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Daytona: Event preview

Carmichael on the brink of tying Daytona Supercross record. PICKERINGTON, Ohio -- Ricky Carmichael returns to his home state this Saturday, March 8, for the 33rd running of the Daytona Supercross by Honda. The two-time and defending AMA...

Carmichael on the brink of tying Daytona Supercross record.

PICKERINGTON, Ohio -- Ricky Carmichael returns to his home state this Saturday, March 8, for the 33rd running of the Daytona Supercross by Honda. The two-time and defending AMA Supercross champ comes to Daytona this year with a chance to tie Jeff Stanton's record of four-straight wins in 1992. He's also well on his way to earning his third-straight AMA Supercross title. Daytona marks the 10th round of the 16-race series and Carmichael has built a 22-point lead over Australian Chad Reed after winning six of the last seven rounds. Saturday will also feature the fourth round of the AMA 125 East Region Supercross Series.

Carmichael 23, of Havana, Fla., is the undisputed king of the Daytona Supercross. The factory Honda rider didn't just win the last three Daytona Supercross races, he completely dominated them.

"Daytona will prove whether or not you've been training hard," said Carmichael, the only former winner in the field. "It is a tough race and causes a lot of riders to crumble. Daytona seems to bring out the best in me. It's always rough and sandy and I grew up racing on those kinds of tracks."

The 2003 edition of the Gary Bailey-designed circuit, set up inside Daytona International Speedway's tri-oval, has been reconfigured. The new layout appears to offer additional passing lanes and the starting gate has been relocated to give a longer run into turn one.

"The track should be greatly improved as long as Mother Nature cooperates with us," said Duke Finch, AMA Pro Racing's Motocross/Supercross Manager. "The length of the track has been shortened a bit and the start stretch has been improved. The composition of the dirt is of a much higher quality with more clay and a finer lime rock. The jumps feature bigger and better take off and landings. It should make for a better show." Weather could be a factor this year with isolated thunderstorms forecast off and on during the week preceding the race.

Chad Reed won the 125 East Region race at Daytona last year and needs a strong race in the featured 250 class this year to keep pace with Carmichael. Reed's Yamaha teammate, David Vuillemin, who missed last year's Daytona Supercross with an injury, has been getting stronger with each race this year and should be a leading contender for this weekend's race.

Tim Ferry and Ezra Lusk are fourth and fifth respectively in the series standings and finished second and third respectively in the Daytona Supercross last March. Ferry is hoping to earn his first victory of the season and Lusk wants to follow up his January win in Phoenix with another victory.

Suzuki's Branden Jesseman won last weekend in Indianapolis, and regained the lead in the 125 East Series. The Pennsylvania rider has provided Suzuki its one bright point this season. The team has been decimated by injury, with 250 stars Travis Pastrana, Stephane Roncada and Sebastien Tortelli all missing Daytona this year while recuperating. Jesseman won two of the three 125 East rounds heading into Daytona. Michael Brown of Pro Circuit Kawasaki and Yamaha of Troy's Brock Sellards are very much in the 125 championship hunt. Only nine points separates first from third in the highly-competitive series. Brown was runner-up to Reed in the 125 East race at Daytona last year.

The Daytona Supercross by Honda is considered the most prestigious stop on the 16-race tour. It dates back to 1971 when the race was a part of the legendary Trans-AMA Series. Past winners of the event reads like a Who's Who of motocross and includes Hall of Famers Mark Blackwell, Jim Weinert, Roger DeCoster, Tony DiStefano, Bob Hannah, Marty Tripes, David Bailey, Rick Johnson, and Jeff Stanton. Winning the Daytona Supercross is considered by many to be the highlight of a motocross career.

"My three Daytona wins were among the biggest of my career," Jeremy McGrath told the American Motorcyclist magazine earlier this season when he announced his retirement. "That race is so grueling that it proves that you are at the top of your game if you can win it."

Daytona will feature same-day coverage on Speed Channel starting at 7:30 p.m. EST. The two-hour show will feature both the 250 and 125 main events. Motorcycle Hall of Famer and two-time Daytona Supercross winner Rick Johnson will provide expert commentary on the broadcast.

<pre> AMA Supercross Series Schedule of Events March 7- 8, 2003

Saturday, March 8 9:00 a.m. -- 12:00 p.m. Early entry for spectators 8:30 a.m. -- 11:00 a.m. Practice 11:00 a.m. -- 12:15 p.m. Qualifying Heats 12:30 p.m. -- 1:00 p.m. Opening Ceremonies 1:00 p.m. -- 1:24 p.m. 125 Heat Races 1:24 p.m. -- 2:18 p.m. 250 Heat Races 2:20 p.m. -- 2:30 p.m. Intermission 2:30 p.m. -- 2:40 p.m. 125 Last Chance Qualifier 2:40 p.m. -- 3:04 p.m. 250 Semi Races 3:05 p.m. -- 3:15 p.m. Intermission 3:15 p.m. -- 3:25 p.m. 250 Last Chance Qualifier 3:30 p.m. -- 3:50 p.m. 125 Main Event (15 laps -- 22 riders) 4:05 p.m. -- 4:35 p.m. 250 Main Event (20 Laps -- 30 riders)

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Series AMA
Drivers Ricky Carmichael , David Vuillemin , Travis Pastrana , Jeremy McGrath , Ezra Lusk , Sebastien Tortelli , Chad Reed , Branden Jesseman , Stephane Roncada