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Between the Motos: Ricky Carmichael

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While a hard rain spit down on the Qualcomm Stadium pit area, Johnny O’Mara, Scott Taylor, Ivan Tedesco, and a few others – all people who had a profound effect on Ricky Carmichael’s astounding motocross career – sat in the lobby of the Valli Motorsports 18-wheeler glued to a TV set. It was tuned to the SPEED Network and everyone inside was snake-eyeing the jet-black and electric-green No. 4 Monster Energy Toyota being wheeled around the 31-degree high banks of the 2.5-mile Daytona International Speedway. With only 17 laps remaining in the 80-lap ARCA Racing Series Lucas Oil Slick Mist 200, RC was smack in the middle of the lead draft and flinging his car up and down the track in an effort to get to the front. The last few laps turned into frenzy as all smelled blood in the form of the checkered flag. Despite six cautions and a 21-minute red-flag period, Carmichael had made it through unscathed and it was pedal to the metal time. Carmichael and rookie sensation Danica Patrick were door to door at the white flag, the two banging off each other repeatedly. At the finish, Patrick placed sixth, inches in front of Carmichael. Although just shy of driving the No. 4 Toyota into the top five, Carmichael was pleased with his result. After the race, we spoke with him.

  • Despite his four-wheel obligations, Ricky Carmichael has been a regular on the SX tour so far this year, doing commentary on the broadcasts.
  • Carmichael ready to race at Daytona.
Racer X: Ricky, how are you feeling the morning after your race last night?
Ricky Carmichael: You know, I was happy with the way it all turned out. Obviously, we wanted to win and we’re in good contention, so I can’t complain too much as that’s one of the few times, at that level, that I’ve had a chance to win. It was one of the best chances I’ve had. You know, we could have won, but on the bright side, I learned a lot as far as drafting and knowing what works and what doesn’t work. My car was pretty loose so I had to be pretty careful. I had to be on my game. It was good. I feel so much more confident this year.

Yeah, I could see that. There were about 10 of you in the lead draft as the race wound down to the final laps, and I noticed you were really slicing and dicing within the pack, trying to make something happen.
Yeah, we were. I think with like 10 laps to go I kind of pulled out and got behind the 51 [the car driven by James Buescher]; he was the pole sitter and he had the fastest car out there. I was hoping to get a run up the outside, but those cars, unless you have a line of 10 of them, it doesn’t work that good - and the outside wasn’t working. Once I knew we weren’t going to get a run, then I just pulled down to the bottom and was just hoping for the best.

How did the beginning of the race go for you? On lap seven, one car got sideways right in front of you and it appeared that you really had to check up. It was a very close call and that same car set off a huge wreck.
Yeah, the 60 car [Patrick Shelta]... I actually picked up quite a few positions. I qualified 14th and we had a good run going to the outside. He got really loose and we had to roll out a little bit. Luckily, there weren’t too many people behind us because we had pulled away from the second draft of cars. We were able to slip back in and then the next lap the caution came out. We were just trying to get to the front, and in that race it’s really important to get as far up front as you can get. That’s what we were doing. Man, we stayed out of a lot of trouble and it ended up working out really good.

You and Danica Patrick ran close to one another throughout the entire race, right?
Yeah, we did. She fell back a little bit there. At one point she was the last car on the lead lap. She got spun out [Note: By former Renault Formula 1 driver Nelson Piquet, Jr.] and when she spun out she came in and took tires and all of us did not have fresh tires. So she kind of got hooked up there with tires while all of us were on the worn-out tires, so it ended up working out a lot better for her. She definitely got a gift there, but hey, that’s racing. She was able to capitalize on her own mistake, actually.

Did you talk with her before or after the race?
I talked her before the race. She was pretty cool. I thought I got a lot of PR last year and all the Cup guys were on pit road watching me and you think there are a lot of cameras, but I’ve never seen as many cameras on someone in my life as I saw on her. She was definitely getting a lot of PR and she was the talk of the town. Yeah, I talked to her a little bit and she was cool.

You two were definitely banging into one another and bending up metal on the white-flag lap...
I don’t know what she was doing there. She kind of caught me off guard. It was for, what, sixth place or whatever? She was door slamming me and I was like, “Dude, what are you doing? It’s not like we’re going to pass anybody. You’re going to take us both out.” Anyhow, it was a fun race and like I said, those tires definitely helped her out and got her back up to the front.

During those last five laps, it looked like a bunch of sharks in a feeding frenzy. Was it intense?
Oh yeah! We were all jockeying, man! We all wanted to get in position. It was funny, I was kind of backed by a couple dudes there – like the third- and fourth-place guys – and they were losing their minds a little bit.

  • Carmichael's car ready to run.
  • RC chats it up with Danica Patrick and Boris Said.
Is that kind of racing at all similar to moto, or is it a whole different type of racing?
It’s a whole different kind of racing. It really is. There’s a lot more strategy involved. You know, if you were racing on a really rutty track, that’s what it would be like. Here, you really have to focus on the draft and what the track is doing and who is doing what. It’s almost like riding a muddy track with a lot of ruts; you have to pick the ruts that are not as deep or not as long or not as rough.

How did you feel when you climbed out of the car? Was the team happy?
The team was fantastic and happy, really. They didn’t have a long time to work on that car, so we could have been a little bit better preparationwise, but for the most part, the team did a great job and was excited.

As of late, a few high-profile supercross riders have been refusing to cooperate with the media. Could you see that happening in NASCAR?
I don’t know both sides or any secrets or anything, but it definitely seems bizarre. You know, the biggest thing is that the same people you see on the way up, you see on the way down. You can’t burn bridges and you have to treat people the way you want to be treated. You’re never going to win against a newspaper or a magazine writer because they definitely got more ink than you do. The better you keep those guys in your back pocket, the better you are. And as far as coming to NASCAR and blowing someone off, you’ve seen it, even a guy like Tony Stewart, he needs NASCAR way more than NASCAR needs him. They’ll be around a lot longer than he will be, so you got to treat people fair and you got to treat them right because you’ll never know when you need them.

So, next Friday night at Daytona, you’ll be lined up for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series opener. This being your sophomore year in the series, are you feeling good about things?
I’m really excited for the truck race coming up. We have two really good trucks. Our race trucks are going to be really, really nice. I want to get through practice and qualifying and be as good as we can be. We want to ride and learn and be there at the end and try to get that Monster Energy truck up on the podium. A win would be fantastic, but a top five would be like a win, for sure.

I saw you at the San Francisco Supercross last Saturday and I know you watched the San Diego Supercross on TV this morning, what do you think about this championship? What do you think about this craziness?
Yeah, it’s getting crazy. Ryan Dungey is still kind of in control, but he needs to get a win at Anaheim next week. He needs to show these guys that it’s his. It’s been two weekends in a row that he’s made mistakes. Ryan Villopoto has also made mistakes. The only the guy that is really keeping it between the lines is Josh Hill. These other contenders need to get up there.

If you could look into a crystal ball, do you think this championship is going to go right down to the end?
Yeah, this championship is going to go to the end, for sure. It’s really good for the sport that it’s happening and I can’t wait to see who the last man standing is.
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