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Spin Cycle: RC’s Saturday Whirlwind

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Theoretically speaking, at precisely 2:20 p.m. EST on Saturday afternoon, March 7, 2009, Ricky Carmichael was in three different places at the very same time. This opening sentence you have just read may require a bit of explaining.

First, a few seconds after the second-hand past the 2:20 P.M. mark in the clock, a NASCAR official reached for a green flag, unfurled it, and waved it furiously to the start the 130-lap American Commercial Lines 200 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. The third round of the 2009 NASCAR Camping Word Truck Series, back in his 15th place starting position, Ricky Carmichael, his foot mashed into the aluminum floorboard of his 358 cubic inch SB2 V8-motivated #4 Monster Energy-backed Chevrolet Silverado and raced down the 2,332 frontstretch to meet the big green piece of fabric. Up front, Carmichael’s boss and full-time NASCAR Sprint Cup driver Kevin Harvick led the way around the 1.54-mile, 24-degree banked quad-oval, renowned as being the single fastest track in all of NASCAR. Carmichael, concurrently, swung up to the right, took the high line and rode the rim of the lightning quick oval and went looking for the leaders.

Meanwhile, exactly 27.89 miles away and located at #1 Georgia Dome Way in Atlanta, Georgia, stood the empty and monolith-like 71,288-seat Georgia Dome. Home of the NFL Atlanta Falcons franchise, it’s also the home of a number of Ricky Carmichael’s favorite racing memories. Not all that far from his hometown of Tallahassee, Florida, Carmichael won supercross main events on the Georgia Dome in 2001, 2002, 2003, 2005 and 2006 (he likely would have won in 2004, but he was injured). While he was racing around Atlanta Motor Speedway at 175 miles per hour, Carmichael would later mention that the Georgia Dome did cross his mind.

Then there was a third place, albeit 415.14 miles away, Carmichael was visiting in a mental capacity. As while he was racing his heart out in a 3,400-pound truck, Timed Practice was beginning for the Daytona Supercross on a supercross track he himself had designed. Made up of 6,000 Tons of onyx-black sand and dirt and 350 man hours in the making, the 2,970-foot circuit was etched out of the grassy Trioval section of Daytona International Speedway’s 2.5-mile superspeedway, just between the grease-stained, lug nut littered pit road and the 3,800-foot, 18-degree banked front stretch.

After placing eight in the second race of the 2009 NCWTS on Saturday, February 21, 2009 on the 2.0-mile Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California, Carmichael — who is running a limited 14-race schedule for Kevin Harvick Inc. and the KHI All-Star Team in 2009 — was supposed to take a two-month hiatus, not penciled in to race again until O’Reilly Auto Parts 250 at Kansas Speedway on April 25. However, after running so well in California, Harvick and company, keen to keep Carmichael in the truck, racing and gaining valuable seat time, dug deep, and found the financial and technical resources to run RC at round three in Georgia.

"This is like a home race for me," said Carmichael a few days before the race. Atlanta was always great to me when I raced here in Supercross, and I cannot wait to get on track at Atlanta Motor Speedway. I appreciate Monster Energy and Kevin and DeLana Harvick for adding this race to my schedule.

"I learned so much in the race at California, I was anxious to race again as soon as I could to put all of that into action. I wanted to race again that day if they would have let me! I was scheduled to wait until Kansas for my next race, so I'm excited and grateful to have any track time I can get and run an extra race."

Ricky Carmichael drove quite well at Atlanta Motor Speedway. 70 laps into the 130-lap affair he had deftly and methodically moved from his 15th place starting spot and found his way into the top 10. Then, with 57 laps to go, it was all over with RC got tagged from behind by the #6 truck tagged him in the left rear and sent the #4 Chevrolet spinning. It all turned into a yard sale of a crash, broken glass, bent metal, steaming fluids and melted rubber everywhere. Carmichael got going again, but finished a lap down in 21st.

“Everything was going awesome, man,” sighed Carmichael of the on-track bad luck that is such a big part of NASCAR. “I had found some good lines between turns three and four, but had a few little trouble spots between turns one and two.

“Unfortunately, as the race was nearing the finish, I got caught up in a situation with Colin Braun. He got into me and spun me out and then Denise Setzer hit me and tore up the rear end of my truck. We slaved what we could and finished 21st. It was disappointing because I think we would have been in the top 10 if I had finished. It’s disappointing knowing you could have come out of a race with a better finish, but I was really happy with how I drove.”

A few hours later and dressed in street clothes, Ricky Carmichael climbed on the private jet of three-time and reigning NASCAR Sprint Cup Champion Jimmie Johnson. A longtime motocross fan and former nationally-ranked minicycle racer, Johnson wanted to go watch the Daytona Supercross and was taking the track designer and five-time winner of the race along with him.{QUOTE}“Jimmie Johnson invited me to go up there with him so we got on his jet and went up there,” laughed Ricky. It was pretty cool to be back at a place where I had been in a racecar just a few weeks earlier. It’s always great to be back at Daytona. When you go under that tunnel to enter the track, you know you’re someplace awesome.”

On Friday, February 12, 2009, Ricky Carmichael was running in the top five of his first NASCAR Camping World Truck Series at Daytona when he was caught up in a crash on the 49th lap. “It’s just a shame, man. It’s just a shame,” he told the 100,000 fans on-hand that night over the public address system. “I think I was out there earning everybody’s respect out there tonight. One of these days I’ll get some good luck at one of these things.”

Now, almost exactly a month later, here he was back at The World Center of Speed, up in the Speed TV booth and calling the race live for millions of supercross fans across the nation.

“I know what it’s like to feel like that — I know what it’s like to win the Daytona Supercross,” he said later that night after watching former rival Chad Reed win the race in a spirited and determined performance.

So, was Ricky jealous, even just a little bit, to see Reed rather then himself riding on the tri-oval with his winning fist raised high in the air?

“A little,” he smiled. “I could see him smiling and thought, ‘Man, I know that feeling.’"

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