Carmichael and Stewart still the riders to beat
Despite much speculation over riders who might step up to become championship contenders this season one thing is certain, if anyone is to make a serious bid to win the 2004 AMA Chevrolet Motocross Championship they will have to go through either Ricky Carmichael or James Stewart. Coming into round two of the championship over Memorial Day weekend at High Point Raceway in Mt. Morris, Pa., Carmichael is the rider to beat in the 250 class and Stewart’s the man in the 125 series.
Many wondered how Carmichael would return after having knee surgery this winter. He hadn’t raced in seven months and was slated to race a four-stroke Honda for the first time in his career. At round one in Sacramento, Calif., Carmichael showed why he’s won a championship every year of his pro career. The eight-year pro from Havana, Fla., put in a Herculean effort to rehab his knee and get back in racing shape in time for the AMA Motocross season. He won in Sacramento despite, by his own admission, not being 100 percent fit.
“My knee feels good,” Carmichael explained. “But I’m not in what I would consider racing shape yet. I’ll get better as the season goes on. I haven’t really raced since October. Training and practicing is one thing, but racing is a whole new ballgame. I sort of let up a little in the middle of the motos at Hangtown and I figured the other guys would catch me, but fortunately I had enough of a margin that I didn’t have to fight too hard to get the win.”
Carmichael comes to High Point seeking his third-straight victory in the Memorial Weekend Classic. Yamaha’s David Vuillemin will be the only other former 250 winner in the field Sunday. Vuillemin surprised a lot of people by finishing second to Carmichael in the season opener. It marked Vuillemin’s first motocross podium finish in a year.
“People may think of me as a supercross specialist,” said Vuillemin, who won at High Point in 2000 and 2001. “I think I still have the ability to do well at motocross. It’s so tough every weekend in the nationals, but I’m going to give my best and hopefully good things will happen.”
Newly crowned THQ AMA Supercross champ Chad Reed also wants to prove his ability in the grueling motocross circuit. He was happy with his third-place result at round one and is looking forward to being in the championship hunt all season long on his factory Yamaha. Fourth ranked Kevin Windham is certain to be a fan favorite at High Point. The Factory Connection rider won at the scenic circuit in the 125 class in 1996 and is hoping to earn his first 250 win this weekend. Suzuki’s Sean Hamblin had a solid outing in Sacramento and comes into High Point ranked fifth.
Kawasaki 125 ace James Stewart will make his first appearance at High Point since 2002. He was injured and missed the race last year. High Point is one of the few tracks that where Stewart hasn’t been victorious. In 2002, he raced with an injured knee and then had a radiator spring a leak on his bike after a run-in with another rider in the second moto. He went on to finish 12th overall.
Stewart won the opener, but not in the dominating fashion his fans are accustomed to. Pro Circuit’s Kawasaki’s Stephane Roncada made Stewart work hard. Look for Roncada to be a leading contender again this Sunday. Defending High Point 125 winner Mike Brown is coming into this year’s race looking strong after a third-place result in the opener. Suzuki’s Broc Hepler and Red Bull KTM’s Ryan Hughes should also be factors in the 125 class. Michigan rider Kelly Smith joins Brown as a former High Point 125 winner. Smith comes into the weekend ranked 10th.
The Thor Nationals at High Point will be taped by ESPN2 for showing on Saturday, June 5 beginning at 1 p.m. EST.
For additional information on the race call (304) 284-0084 or visit the website www.racerproductions.com.
For immediate post-race results, points, live transponder scoring, in-depth series and rider information, regular columnists and much more, log onto www.USMotocross.com.
SATURDAY MAY 29, 2004
7:00 AM – 9:00 AM – Semi Truck Parking
9:00 AM – Paddock open to all National credential holders
9:00 AM – 12:30 PM – Registration and Tech at track for all professional riders
9:00 AM – 2:00 PM – Will Call
12:30 PM – 12:45PM – Riders Meeting Mandatory
1:00 PM – 1:20 PM – 125 Non-Seeded practice
1:25 PM – 1:45 PM – 125/250 Seeded practice
1:50 PM – 2:10 PM – 250 Non-Seeded practice
2:15 PM – 2:35 PM – 125 Non-Seeded Practice
2:40 PM – 3:00 PM – 125/250 Seeded Practice
3:05 PM – 3:25 PM – 250 Non Seeded Practice
3:45 PM to Completion – Pre-Qualifier Races 2 Heats 1 Consolation Race for 125 & 250
SUNDAY MAY 30, 2004
8:00 AM – 1:00 PM – Will Call
8:30 AM – Riders Meeting Mandatory
8:45 AM – Chapel Service
9:00 AM – 9:20 AM – 125 Practice
9:20 AM – 9:40 AM – 250 Practice
9:40 AM – 9:50 AM – Track Maintenance
9:50 AM – 10:10 AM – 125 Practice
10:10 AM – 10:30 AM – 250 Practice
10:45 to Completion – Qualifying Races 2 Heats 1 Consolation Race for 125 & 250
12:30 PM – Opening Ceremonies
1:00 PM – Moto 1- 125 National- 30 minutes + 2 laps
2:00 PM – Moto 1- 250 National- 30 minutes + 2 laps
3:30 PM – Moto 2- 125 National 30 minutes + 2 laps
4:10 PM – 125 Victory Circle
4:20 PM – Moto 2- 250 National- 30 minutes + 2 laps
5:10 PM – Victory Circle