The 2007 Amp’d Mobile AMA Supercross Championship was going to be a season of change. Before the series even started, Makita Suzuki’s Ricky Carmichael, the defending champion, announced that 2007 would be his last season of professional motorcycle racing, though he would race an abbreviated schedule as something of a farewell tour. The plan was to do about half the races in both SX and outdoors, where he was already considered the greatest of all time with his ten straight AMA Motocross Championships (no one else has more than three straight outdoors). It was a rare case of a top professional rider going out on his own terms, something we are now seeing with Ryan Villopoto’s GP adventure in 2015.
It was a time for a new champion, and no one was looking past the obvious favorites, Kawasaki’s James Stewart and L&M Yamaha’s Chad Reed. They were the other two-thirds of the epic battle for the 2006 AMA Supercross title, which ultimately went to Carmichael with just 2 points to spare. Stewart had claimed the FIM World Supercross GP title, but that was not what he or his team really wanted—they wanted both.
Reed had already been an AMA Supercross Champion in 2004, and was already working on building his own team with Larry Brooks, similar to what Jeremy McGrath did late in his epic career. (And I missed a chance at a cool factoid in yesterday’s 2006 chapter: The San Diego SX race where Jeremy picked up a fourth-place finish was his last as a professional. And thanks to “Fubar117” for posting this link last night to Jeremy McGrath’s nac-nac that was missed on TV due to Stewart’s crash.)
Mike LaRocco, the iron man of supercross, had also retired in 2006—his last race was two weeks after Jeremy’s. LaRocco, a recent inductee into the AMA’s Motorcycle Hall of Fame, finished eighth at the Georgia Dome in his last-ever professional race.
Reed teamed himself with Larry Brooks, McGrath’s old team manager, and they stayed on the Yamaha YZ450F that he had begun piloting the previous season. Yamaha had its own factory team but would still place their best equipment with Reed, knowing the Australian was their best bet to get the title back. He was only 2 points away the previous year, and that came after separating his shoulder in the middle of the series!
Kevin Windham was back as well, his Factory Connection team now known as SoBe/No Fear/Samsung Mobile Honda. He was one of the true veterans by now, this being his twelfth season as a pro. Only Stewart’s Kawasaki teammate Tim Ferry was older among the top contenders.
Like the previous season, the series would actually start in December 2006 with the two races in Canada: Toronto and Vancouver.
Okay, before we go into the FIM races up north, something else was going down in a Pasadena, California superior court. Remember the notorious murders of Mickey and Trudy Thompson back in 1988? The shooters had still never been found, but the man that many felt had the most reason to have the Thompsons murdered—former business partner and longtime supercross promoter Michael Goodwin—was investigated for much of the nineties (once he’d returned from two years of sailing in the Caribbean and a couple years in Aspen, Colorado). The case had drawn national attention by the public crusade of Thompson’s sister, Colleen Campbell, who wanted to get Goodwin charged with the murders. He had been arrested on a tax fraud case, but not the murders. Both drifted in and out of the news, sometimes as a result of publicity on shows like America’s Most Wanted and 48 Hours. Goodwin had even shown up at a press conference for the Anaheim SX one year, which rubbed many the wrong way—Mickey and Trudy’s offices were at the stadium at the time of their murders.
There was an attempt to put Goodwin on trial in Orange County, where Colleen Campbell was well connected, with the argument being that, because Goodwin lived in Laguna Beach at the time, that’s where he had planned the killings. An appeals court threw that out over jurisdiction, only to see Los Angeles County pick up the case with renewed interest.
Finally, in 2001, thirteen years after the murders and conflicting issues of jurisdiction, Goodwin was finally charged with two counts of murder with special circumstances. The main witness was a man named Ronald Stevens, a neighbor of the Thompsons by about three-quarters of a mile. He told police he had seen two men parked in a car a couple of days before the murders, scoping out the Thompson’s Bradbury home. Why he didn’t come forward at first is unknown. But in 2001 he picked Goodwin out of a line-up as the driver of the car (though he had changed the story a couple of times, saying the driver’s hair was blond, then later saying it was red, and that the passenger was white, then later saying he was black).
Goodwin sat in jail without bond for five years, as the trial did not start until the fall of 2006 after numerous hearings about evidence, witnesses, jurisdiction, and more. It then took the prosecution a full month to present its case, followed by the judge rejecting Goodwin’s effort to dismiss all charges on the grounds that there was only circumstantial evidence linking Goodwin to the murders, like someone recalling hearing Goodwin say Thompson would end up dead before he paid him a dime of the $793,000 civil judgment won by Thompson after their failed business partnership.
After six days of deliberations, and on the very day of the Anaheim 1 press conference (January 4, 2007), Goodwin was found guilty of the murders and sentenced to life in prison, with no chance for parole. Despite his bravado and boisterousness, Goodwin never testified in the trial to explain his side of the story or his actions and movements following the crime. He is still serving his sentence in a California prison, and has tried numerous routes of appeal.
