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Carmichael leads AMA to Washougal
29 July 2004
Honda riders Ricky Carmichael and Kevin Windham will vie to become the first rider to win three 250 AMA races at Washougal on Sunday, when the AMA Motocross Championship moves to the scenic environs of the Pacific Northwest for round eight of the twelve-round championship.
Windham comes into this weekend's race the defending 250-class winner at Washougal, but the Mississippi rider has taken a back seat to Carmichael so far this year.
Carmichael, the defending and four-time AMA 250 Motocross Champion, has gone undefeated in the seven rounds leading to Washougal. Motocross fans have been talking about the incredible possibility of Carmichael having another perfect season as he did in 2002.
A perfect season in pro motocross racing means that a rider wins each moto at each event. It had never been done in the history of AMA Motocross and most believed it to be nearly impossible until Carmichael pulled off the amazing feat two years ago.
For Carmichael to accomplish that again this season would be even more remarkable considering he's coming off of knee surgery this winter, riding a totally new motorcycle this season in the Honda CRF450R, and is up against the likes of Windham and Reed.
Previous to this year Carmichael had ridden his entire racing career on two-stroke motorcycles. Now he's riding a four-stroke. As he did in '02, Carmichael is downplaying his run at a perfect season. "The championship is the only thing I'm worried about," has become a mantra for the 24-year-old Floridian.
To this point Carmichael has survived all the major challenges presented him. He won the season opener at Sacramento in May, putting to rest all the talk of him not having enough time to recover from knee reconstruction; his repaired knee was tested when a rut caught his boot earlier this month at Unadilla violently wrenching the knee; and he caught and passed Yamaha's Chad Reed last week in Troy, on a Supercross-like track that many thought favoured Reed's riding style.
"I'm looking forward to Washougal," Carmichael said after winning last week in Ohio. "Kevin beat me straight up there last year and I think he'll be strong there again this year. It should be a good showdown for the fans."
Windham looked like he had turned the corner against Carmichael last year at Washougal. He had beaten him the race before at Unadilla and went 1-1 in the Washougal motos proving that his earlier win was no fluke. But that was the last time anyone beat Carmichael. He closed out the 2003 season with three-straight wins and now leads the series by 54 points over Reed. Windham is third 19 points back from Reed.
"I love the track," Windham said of Washougal. "I've won there twice before and it would be great to do it again. It's going to be tough. Ricky and Chad are both riding great and I'm going to have to be on top of my game to beat either of them."
While Carmichael has dominated the action in the 250 class, it's been Kawasaki's James Stewart who is nearly as dominant in the 125 championship. But for a pileup crash that was not his fault at the Buchanan round on July 4, Stewart would likely be undefeated like Carmichael. As it stands Stewart has won six of the seven rounds - 13 of 14 motos coming into Washougal.
Stewart will try to match Motorcycle Hall of Famer Mark Barnett's record of three 125 Motocross wins at Washougal this weekend. Stewart won the race in 2002 and again last year.
Mike Brown, the only other winner in the 125 class this year, is also looking to match Barnett's mark. Brown won the Washougal 125 race in 1995 and again in 2001. He separated his shoulder in a crash at the circuit a year ago.
Washougal is considered the most scenic track in the AMA Chevrolet Motocross Championship. The circuit is built on a tall hillside and is covered in tall pines. Serving as a backdrop is the snow capped peaks of the Cascade Mountain Range.
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