When Ricky Carmichael showed up at RedBud to participate in the FMF Two-Stroke Challenge at the request of his old friend Jeff “Six-Time” Stanton, I really thought he would just go out there on his RM250 and blast around old-school-style. After all, RC is a racecar driver now; he doesn’t work out nearly as hard as he used to. His body looks a little more like, say, Tony Stewart’s than James Stewart’s. But as soon as he rolled off the track after practice, I realized Carmichael was not there to fool around: he collapsed the front wheel of his RM250 when he overjumped LaRocco’s Leap on the second lap around! Of course he won the three-lap race going away, likely inspired by the opportunity to ride one of the world’s best motocross tracks at its finest prep.
Carmichael was as close to a sure thing as we’ve ever had in motocross; you could take the saying “Never bet against #4” to the bank, or at least to your fantasy league draft. Betting against RC in a motocross race was like betting against Lance Armstrong every summer as he bicycled around France (and, ironically, is doing again—just one tenth of a second off the lead now!)
That’s what’s missing from today’s Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship—the idea that there’s a sure thing out there in the staging area for the next moto. In six 450-class races to date, we’ve seen five different winners, and all five of them won their first AMA Motocross race in the premier 450 class. With RC done and James Stewart sitting out the summer, the class title was supposed to be down to Ryan Villopoto and his old nemesis Mike Alessi, but then they went out with knee injuries, and the class is completely up in the air. No one has managed to carry any kind of serious momentum or consistency through the first half of the series, and that makes for some very entertaining racing.
At RedBud it was clear from the later laps in moto one that Josh Grant was the fastest man on the track, but it took him too long to find his rhythm, and by then Chad Reed had just enough of a gap to hold his late charge off.
The second time out, Grant started fifth and then passed everyone to win going away. Turns out it was Reed’s turn to wait too long to pick his pace up; he almost nipped Ivan Tedesco at the flag for second, but the overall was already Grant’s. But at least Reed’s stomach issues seemed to have found relief for the day—an outcome probably worth more to Chad than actually winning this race.
By this point in the 2002, 2004, ’05, and ’08 seasons, the same rider (RC for the first three, then Bubba) had won every single race. Now we’ve had five winners in six races—and we’re still waiting for Andrew Short to win one and for Tim Ferry to get back up to speed. With Kevin Windham likely back off the bench for the home stretch, we could see more winners by the time this is all over.
Who will emerge as the champion? The one who finds the right combination of both momentum and consistency. In other words, it’s still up for grabs!