Last year, Ricky Carmichael became the first five-time winner of the Daytona Supercross - one of the most prestigious races on the AMA calendar - and this year he returns hoping to cap off his amazing Daytona legend with one final victory before starting a new career in NASCAR.

Carmichael, who first raced at Daytona 10 years ago, is racing only part-time in this year's Amp'd Mobile Supercross Series, but he comes into Daytona fresh from a win last Saturday in St. Louis - although his task was made much easier when title rivals Chad Reed and James Stewart took each other out.

"I got a gift in St. Louis, but I'll take it any way I can get it," said Carmichael, who gave Suzuki its first Daytona Supercross victory in 25 years last season. "I can't wait for Daytona. I love that place. The fans have supported me there so strong over the years. I'm going to celebrate all the races this year. I've had a lot of time to reflect with this being my last run in Supercross and it's just gone by so fast. It's going to be on at Daytona. James [Stewart] and I have had some epic battles this year and hopefully it will be another great one this week."

While much of the focus at Daytona will be on Carmichael, fans at Daytona International Speedway will also be eager to see the battle for the series lead between Monster Energy Kawasaki star Stewart and L&M Yamaha's former AMA champion Reed. The tension between the top two riders ratcheted up even further last week after the two collided and both went down while battling for position in the St. Louis final.

"Every week I'm getting pushed around," said Reed, in reference to his collision with Stewart. "It's racing but he thinks he can walk all over me and I'm going put an end to that. I can't wait for Daytona. It's a special race. Everyone wants to win there. I've got a couple of good wins there, especially in 2005 over Ricky, and I want to go back and do it again."

Reed bravely rode to a runner-up finish at Daytona last year in spite of suffering a separated shoulder in practice the day before the race.

Series leader Stewart was slightly more conciliatory on the clash with Reed in St. Louis.

"I guess it's going to be like that the rest of the season," Stewart said, alluding to the hard passing he and Reed are putting on each other. "I'm out here racing for a championship. There's no reason to be like that. There are no hard feelings on my part."

Stewart is looking for his first win in the premier class at Daytona. He led last year's race before taking a tumble while leading. He won the Supercross Lites race there (then called 125cc Supercross) in 2004.

Daytona has long been recognised as the most physically challenging course in the 16-race AMA series (the event is not part of the world championship) and combines many elements of outdoor motocross in a Supercross format. Riders like Tim Ferry (Monster Energy Kawasaki) and Kevin Windham (Sobe/Samsung Honda) hope their motocross skills will put them in a position to mix it up with Carmichael, Stewart and Reed on the rough and sandy track.

The AMA Supercross Lites East Series is also heating up coming into Daytona with three riders within three points of one another in the battle for the points lead. Boost Mobile Yamaha team-mates Ryan Morais and Matt Goerke are tied atop the series standings with 40 point each, while Monster Energy/Pro Circuit Kawasaki's Darcy Lange is right in the thick of the chase with 37 points.

Morais is coming off his first ever podium finish last week in St. Louis. "I'm so happy," he said after Saturday's race. "All my hard work is finally paying off. I'm more prepared than I've ever been and my team has given me a great bike. Everything goes great when you have all that on your side. I guess the only downside to having a share of the series lead is that it makes me a little nervous."

Goerke, who calls Lake Helen, Florida home, says he too is ready for Daytona. "Hopefully I can get on top of the box at my home race," he said.

Former MX2 World Champion Ben Townley, of New Zealand, figures to be a top contender at Daytona coming off his win last week in St. Louis, as does Ryan Dungey, who won the Lites East opener in Atlanta two weeks ago.

The Daytona Supercross was first held in 1971.


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