A fortnight from the start of the 2015 Monster Energy AMA Supercross Championship, Racer X thought it was time weigh in with the greatest single motocross rider of all time, Ricky Carmichael. Eight years removed from his last supercross title, RC still wields a very heavy hand in this sport. And that’s what we love about the guy. Yes, while both motocross and supercross made him wealthy and famous (rightfully so), Carmichael still holds the sport close to his heart, putting all he has into the many motocross endeavors he creates and supports. And we all know one of those endeavors is the RCH Racing team, who may just have the inside line on the 2015 supercross title. When a fifteen-time champion talks, people listen. So when we caught up with Carmichael back in his native Florida, we were all ears.
Racer X: Ricky, Christmas is a few days away. How are things for you? Everything good?
Ricky Carmichael: Everything is good, man. Just getting geared up here. We’re going to do Christmas here in Florida, and then the day after Christmas we’re going to Aspen to do a little family trip. I’ll fly into Anaheim for the opening supercross on that Friday. I’ll get in on Friday and I’ll have some TV meetings and the series starts then. It’s on. Let the fun begin, if you will. Really looking forward to it.
Here’s a question I never asked you before: Are you a good skier?
[Laughs] Am I a good skier? Well, let’s just put it this way: I can ski and I can snowboard and I go at my own pace. I’m able to hold my own. I don’t do any tricks, by no means. I can ski most of the conditions, but honesty, it’s just more of a relaxing thing for me. I don’t push it because I know how fast it can go bad. Like I said, I can hold my own.
The big question: What will you be up to in 2015?
That’s a great question. Yeah, a busy year, but all in all, a good kind of busy. Being co-owner of RCH Racing has definitely been a handful, but it’s something that I’ve enjoyed for the most part. I enjoy the challenges that come along with it. With all that, I’ll be doing TV for Feld [Motor Sports] and Fox Sports for seven or eight of the supercrosses. I’ll also be attending three or four of the Amsoil Arenacross races for my Ricky Carmichael’s Road to Supercross. I’ll be checking in on those events. All in all, I put two thirds of my time in supercross and a third of it is in the arenacross series. In between all that I have the Ricky Carmichael Amateur Supercross at Daytona. I have a lot of things happening, especially these first three months of the year. After my amateur supercross that we do at Daytona, it kind of slows up just a little bit, and then we’ll move on to the outdoors. And between all that we have the Ricky Carmichael University’s. We’ll have several of those. Man, I’m in a great spot right now. I’ve got all that I want, and I’m thankful for all the opportunities. A lot of fun things happening.
When I look at the arenacross-to-supercross series program that your name is on, I think of a guy like Tyler Bowers and what he’s been able to make happen via the two series. Are you a big fan of the arenacross-to-supercross system?
Yeah, I’m a huge fan of the process, even before the Road to Supercross Series, the Amsoil Arenacross Series was a great avenue to get your feet wet. Some of these amateurs came straight into the hornets’ nest—into Monster Energy Supercross—and that’s a big leap. I think it’s a great stepping-stone. I think also that there are guys, like you talked about Tyler Bowers and I think of Zach Ames for example, those guys are making a great living. Ames is making a great living in the arenacross series. There are guys like that, that maybe will never make a name for themselves in Monster Energy Supercross, but can damn sure do it in Amsoil Arenacross. There’s an upside to it for guys like Tyler Bowers, where they can move on to Monster Energy Supercross, or for a guy like Zach Ames who can make a great living. I have a lot of respect for all those guys in that series. I think for the older guys it’s about finding what they think they’re going to have the best chance of succeeding at and make a good living. For the young guys coming up, I think the series is a great tool to help them come through the Road to Supercross program and to get sharpened up for when they take the stage at Monster Energy Supercross.
As far as RCH racing goes, during the past few years you and everyone involved in the team has spoken a lot about putting all the right tools in place to have a genuine shot at winning a supercross title. It looks like that time has come. Ken Roczen is now in place and an immediate, full-on contender for both race wins and the Monster Energy Supercross championship. This is a very big year for the RCH program, isn’t it?
Yeah, it’s a very big year for RCH Racing. I think if you’re a deep insider of the sport and you know what’s going on and you’ve been around for a long, long, long time and in the trenches and if you know who is who, I think you could see the writing on the wall with the staffing that we were putting in place what we were eventually building for. We were building for where we eventually wanted to be. If you’ve been in the game for a while, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that the people we were putting in place, that we were gearing up for something special and to be a championship contending team. With all that being said, we’ve been able to have great sponsors involved who helped us go get a guy like Ken Roczen to position ourselves to be a title contender. That’s what we set out to do three years ago when Carey [Hart] and I were talking and bouncing around some ideas. We went and got the people in place, and now it’s time to go out there and make it happen.
It really is like playing in the big game now, isn’t it? I’d assume, with you being the racer you are, you have to like that feeling. Like, it’s win or not win time.
Oh, absolutely! We’ve been building and building, and now we have the great sponsors on board that has allowed us to go out and get one of the best riders out there, and it’s up to us now. I feel like I’ve got my finger on the pulse now, along with a lot of other key guys and employees on the team as well, and I feel like we’ve had some great things happen in the off-season. I feel like we’re in great spot and you’re exactly right—it’s time for us to make it happen. We’ve had several years to build and I think we’re in a great spot and it’s time to produce. When I sit back and I look, when you have one of the best riders and you don’t get the results that you want, you didn’t do your job. That’s the way I look at things. For us, we want to try and win every single weekend, and if we don’t it’s going to be a tough pill to swallow. There is a lot of great competition out there. We don’t take anyone lightly. We want to do the best we can and try to win. I know we have all the tools and out sponsors are expecting us to win.
