It's safe to say Mike Alessi's scheduled appearance at Spring Creek Motocross Park in Millville, Minn., this Sunday, August 15, is the most highly anticipated professional debut in motocross since James Stewart burst onto the scene at the beginning of 2002.
Alessi, a 16-year-old racing phenom from Apple Valley, Calif., matched Stewart's 11-career AMA amateur motocross titles with victories last week in the 2004 Air Nautiques AMA Amateur and Youth National Motocross Championships at Loretta Lynn's Ranch in Hurricane Mills, Tenn.
Alessi created quite a buzz in motocross circles when he beat both Ryan Hughes and Jeremy McGrath in separate regional races earlier this year. Unlike most pros who debut in the 125 class, Alessi has decided to go right to the upper echelon of AMA Motocross and compete in the 250 class against the likes of four-time AMA Chevrolet 250 Motocross Champion Ricky Carmichael.
Carmichael is undefeated in eight AMA Chevrolet Motocross Championship races leading up to Millville and has a dominating lead in the series standings. Carmichael commented about Alessi's debut in a recent interview with Racer X Illustrated.
“I do think it might be a reality check for him,” he said. “A pro national isn't like anything he's raced before. I know he's gone to some pro races, but race day at a national is different. The pace is different. I think he'll be surprised at the speed of the guys he's never battled with before - at least, I was. At the first national I went to, guys I thought I could beat, I couldn't beat.”
Many feel regardless of how Alessi does in his first AMA Motocross race, the very fact that so much emphasis is being placed on his pro debut is a good thing for the series.
Carmichael is coming into Millville seeking his fifth straight win at the track. The Honda ace has experienced the most dominating season in his illustrious career so far this year winning by huge margins in each moto. Even Carmichael himself, who normally shuns talk of another perfect season as he had in 2002, is starting to talk more positively about turning in another unblemished campaign.
“I'm feeling pretty good about it,” he said of the possibility of winning the final eight motos of the year. “You never know though. Anything can happen in racing, Mother Nature, a crash you can't avoid and of course one of the other riders might step it up. There's still a ways to go.”
Just ask James Stewart who already knows about the little surprises racing can throw at you. He wanted to match Carmichael's 2002 feat of a perfect season, but a first-turn pileup in the second 125 moto in Buchanan, Mich., on July 4 caught Stewart, and his bike was too damaged to finish the race. Stewart has won 15 of 16 motos and seven of eight motos coming into Millville. He's hoping to earn his third straight win at the challenging Minnesota circuit.
Should Stewart earn a win he would reach a major milestone in tying legendary Motorcycle Hall of Famer Mark Barnett for second on the all-time AMA 125 Motocross wins list. He would then be just one win away from tying Carmichael as the all-time 125 wins leader.