out here that you just want to have fun. This is not going to break the Amp’d Mobile Supercross season or anything like that so it’s nothing.
MEDIA: Is there a point where 2006 ends and 2007 starts? Is this that race?
JAMES: Yeah, I’m going to have to say that this is probably that race. I mean this season I’ve been going since December. It’s a lot of races and going over to Europe took a lot out of me and then I went to Englishtown I think it was last weekend. It’s all kind of running into me and then getting ready for this race. It’s a lot and it’s kind of getting tiring. I’ll say this is the end of the ’06 season, and I’ve got a lot of things going on this year during the off season that will be really good to make me a lot stronger for ’07, so I’m really excited about doing that so I’ll say this is the end of the season.
HOST: I’ll ask one more thing about the races in Canada. What kind of work to you put in between now and Canada? I know you want a little break. It is the end of the ’06 season but what kind of boot camp to you go into between now and when we see you again in Toronto and Vancouver?
JAMES: I have a new trainer this year so I’m really excited about getting into that and just getting ready. The Canada races are kinda one of those races where you just make sure your bike is set up and just see where your training’s going. You don’t want to be too ready too early for Anaheim. It’s a long season so you just get out there and work and make everything good so you know you’re on the right program by the time you finish the second race in Canada and you’re strong for Anaheim. It should be exciting.
HOST: Ricky, you missed the des nations with the shoulder injury. Give us the status. Are you good to race this weekend?
RICKY: Yeah, I’m good to race. I wouldn’t say I’m 100%, that’s for sure, but on Monday I made my mind up; for some reason I had the itch. Man, I was like dude I just want to race. I haven’t been this motivated to race in a long time and I’m very optimistic on how it’s going to go. The shoulder’s getting better. Slowly but surely. For those of you guys who didn’t know, I tore my rotator cuff in two places and tore my labrum also so it was all border line on the surgery part. I could’ve had it, I could’ve not had it so I opted not to have it to try to let it heal up naturally and so far everything’s been really good. I’ve got five weeks past Glen Helen and if I can get to that six week mark and get through this weekend safe, it should be good. I just want to make it through testing and through this weekend and be 100% for Canada. It was hard to resist not racing here this weekend so I said, yeah, let’s do it. I told Goose and he got the bike ready and here we are, 4 days later.
HOST: Have you done any riding at all since the injury?
RICKY: Yeah, we’ve started testing last week and I rode a few days and rode a few days this week and everything is good. I’m not where I want to be but I really want to come here and race and have a good time. I’m looking forward to it.
HOST: You say you’re extra motivated. Talk about this race. You’ve raced it year after year after year. What is it about the Rockstar U.S. Open that makes you want to race and win so badly?
RICKY: I don’t know if it’s where I’m at in my career now, not having the pressure of always having to prove myself and this and that but it’s just coming to me that, dude, I just want to race and have a good time. That’s why I’m here and that’s what I’m doing. That’s why I made the decision.
HOST: We haven’t seen you and James battle here yet at the MGM. This track is tight. What can we expect if you guys get in a battle on a tight track like this?
RICKY: Obviously if it’s myself and James or it could be myself and Ivan actually. We were practicing this week and I already told Ivan Dude, if I’m behind you and have to punt you don’t get mad at me and I expect the same from him. You know what, hey, myself and James, we’ve grown up so much this year and I know he has and on the last lap, I would expect something. You know if it was me or him that had to do something for the win. But there’s so much that can happen between then and now. We’ll wait ‘till we cross that bridge but it definitely is a tight track. It’s a lot of action. There’s a lot of new stuff this year with the Trifecta and this and that so it’s gonna be exciting but at the same time I just hope that everyone just don’t think about the money and just goes out and races and stays safe.
HOST: Let’s talk about the Trifecta. I know that you’re one that doesn’t put all the stock in practice lap times and things like that but suddenly there’s $10,000 on the line each night to be the fast qualifier and that puts you in position to get the Toyota Trifecta so does that change your strategy?
RICKY: You know what, to be honest with you, the money doesn’t …I think the biggest thing to win this race to me would just be pride. You know I’ve made great money in my career so it’s not like I’m going to go hang it out and risk injuring my shoulder and risking the season next year for 10,000 bucks. I think any of us, if you had a chance to win the Trifecta or just win the race I would pick just winning the race. It’s not going to make me twist the throttle any more. I’m still going to ride within my limits and stay safe.
HOST: I know you’ve always used this race to prepare for the next season to see where you are. Are you running ’06 stuff right now or are you already on ’07 equipment and getting it dialed in?
RICKY: We’re on some of our ’07 stuff and it’s really looking promising. The last couple weeks have been looking good and also, it’s going to be good to race with the ’07 bike and see how it reacts. So I’m excited. I think it’s going to be really good. I’m really excited for Ivan. The guy is night and day better than he was last year. It surprised me when I was out there watching him and I don’t know if it’s the bike or just him. Our ’07 stuff we will be racing this weekend and obviously try to fix the things that need to be fixed and see how it works in the race condition.
HOST: The last thing I want to ask is you said you’re trying to prepare for next season. Do you know your schedule yet of what races you will be racing in next year?
RICKY: I do. I know pretty much all the races I’m going to race. I’m going to do the two Canada rounds fir sure. I’ll do Anaheim, I’ll do Phoenix. I know I’ll do San Francisco and as far as some of the other races, I haven’t pinned them down for sure but the races I just mentioned, I know I’m doing them for sure. If I’m in the points lead, I’m not racing Anaheim 2. You can count on it. Trust me, so don’t even ask that question.
HOST: So there is a part of retirement that is kicking in to some degree. You’re going to miss a race somewhere down the road.
RICKY: Yeah. I’m going to. You have to draw the line somewhere otherwise, I’ve said before, it can be a vicious circle. You get into the well, if I do it another year maybe I can do it or if you win, you say, oh, I can keep going. I’m happy with what I’ve done and I have some exciting things coming up that I’m excited about.
HOST: We’ll announce that in just a moment. First, questions from the media.
MEDIA: Why are you so motivated to race this weekend? What hit you on Monday that made you decide you just had to race?
RICKY: You know it’s weird. I have no idea. It’s weird. I don’t know if it’s knowing that I don’t have too many more and I want to make the best of it or just the pressure of knowing that I don’t have to peak for the whole season. I don’t know, I just have this burning desire to race and have fun. I don’t know what’s giving me that feeling but it’s a great feeling to have. I know that much. I don’t know what’s making me want to do that. I guess just the love for the sport.
MEDIA: Ricky, I’ve heard you guys talking after the U.S. Open before about how the track lasts over the two nights. Will it help to have the track go in different direction for second night?
RICKY: Well I think with the track, turning it around the second night, I don’t think it will change the texture of the dirt really. It will just change the racing and the lines. It’s still going to deteriorate and be hard packed and be good testing.
Ken Atherton (President and CEO of Ginn Sports Entertainment): Thank you and welcome everybody. I’m here on behalf of Bobby Ginn, Ginn Sports Entertainment and our NASCAR team, MB2 motor sports. We’re thrilled to be making the second major announcement in less than a week. Last week it was Mark Martin who we welcomed as the newest member of our race team starting January of ’07 and he’ll be driving our ’01 Army car. This week we felt it was particularly important to come to Ricky’s house and as you all know he is the most accomplished racer in his sport and he’s ready to move to four wheels and it gives us great privilege and pleasure today to announce that he is a new member of our MB2 motorsports race team. And with that ladies and gentlemen, we have a little unveiling here. Ricky, will you come with me?
The following is a transcript of the U.S. Open pre-race press conference with James Stewart and Ricky Carmichael.