AMA

Hangtown: Season opener preview

CARMICHAEL AIMING FOR SIXTH AMA 250 MOTOCROSS CHAMPIONSHIP 125 riders eager to fill the vacuum left by Stewart PICKERINGTON, Ohio (May 18, 2005) -- Since becoming a pro in 1996, Ricky Carmichael has gone on to become the all-time winningest ...

CARMICHAEL AIMING FOR SIXTH AMA 250 MOTOCROSS CHAMPIONSHIP

125 riders eager to fill the vacuum left by Stewart

PICKERINGTON, Ohio (May 18, 2005) -- Since becoming a pro in 1996, Ricky Carmichael has gone on to become the all-time winningest rider in AMA Pro Racing history. On Sunday, May 22, at the Prairie City SVRA near Sacramento, Calif., Carmichael will kick off the 2005 AMA Motocross Championship Presented by FMF where he hopes to earn a record sixth AMA 250 Motocross title. Carmichael, who now rides for Makita Suzuki, will face perhaps the biggest challenge of his career in the form of Kawasaki's James "Bubba" Stewart, the rider who broke nearly all of Carmichael's records in the 125 class.

Carmichael is coming off an amazing 2004 motocross season in the series where he won every single 250 moto for the second time in his career. But this year Stewart is expected to be a major challenger to Carmichael's long-standing dominance. Carmichael, a Floridian who is coming into his tenth season of AMA Motocross, looks forward to the challenge.

"We have a long summer ahead of us," said Carmichael, who is looking for his fourth-straight victory at Hangtown, which would be a record for the event. "The important thing is to be focused on the season as a whole. Outdoor (motocross) is just easier for me. I'm going to work hard to stay on top and Suzuki has a lot to prove."

Carmichael has done nothing but win championship after championship in AMA Motocross and he thinks he knows the key to keeping his streak alive.

"I've been fortunate that I've won a title every year I've raced," Carmichael said. "I know someday it's going to end, but I think I've proven to be a rider who makes the least mistakes and that could be very important this season."

Carmichael is slated to ride Suzuki's new RM-Z450 at Hangtown.

Stewart injured his thumb in the final THQ AMA Supercross Series race in Las Vegas on May 7, but he is expected to be near 100 percent as he makes the move from stadiums to outdoor racing. Stewart's speed is unquestioned, but some issues remain on his consistency. Some experts say that Stewart may also be at a slight disadvantage since he chose to race a two-stroke 250cc bike, while nearly all the other major contenders in the class will be on 450cc four-stroke machines

"Accidents are part of our sport," said Stewart, who became the winningest AMA 125 Motocross rider during his three years in that series. "I think I've proven that I can overcome and win races and championships in spite of having a few crashes. I may be pushing the envelope in racing, but I never feel out of control. I've got a great team and my family behind me, so I feel like I can get up and race with these guys, and win some races."

Two other major contenders in the 250 class are Kevin Windham and Chad Reed. Windham won the Hangtown National in 1999. The Amsoil Chaparral Honda rider had an injury prone Supercross season, but feels he's peaking at the right time coming into the nationals.

"I've got my confidence back and I'm going to ride that wave into the outdoor season," Windham said. "All these guys will be switching to 450s and I've been on mine all winter and it's running really well. The racing this year is going to be more intense. With Bubba coming in we're all pushing harder to see just what we can do on the bikes. The level of competition is rising to a higher level."

Yamaha's Reed is looking to the outdoor season as an opportunity to make up for a disappointing AMA Supercross campaign.

"I've been working really hard to improve my outdoor riding," Reed said. "Yamaha's worked really hard to give me a great bike and now it's time for me to step it up. I look at the upcoming season as a second chance to end the year on a high note."

AMA 125 Motocross Championship

Stewart dominated AMA 125 Motocross Championship racing so completely over the last three years that he left little doubt as to the favorite coming into each season. After breaking nearly every conceivable record in the 125 class, Stewart is moving up to the 250s in 2005, and as the new season is set to kick off at the Hangtown National a slew of 125 riders are hoping to step in and claim the vacated title.

