Five championships later (2001, 2002, 2003, 2005 and 2006—and he sat out the ’04 tour with a knee injury) and 47 main event wins later, RC would win the last supercross of his career at St. Louis on March 3, 2007, before calling time on his epic career. And while he’s turned his competitive attentions on becoming a winning NASCAR driver (he recently won the 2009 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Most Popular Driver Award), the GOAT is still a supercross ace at heart and one certainly worthy of passing judgment on just what might play out in the 17-race 2010 Monster Energy Supercross Series. So we called up the champ just before New Year’s Eve and asked him to gaze into his crystal ball and tell us what he saw in regard to the new season.
Racer X: Ricky, what are you doing? Ricky Carmichael: I’m back in Florida just taking the trash out and just hanging out. I’m fixing to go to the gym and then planning on taking it easy.
Before we get this supercross preview spooled up, I want ask you how your 2010 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series program is shaping up. Is everyone in the race shop up in Charlotte beating and banging away to get your equipment ready for your first race at Daytona International Speedway on February 12?
Oh yeah. Everything is really good, you know? Like anything, it’s trying to be ready and come out swinging and trying to win that first race at Daytona. Everyone is working away and making sure everything is ready to go. Like at any top level of racing, man, attention to detail is key.
You’re doing the entire 25-race Camping World series in 2010, correct?
Yes, correct. I’m looking forward to that. I’m looking forward to doing the whole series. I’ll also do 10 ARCA (Automobile Racing Club of America) races and four NASCAR Nationwide races. I’m really excited about the opportunity I have and I think I’m well on my way in trying to make this thing happen. It’s all up to me now.
Okay, we’re a little over a week out from the 2010 Monster Energy AMA Supercross Series season opener at Angel Stadium. Before we get going on your preview of the season, now that you’re retired, do you miss the intensity of getting ready for the new season?
Yeah, there are definitely times, without a doubt, I miss being on my training regimen and miss being so strict and being on my routine. Absolutely there are days that I miss that. Without a doubt. And being under the sun and practicing and then getting the chance to execute when the sun goes down and the lights come on, without a doubt I miss it. Absolutely. That’s the competitor in me. I like the program I had and I do miss it at times, for sure.
What do you think about the coming season? Is it going to be a good one?
Yeah, I do. I always try to relate back to when I was racing and stuff. The depth, you know, was deeper some years more than others. This year will be good. My last season in 2007 – when I raced part-time – it was myself, James and Chad and any of the three of us could win any night. James and I had some phenomenal battles and we kind of set the tempo there and were kind of running away with the races.
This year, if I’m going on pure speed, obviously James is the guy. We all know that. But at the same time, it’s 17 races and he’s shown some imperfections. There have been times where he’s made some huge mistakes. We all know he’s in great shape and he has a great program. He has just about everything he needs to be champion.
With that being said, you have Chad Reed. He has experience of winning titles and being consistent. He’s probably the most consistent guy out there. We also have Ryan Villopoto who was sick last year, came back, and, what did he win, one or two supercrosses?
He won at Seattle and Las Vegas…
Yeah, he’s going to be good. So there’s three guys right there that can win on any night. And then you have Ryan Dungey. I’ve watched him ride quite a few times here in the off-season. He looks good. I think he’s to the point now where he looks good, he just needs to race with those three guys and he’s going to get better. He really has no pressure on him like these other guys do. These other guys… James HAS to win; Chad HAS to win; Villopoto, it’s his second year, it’s his breakout year. So if there is anybody who is in the catbird seat to win some races, and who is going to have the most fun, it’s going to be Ryan. He’s going to learn a lot. There are going to be some weekends that are going to be really hard and I think there are going to be some weekends that are really good.
And, obviously, Josh Grant. I have to tip my hat to him. He caught me by surprise last year, no doubt. He definitely stepped his program up. For the sport and the way everything is in the world right now I think that the depth of the field couldn’t come at a better time. The supercross class is going to be great. There is going to be more depth as far as guys that can win that we’ve had in a long time. I’m excited to watch it. Whoever wins it, they’re going to have to earn it. That’s the way I’m looking at it.
Ryan Villopoto has been riding out at the Kawasaki test track all winter, while Chad Reed was racing in Australia. The two have only tested together a few times, but the word is that there is a bit of “coolness” between them. What do you think about that? Do they need to be buddy-buddy and work together as a team to make a run at Stewart?
When you say coolness, like they were getting together good or there was some animosity?