Okay, back to the racing: Carmichael decided to go along, as did the rest of the series contenders. But unlike the previous season, Stewart would have a terrible misadventure in Canada. First, during the afternoon timed practice he would get into what the FIM deemed on “dangerous riding” altercation with Makita Suzuki’s Ivan Tedesco that left Tedesco with three broken bones in his hand. Stewart would later be fined $2,000 for the incident.
Then, in the main event, James would work his way up to Reed at the Rogers Centre after a quick start by the #22. James tracked Chad down, only to be rebuffed a few times—Reed was much better prepared than he was the previous year. The action got physical, as you will see when you fast forward to the 32:00 mark here.
With three laps to go, on the approach to the last jump, Reed’s front wheel touched Stewart’s back wheel and sent the Kawasaki off the side of the track. And when he went to get right back on, he didn’t look and was landed on by SoBe/Samsung Honda’s Travis Preston (33:05). It’s a bizarre and brutal crash, and as new broadcaster Jeff Emig put it, “It’s unbelievable that Stewart didn’t get hurt.”
The admittedly refreshed Reed rode off with a hard-earned win, Carmichael was a somewhat surprising second—he sure didn’t look like a semi-retired racer!—and Stewart finished third. But the FIM fined him $4,000 the following Wednesday. Stewart issued a public apology for both incidents, saying he was really sorry for both incidents: “I want everyone to know that I respect my fellow racers and would never do anything to jeopardize their safety.”
Stewart did hurt his ankle in the collision with Preston, and would be limping through Vancouver. Chad Reed, on the other hand, told Cycle News he “just didn’t have it tonight” in Vancouver. Add it up, and it opened the door for a surprising win by Carmichael, who ran Stewart down halfway through the main event, made a pass, and kept going. Incredibly, the part-time rider was the FIM World Supercross GP points leader!
Reed’s off night in Vancouver (third) got worse just before Anaheim when he crashed while testing chipped his collarbone. Chad was by many accounts doubtful for Anaheim but then showed up and gave it a go. He would gut out another third-place finish, though he was losing ground quickly to Stewart, who won and then got a bonus in RC once again beating Reed.
In the Lites class the winner was Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Ryan Villopoto, followed by visiting French rider Christophe Pourcel and Yamaha of Troy’s Jason Lawrence. One week later Pourcel, the reigning MX2 World Champion, would turn the tables on Villopoto and get the win, with Chris Gosselaar third, giving Mitch Payton’s team a 1-2-3 podium.
Stewart also won in Phoenix, though it took him seven laps to run down early leader Carmichael, who once again finished second, helping Stewart in the longer game because he was helping put Reed in a hole. Here are the early stages and one of the battle between Ricky and James.
Anaheim 2 had the same winners as Anaheim 1: Stewart and Villopoto. But what it was missing was Ricky Carmichael, who made good on his pledge to only do a handful of races, even though he was in championship contention. It was the true beginning of the end for Carmichael’s extraordinary career. Reed finished second at A2, but he was already 13 points down in the AMA standings. Nick Wey finished third on his MDK Honda, only to find out later that his fuel tested for too much oxygen, along with Team Yamaha’s Josh Hill and Butler Brothers MX’s Jason Thomas.
San Francisco was next, and this was truly one of the best SX main events I’ve ever attended. Carmichael wanted to come back out because the race was so close to Fox Racing, his longtime sponsor as well as Stewart’s. This time Reed was ready to go—the Thor MX pilot probably wanted nothing more than to spoil the other guys’ party, which he very nearly did. If you’ve never seen this race, take the time to do it: Fast forward to 23:20 mark for the start of the race.
Reed’s mistake may or may not have made the difference in Carmichael’s next-to-last win in AMA Supercross, but getting caught by Stewart at the end for second certainly cost him in the championship chase. He seemed absolutely set on winning Anaheim 3, which would not include Carmichael, and he took the fight right to Stewart, passing back and forth and showing more life than he had since winning way back in Toronto. But in the end, Stewart still beat him. Here’s A3.
Villopoto continued to lead the in the SX Lites class, his task made a little easier by the fact that Pourcel had already returned to France to heal a broken hand and get ready for his MX2 world title defense. But in Houston he would get into it a little with Jason Lawrence, who was always up for some banging. Check it out here, with RC and Fro in the booth with Ralph Sheheen.
Stewart would get his fifth win in six races at Reliant Stadium. It just seemed like he was now in full control of the series, but then came San Diego and another unforced error while leading—first during opening ceremonies, when he endoed over a jump, calling it “the most embarrassing moment of my life,” and then again during the main event after passing Reed for the lead.
His crash happens just before the 40:00 mark, and while Stewart did recover for fifth, Reed’s win seemed to breathe new life into his season. But he couldn’t make on gains at the next round at Atlanta, and ended up crashing and finishing third while Stewart won over Carmichael, who came back out of the TV booth to race and keep Stewart honest throughout the main.
