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Rev-Up: The Long Goodbye

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Hello, everyone, and welcome to the Rev-Up. What a time to be involved in action sports. The last two weeks have produced the most incredible events and feats the world has ever seen. And when I say the world, I mean 50 countries, because that is how many different nations logged on to check out the results of that little race that took place in Humphries County, Tennessee, last week. My heart and head received another immaculate download of memories that are simply too numerous to write about in one fell swoop. I’ll enjoy telling my stories of that week while sitting on an ice cooler at a track somewhere in the days to come, drinking some cold beers with my friends. But I do want to write about that particular past time of motocrossers.

Of all of the powerful and nostalgic things that went down at Loretta Lynn’s, I thought the way everyone stood outside the beer tent every night was really special. Our sport has a camaraderie like no other. Why else do former champions travel from all over the country to simply stand in the miserable heat, drip sweat and just talk about old times? Every night guys like Keith Turpin, Ron Tichenor, Ricky Carmichael, Denny Stephenson, Davey Coombs, Matt Walker, and about a hundred others would drag their asses to the beer tent to hang out and bench-race. Hell, most of the time nobody even went inside. We just stood and talked until midnight. No egos, no cliques or groups. Just motocrossers. That’s one of the things that makes our tribe so special. The smell of chain lube, the taste of dirt, and the sound the transmission makes when you click into gear when the two card goes up. You cannot explain those things to someone that has not experienced it themselves. It’s for us, and only us.

Be that as it may, there is an event coming up this weekend that we will talk about for a long time: the last national of Ricky Carmichael’s career. Now, we’ve been saying goodbye to RC for quite some time now. We’ve said goodbye to his last full season, his last supercross, his last ride at High Point, and now the last outdoor national of his career. And when it’s over, we still have a couple more chances to say goodbye, because he will be racing the MxoN and Bercy. But we’ve had reason to say goodbye each time, and each one has been special in its own unique way. But in my opinion, none more so that this one.

Outdoor motocross is where it all begins. It is the backbone of our sport and the single most important aspect of our trade. And it is the one that Ricky Carmichael has mastered like no athlete in the history of professional sports. I’ll never forget standing on Mt. St. Helens for his first 250 outdoor ride. Jesus, he killed ’em. Everyone thought the wolves would eventually close in to get him, though. Surely Tortelli would strike him down. Nope. Carmichael just went faster and produced the first perfect season. Along came Kevin Windham - and his mighty 450 - who looked like he was going to swat the #4 out of the way. Again, not a chance. RC showed up on a 450 of his own and that summer read 24-0 for the second time in history. Then came the battle of the ages between RC and James Stewart. We all wanted it to be huge, and holy shit, was it ever. The battles of Hangtown, High Point, Budds Creek, Washougal, and Glen Helen will forever be remembered as the fastest laps ever ridden. They both bled from those battles, but #4 rose from the dust in the end as the all-time, undefeated, undisputed, heavyweight title-belt holder of the world.

How much can you go into talking up RC’s outdoor career while balancing along the razor’s edge of biased journalism? You can write volumes upon volumes of accolades and never match the magnitude of what the record books boldly say with a few words: One hundred and fifty victories. An inconceivable accomplishment that deserves to be written about and talked about after races and in the garages and workshops of enthusiasts for decades to come. We’ll be talking about the time he flew off the side of Mt. St. Helens in 2001, or the time he did a no-footed can-can and went over the bars at Millville in 1998. We’ll talk about the day he and James went to war at High Point and the day he ate Windham’s roost at Unadilla for two 30-minute motos. We’ll talk about his whip over LaRocco’s Leap, and the time he hugged his mom in tears when he won his first 250 outdoor title at Binghamton.

How fitting that the site of his final charge in the AMA outdoor nationals will be at this coming round in Millville with both classes locked into a tight points battle for the championship. How fitting that he’ll show up to say goodbye at the focal point of what has become the most exciting outdoor series in outdoor motocross history. It’s the baby his dedication and work ethic helped create. And do not forget that Millville is a very special race to begin with. Millville was the home of the late, great Donny Schmit, who remains one of the best American stories ever. Hopefully, Donny will be looking down with a smile when Ricky sails off of the Holy Schmit jump for the last time. It would be all too perfect if RC put “This one’s for you, Donny” on his skid plate. Ah, but Ricky’s never really been one for the sentimental. He’ll probably do what he’s always done: try to get both holeshots and ride as fast and hard as he can until the checkered flag flies.

So, how are we going to remember RC? We’ll remember RC riding outdoor motocross with the fire of Hades in his eyes and his right elbow smashed into his ribcage. We’ll remember gasping for air when his feet would flail behind him, or seeing people 20 yards away scatter when he’d overcook a corner. I ask all of you who will be there this weekend to do your best to remember watching RC’s last outdoor ride of his AMA career. Remember watching him go for win #150.

I just want to sign off by saying that it has been one of the true pleasures of my life to have gotten the opportunity to write about Ricky Carmichael’s outdoor career. It was only this tiny little column here on Thursdays, but I’ll really miss the adrenaline his career gave me when I sat down to write about the upcoming race. From what I saw last week at Loretta’s we’re all going to have plenty to write about in the years to come. But there will never be another Ricky Carmichael, and it will never be the same. Thanks, Ricky, it’s been incredible.

Thanks for reading, see you next week.

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