Chief among the riders set to contest what could be the most competitive 125 championship in years are two former champions Grant Langston and Mike Brown.

South African Langston has moved from KTM to the Monster Energy Drink/Pro Circuit Kawasaki team and is coming off a mildly surprising championship in the AMA 125 East Supercross Series. The versatile Langston won the 125 national title in 2003 and is looking to make a solid comeback after an injury plagued 2004.

"I'm looking forward to the outdoor season," said Langston, who is a former World Motocross Champion and 2001 winner at Hangtown. "My testing has gone really well. Outdoors is what I'm really known for and I feel like I'm riding faster than ever. A lot of people wrote me off after last year, but fortunately I had a few people who still believed in me. It's my personal goal to prove all my doubters wrong this summer."

Brown is the only rider to win a 125 national last year other than Stewart. He was originally set to compete in the world championships this year, but the deal fell apart and Brown will be back in America contesting the 125 series on a privateer Honda. Regardless of the team the 2001 champ will be looking to prove he still has another title in him as the season kicks off at Hangtown.

If you believe in pre-season polls then Makita Suzuki's Davi Millsaps may be the rider to beat. Millsaps, a second-year pro, is coming off a victory in the Dave Coombs Sr. 125cc East/West Shootout in Las Vegas and was picked by the readers of a Cycle News online poll to be the favorite to win this year's title.

"I've been doing nothing but practicing motocross for the past month," said Millsaps, 17, from Cairo, Ga. "It's going to be a wide-open season with a lot of good riders going for the championship. Hangtown is a track with a mixture of hard pack and sand mixture, so you have to be able to ride in all types of conditions. I think whoever does well there will gain a big boost in their confidence."

Broc Hepler, the 2004 AMA Rookie of the Year, is another rider often mentioned as one of the leading contenders coming into this year's 125 championship. Hepler broke his arm during the recent AMA Supercross season, but finished the year running strong and proving he's ready for the outdoor series. Hepler is a frequent practice partner of defending 250 champ Ricky Carmichael, so he's learning from the best in the business. Another youngster looking to make an immediate impact is Mike Alessi, who will ride with Red Bull KTM. This will be Alessi's first full season in AMA Motocross competition. He gave a preview of his speed last year when he scored a podium finish in the 250 class at the Steel City National.

Veteran Ryan Hughes is always a fan favorite at Hangtown. The two-time winner is riding faster than ever on his privateer Honda in pre-season races and takes nothing for granted coming into the 2005 campaign.

"You just never know," Ryno replied when asked by MotoworldRacing.com about who he thought would be his toughest competition this year. "Guys you expected to be fast might not be, and the other way around, too. I will only worry about myself and not anyone else. I'll just keep on worrying about what Ryan Hughes is supposed to be doing."

Lastly, a then unknown Josh Grant shocked Hangtown fans when he led the early laps of the first 125 moto there last year before crashing. Grant has since proved his early shining moment at Hangtown was no fluke. "I'm looking to redeem myself at Hangtown," said Grant. "My goal is to be a lot more consistent in the nationals this year."

Tickets for the 37th Annual Fairfield Cycle-Suzuki-Hangtown Motocross Classic can be purchased online at www.hangtownmx.com, at Sacramento area motorcycle shops or buy them at the gate the day of the race. For additional info call (800) HANGTOWN.

The AMA Motocross Championship Presented by FMF will be televised on OLN. Round one will air on Saturday, May 28 (250 class) and again on Thursday, June (125 class). Check local listings.

About AMA Pro Racing
AMA Pro Racing is the leading sanctioning body for motorcycle sport in the United States. Its properties include the THQ AMA Supercross Series, the AMA Motocross Championship, the AMA Superbike Championship, the AMA Ford Quality Checked Flat Track Championship and the AMA Supermoto Championship. For more information about AMA Pro Racing, visit www.amaproracing.com.

-ama-

Be part of something big

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series AMA
Drivers Ricky Carmichael , Kevin Windham , Mike Brown , Josh Grant , Mike Alessi , Davi Millsaps