Uhm, I don’t want to put words in anybody’s mouth, but...
[Laughs] I’ll say it for you. I’m going to interrupt you. It’s very hard. It’s one thing to get midway through the season and you have a top guy and you have second tier guy who you thought would be like a fifth-place guy starts winning—that’s one thing. I think it’s going to be very tough to have two top guys on one team. I mean, let’s face it, if the factory only has one part, somebody is going to get gypped! The guy that needs to get gypped and not get that special part is a guy who isn’t ahead of the other dude in the series, you know? That’s just the way it is. The guy in the lead or the top guy on the team, he deserves to get that part.
You know I don’t think it’s going to be the riders that are going to be that much of a problem. If you look at them, I think they both have respect for each other. Chad is getting a few years on him, so he’s been down that road. He went down it with me. I mean, we hated each other! He’s grown up now. He’s a grown man and he’s married and he’s been down that road and he knows that it’s not a good road to go down. It’s a lose-lose for everybody.
Honestly, I think the biggest thing that’s going to be a problem is everybody’s entourage. That’s what’s going to mess it up. This guy’s boy in this corner is saying this, and the other guy’s boy in that corner is saying that. That’s what’s going to be a problem. It’s unfortunate it’s that way. Do I think it’s going to be a problem on the track? No. I think those guys will work together. I think it will be good for them to be teammates and help strengthen their chances of trying to win the title back from James.
What about Honda? You have Andrew Short and Davi Millsaps. What do you think of that outfit?
I don’t know what Honda has in their arsenal. I know they don’t have Ivan [Tedesco], and I think Ivan was probably one of the most solid guys they had on their program. It’s interesting to me why they wouldn’t give that guy a ride and give him what he’s worth. I think he worked hard and deserved just as much as anybody else that’s riding for that team. That’s my personal opinion and I am somewhat biased because he’s a good friend of mine. Business is business, I guess. We’ve all been at Honda and they have their way of doing business and that’s the decision they came with. It just seems so weird for factory Honda to come to a race and really – and no disrespect to the other guys – not have one of the top guys. Davi is a great rider and Andrew has his flashes here and there, but it’s definitely not like the mid-1980s for them. That’s for sure.
What about a rider like Kevin Windham?
I’ve got a lot of respect for Kevin. I love to watch the guy ride. He’s like poetry in motion. I think at the right time and at the right place he could do pretty good and slip up in there. I know he always gets excited when he goes to Houston and Dallas and stuff like that. I’d like to see the guy get a win. I’m a big fan of Kevin.
Any sleepers out there? Any young guys like Justin Brayton or Josh Hill? Do you see any other guys that can pull a rabbit out of their hat and win a race?
Hmmm…. No, I think the rabbits are going to be hard to pull out of hats. I’d like to see Ivan get up on that box and obviously I’d like to see him get a win, as well. I’d just like to see him get a win. That would be a nice little feather in his cap. As far as that, as far as any other guys going out and pulling a rabbit out, I don’t think it’s going to happen. The field is just too deep and these top guys are so programmed and their programs are so solid and so regimented that the days of luck are really thin.
Okay, my man, I’m going to put you on the spot: Do you want to make a prediction as to who will win the 2010 title?
[Laughs] Oh man, it’s so hard to predict. I’m not going to make bets I’m not sure of. As I said earlier in the interview, if you look at it and write it all down on paper, Stewart is the favorite. He’s the fastest, he has a great program—I know the program he is on because I used to be on that program. So there’s not many secrets there. I know what he’s going through and I know he’ll be prepared. But at the same time, hey, I’ve seen imperfections. Nobody is perfect by no means. He’s the favorite. I enjoy watching him race. I’m glad to say that I raced against him. We had some great, great and epic battles. I have a lot of respect for the guy. He’s the favorite, but look at what Villopoto showed us last year. You never know, it’s hard to predict. I guess I’m saying Stewart is the guy. He has all the pieces of the puzzle. It’s his to lose, how about that?
Alright. Are you going to be at Anaheim 1?
I’ll be at A1. I’m super-pumped to be up in the booth with Fro-Daddy [Jeff Emig] and my man Ralph [Shaheen, for the live SPEED coverage] and I’m looking forward to that. Yeah, man, looking forward to seeing the races and also looking forward to seeing the fans. I’ll be around there signing some autographs and stuff. I’m looking forward to seeing all my fans that have followed me in motocross and supercross and have watched me on four wheels.
Thanks Ricky, happy new year.
You too, EJ, see you at Anaheim.