Several times this year, James Stewart has said, “The season begins at Daytona.” That’s no surprise, really, because Stewart’s trainer is Aldon Baker, the man who trained Ricky Carmichael into a supercross-winning machine. RC always stuck by that same mantra as well. “The season really begins at Daytona,” RC would say, to the dismay of his already injured, weary or weak competition.
But here’s the strange part of Ricky’s post-Daytona strategy. Most of the time, Ricky won his titles by winning races before Daytona, not after. Yes, RC did plenty of winning post-Daytona in 2001 and 2002, but he came into Daytona that year carrying a big win streak. He also won the 2003 Daytona SX, but here’s the odd part—that was his last win of the season, as Chad Reed racked up six-straight wins to end the ‘03 tour. Carmichael missed all of supercross in 2004 with a torn ACL, but in 2005 he was back. By the time Daytona rolled around that year, Ricky had already built a 35-point lead over Reed. Reed then won Daytona, and RC was shut out of victory lane for the rest of the season, again. Reed won the next race in Orlando, Stewart won in Dallas, Reed won Pontiac, Stewart won Seattle and Houston, and Reed took Las Vegas. But Ricky won the championship—he had built a big lead before Daytona and didn’t need to win the races.
In 2006 Stewart crashed hard while leading in Daytona, and Carmichael took the win. And then, once again, Carmichael went winless for the rest of the season. Stewart won in Orlando, Detroit and Houston, and Reed won in Dallas (the infamous night Ricky crashed into the boat). Stewart won in the mud in Seattle, and then won the pressure-packed finale in Las Vegas.
At Daytona in 2007, Stewart checked out for a win, and then Carmichael raced his last supercross ever in Orlando the next weekend. He battled Stewart hard, but Bubba came out on top.
So, to review, during his last four supercross seasons, Ricky Carmichael went 0 for 13 in wins after Daytona. So did the season really begin there for him? Or was it just already over for everyone else?