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5 Minutes With... Ricky Carmichael

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The Milwaukee Mile has the distinction of being the oldest motor speedway in the entire world. Since 1903, the 1.032-mile oval has hosted a major auto race every single year. On Saturday night, the greatest motocross racer that ever lived will race upon its asphalt surface as Ricky Carmichael will make his seventh start in the 2009 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series as part of the Copart 200. And he’s quite excited about the race in America’s Dairyland, as unlike the brilliantly fast 1.5-mile, 24-degree banked Texas Motor Speedway, which saw his 359-cubic inch, 615 horsepower-motivated, 3,400-pound Monster Energy Chevrolet Silverado trying to get airborne, RC will be competing on a flat, lower speed oval, the type of which he has significantly more experience. This morning, while switching jets in Charlotte, North Carolina, we caught up with the NASCAR driver/TV commentator/Certified, card carrying motocross legend.

Racer X: Ricky, I know you’re on a jet-set tour, where are you right now?
Ricky Carmichael: I’m in Charlotte — in Concorde Airport — and we’re headed up to Milwaukee. I’m really looking forward to it, man. This track is similar to Loudon from what I hear, so I’m really optimistic about the weekend. I feel like I learned a lot in Texas. I took my time and ended up with eleventh. At Milwaukee, I’m just going to try and be a little bit better at the beginning, but at the same time have some patience. Then I’ll race hard at the end and I don’t see any reason why I can’t have a better finish than what I had at Texas.

How was Texas, dude? That was the fastest track you guys race on. I was watching that race like a hawk on TV and the commentators were talking about how it was going to take the drivers upwards up 30 laps to get a feel for their tires. I mean, going 180 miles an hour and trying to figure out if the thing is going to stick in a corner or not, man, that had to be a tough track to get your head wrapped around.
You hit the nail on the head. That track REALLY felt fast. I mean, you were hauling butt. I really just wanted to take my time. I qualified pretty good. [Note: RC qualified eighth at 177.299 mph]. Obviously, that was good, and in the race I just wanted to learn that side air you experience on those mile-and-a-half tracks and stuff. So I really was cautious and took my time and that’s why I lost so many positions at the beginning of the race. I just wanted to learn it. Didn’t want to have the same problems that I had in Kansas. I definitely learned a lot and ended up with a decent finish.

Was the track harder to drive than a place like Daytona, where the corners are banked at 31 degrees?
Yeah, it was pretty hard. All those places, you know those mile and a halfs, are pretty much wide-open. I mean, they’re tough. Like you said, they don’t have the banking so they’re hard, man. It’s so deceiving how much harder it is in real life than it looks on TV.

Milwaukee is 1.032 miles in length and banked at nine degrees. Loudon is 1.058 miles and banked at seven degrees. You’ve run well at Loudon in the Camping World Series last year, so you must be feel comfortable rolling into Milwaukee.
Yeah, absolutely. I’m very optimistic about the weekend. Last year, in the Camping World Series, I ran fourth in the first race we went to there and was running second and contending for the lead, and actually leading at a few points in the race, before we ran out of fuel with a lap and a half to go. I had second in the bag. I am really excited about getting there this weekend. Obviously, there is going to be a little more competition than there was last year in the Camping World East races, but I’m in really, really good equipment. If it’s as close to Loudon as what I’m thinking, man, I’m so excited to get there and turn some heads.

Walking out of there tomorrow night, what sort of result would make you really happy?
I believe there’s no reason I shouldn’t be top 10 every weekend. I think anything inside the top five would be like a win, you know?

You’re seven races into your 16-race 2009 NCWTS rookie season. Almost at the halfway mark, what’s your verdict on yourself so far?
I’d give myself a B-, probably. I really have done better in qualifying than I thought I would. I thought that was going to be my big hang-up. The only thing for me is that I think that we’ve been very competitive, but I’m still trying to learn how aero-dependent these trucks are, you know? They rely a lot on side force and with these mile and a halfs, like I told you earlier, when some guys get next to you on the side and take air away it can be bad news. That’s been my biggest problem. I think some of the results don’t show how good we have been. They really don’t. I’ve been running up front with the exception of Kansas, when I was taken out.

In motocross, you won all the time, but in this car racing deal — and it happens to Jeff Gordon and everyone else — things can be very unpredictable and there are a lot of he highs and lows. Is that tough for you to deal with? Having a bad bike or getting crashed out by just being in the wrong place at the wrong time, you never really had to deal with that in motocross.
Absolutely! It can play mind games wit you, but that’s where you have to mentally strong. Yeah it does. One weekend you’re like, “Shoot, man, I’m going to make it.” Then the next weekend when you unload and you’re not really that good, you’re like, “Dang, is it me? What’s the deal?” You’re mind can play games with you in this deal because there are so many other factors that factor into why you’re running good or what have you. Definitely, been a new challenge for me, for sure. But I’m cool with it. We’ve had realistic goals and as far as results go and how I’m doing, and I’m pretty happy with it.

How are Kevin Harvick and Ron Hornaday? Do they help you with these new emotions and making sure that you’re not too hard on yourself?
Yeah, they’ve been awesome. I talk to Kevin a little bit, but when I’m at the races, I really lean on Ron. I mean, he’s a three-time Truck Series champion. He has so much experience... I’ve got great people around me and obviously we know we’re on a great team. They’ve definitely helped me out with these highs and lows, no doubt.

Do you have a sort of masterplan for the second half of your season?
Yeah, absolutely. I want to improve on some of my finishes. I want to finish races in the top 10 or the top five. I’d also like to slip in a Pole here and there. I didn’t think it would be possible, but we’ve qualified so good twice — once at California and once in Kansas. I honestly feel that at the right time and at the right place I feel like I can maybe get a Pole in there.
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