You’re the most successful, most decorated rider in the history of motocross. Is Ken Roczen, as far as his riding and his mindset and his training, right where you want him?
You know, I think one thing that has really surprised me about Ken up to this point is that he’s very mentally strong. He doesn’t call upon my help, really. He’s happy with the bike. Do I think we’ll have to change some things? Absolutely. I think that happens with most riders. You know they’ll say, “The bike works great!” but then as soon as you go to the first race and maybe things don’t go to plan, then you find things that weren’t working properly. Right now I think he’s where he wants to be. I’m pretty happy with him from what I’ve heard and what I’ve seen. Going back to what I said about him being mentally strong, he’s confident in his program and he thinks that’s best for him. He’s confident in his riding. He has his goals. You really don’t have to spoon-feed him much and that is a huge ingredient to being a champion.
Will Ken have that same will to win as you did?
[Laughs] I sure hope so! Yeah, I hope so. I think that he does. From what I’ve seen and how strong he is mentally is giving me confidence in him, as well. Not that I didn’t. A lot of people know Ken as a rider, but they don’t really get to see the inside of him and the mental side of him, and that’s what I’ve been impressed throughout getting to know him and him being on the RCH racing team is how good he is on the mental side of things.
The competitive landscape for the 2015 supercross series—everyone reading this is going to want to hear you weigh in. How do you see it?
I think that the sport is in a great spot right now. There is a lot of parity and a lot of competition. There are some veterans that are going to be in the game. Then there’ll be the young guys. We have a lot of young riders that are hungry and who have a lot of personality. You take Ken, you take [Justin] Barcia, you take [Eli] Tomac, and they are there. I’m not sleeping on [Davi] Millsaps skills either. I think he’s going to come in there and he’s going to be good. I think [Trey] Canard will be there as well. He’s shown to be good time and time again, especially from the end of last year through Monster Cup. I think it’s going to be fantastic season. At the end of the day it’s going to take race wins and it’s going to take consistency. That never changes. It never, ever does. The guy who has best box score and the best average normally wins the championship. There’s no reinventing the wheel on that side of things. I’m just really happy that we can be faced with some of the best competitors, and hopefully at the end of the series the team and Ken will be on top. Nevertheless, it’s going to be exciting for everybody to watch. I respect everyone so much. The sport is really hard and it’s grueling and it’ll be really fun to see who the last man standing will be.
Down deep, do you see any front-runners right now?
Obviously, I’d like to see Ken up there winning every weekend, but the fact of the matter is that six or seven different guys can win. It’s a lot different from my day and Jeremy’s [McGrath] day. Back then there would only be two or three guys. Even when myself and [Chad] Reed and James [Stewart] were racing, there were only three guys, realistically, who could win. That’s not necessarily the case these days. You’ve got six guys, seven guys who can legitimately win, and that’s what’s cool. Do I see a clear-cut guy right now who can dominate? No, I don’t. I think we’ll have to see how it all goes the first two, three, or four rounds. I think everyone rides good the first round and the second round and so on. Then, after about the fourth or fifth round, you start to see the cream rise to the top and who the main players are going to be for the long haul. It’s going to exciting. I don’t see a clear winner.
Ryan Villopoto will not be on the gate and in the fight come Angel Stadium. What do you think about that?
Obviously, Ryan’s going to be missed, but at the same time, and like I said, there’s going to be other great guys and the series is still going to be good. The coolest thing about it is that everyone is going to be going to the race not knowing who is going to win. That’s what you want as a sports fan. You know it’s going to be a good race. You don’t want to go to a race where it’s a blowout all the time. I think the series is going to be fine. Supercross is still going since McGrath left, and supercross is still going since I left. Nothing is going to change, man. We’ve got a great property right now and I have a lot of confidence in it.
And your take on RV going to Europe?
I’m a big supporter of RV. I love what he stands for. I love his approach to racing. I have a lot of respect for him. He’s a multi-time champion. He’s a no BS guy. He gets the job done. He doesn’t have a huge entourage and I respect that. I support what he does. I do know that it’s a lot of work to win these supercross championships and then move on to the outdoors. He’s done everything that he needs to do, in my mind. I support his decision, and I think it will be great for the sport in general for him to go over and compete in MXGP, and I’m definitely going to be pulling for him. For sure.
Would you have liked to done something like what RV is about to do?
Oh, absolutely. I would have loved to have had an opportunity to go over there. Maybe not to race the whole series, but I always wanted to go over and race the GPs. I just never got the chance. I was too caught up in the game of trying to win championships and just never put the time aside. Looking back, I wish I would have, but I can’t turn back the hands of time. Absolutely, I would have loved to have gone and participated in a couple of the historic GPs, for sure. I want to support RV, man. He’s got a great shot to go over there. I don’t think it’s going to be easy, but at the same time, if anybody can dethrone Cairolli, it’ll be RV.
Lastly, we’ve heard that you are now a partner in Fox Racing. Can you talk about that?
Absolutely. You know, I got a great opportunity to be a part of Fox Racing and a company that I’ve been associated for a very, very long time—over twenty years. I just am thankful for the opportunity. I believe in the brand, and I like what the brand stands for. Like I said, I’ve been a part of it for a long time and feel like I am part of it. Things are pretty exciting and I think we’re going to be in a good spot.