Villopoto was able to wrap up his first SX Lites title early with another win in Qualcomm Stadium, and then the West Region went on break. When the East Region got started at the Georgia Dome, it was a brand new competitor and a brand new winner, Makita Suzuki’s Ryan Dungey, signed out of the B class by Roger DeCoster the year before. Dungey paid immediate dividends, bettering Monster Energy/Pro Circuit Kawasaki’s Darcy Lange and Yamaha of Troy’s Matt Goerke. Dungey was helped by the fact that pre-race favorite Ben Townley, riding a KX250F for Pro Circuit, had his engine blow while he was in the middle of a late charge.
The former MX2 World Champion Townley, imported by Mitch Payton from New Zealand, would rebound quickly and win the next round at St. Louis, but that wasn’t the biggest story of the night. Instead, it was Carmichael once again putting himself in the right place at the right time and snatching a win. How did he do it? Watch what happens.
(It’s also worth seeing Tim Ferry pick up the wrong bike after crashing with Ivan Tedesco!)
Actually, the whole race is worth watching, because this is the last AMA Supercross that Ricky Carmichael would ever win.
Stewart and Reed exchanged words after their dust-ups in St. Louis, but James’ second-place finish again meant that he once again came out of a bad night just a little better than Chad.
The 2006 Daytona SX would be won by Stewart over Carmichael, with Reed third—another 5 points lost. Then at Orlando one week later, Carmichael rode his last AMA Supercross at Orlando’s Citrus Bowl. The whole night was based on Ricky’s farewell, and even his longtime friend and rival Stefan Everts flew over from Belgium to see Ricky’s last supercross. He then went out and rode like the champ he was, but Stewart rode even better. This is another race where you may want to just sit back and watch the whole thing, because it’s not only vintage Carmichael; it’s one of the best rides of James Stewart’s career too.
Carmichael closed the book on his epic career with forty-eight main event wins (and that doesn’t count the three he won in Canada as FIM rounds) and five AMA Supercross Championships. And he went out like a lion.
By this point is was becoming very clear that the damage done to Reed in the early rounds when Ricky was around were going to cost him his title shot. He was almost a full race behind with five rounds to go. Reed had a shot at making some ground at the next round in Indianapolis after Stewart got a bad start, but then James came through and caught him again.
We should mention the unlikely win by Branden Jesseman on a Motoworld Yamaha at Orlando, as well as what happened to Dungey: He was torpedoed by a cartwheeling bike belonging to Matt Georke, going the wrong direction after a pile-up behind him—and this was a week after not even qualifying at Daytona! Watch this blurry but crazy video at the 25:30 mark, causing a red flag and destroying his motorcycle.
The East Region was actually the most interesting of 2007. Between Townley, Lange, and Yamaha of Troy’s Ryan Morais, this was an epic three-way battle royale. Dungey was excellent, but those two races with no points cost him dearly. It would all go down to the final race in Detroit’s Ford Field.
At the fifteenth round in Seattle, at Qwest Field, James Stewart not only clinched his first AMA Supercross Championship, but also unified the title belts by clinching the FIM championship as well. He then won Las Vegas as well, with a total of thirteen wins—third most in series history. It was Stewart truly at the top of his game, and Reed having a frustrating year, and Carmichael riding off into the sunset…
But not quite yet. Carmichael would show up for exactly half of the twelve rounds of the 450 Motocross Championship, and would actually win all six times. In doing so he obviously frustrated Stewart, who continued crashing and making unforced errors. And when Ricky bowed out at Spring Creek, Stewart was already out of the series for surgery, opening the door for Yamaha’s Grant Langston to sweep the last three rounds and snatch the title away from Red Bull KTM’s Mike Alessi. It should have been Stewart by a mile, but he couldn’t stay off the ground.
The events of 2007 also helped start the flame that became the burning rivalry that still exists between Stewart and Reed to this day. And names like Villopoto and Dungey were starting to get race wins with more and more frequency. We’ll get more into that in the years to come.
2007 AMA Supercross Championship
- James Stewart Kawasaki 385
- Chad Reed Yamaha 334
- Tim Ferry Kawasaki 276
- Kevin Windham Honda 239
- David Vuilemin Honda 196
- Ivan Tedesco Suzuki 195
- Michael Byrne Suzuki 189
- Ricky Carmichael Suzuki 160
- Heath Voss Yamaha 160
- Paul Carpenter Honda 143
Lites SX East Region
- Ben Townley Kawasaki 133
- Ryan Morais Yamaha 130
- Darcy Lange Kawasaki 117
- Branden Jesseman Yamaha 103
- Ryan Dungey Suzuki 98
Lites SX West Region
- Ryan Villopoto Kawasaki 197
- Jason Lawrence Yamaha 157
- Josh Hill Yamaha 128
- Jake Weimer Honda 120
- Chris Gosselaar Kawasaki 111