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Phoenix to see first real showdown

14 January 2005

Muddy conditions at the Anaheim AMA Supercross season opener combined to rob the sell out crowd of a 'true' clash between the likes of Ricky Carmichael, Chad Reed and James 'Bubba' Stewart – but the climate controlled surroundings of Bank One Ballpark, Phoenix, means Saturday's round two should be the real deal.

The 2005 AMA Supercross Series has been described as the 'Perfect Storm', due to the convergence of talented riders racing together for the first time, but no one guessed the perfect storm would come in the form of a massive low pressure system that parked over Southern California and dumped inches of rain on Anaheim making last week's season opener a mud bath.

In a race, which saw nearly every rider crash on the slippery, slimy racing surface, Honda's Kevin Windham faltered only once and quickly recovered to take the victory. Windham was somewhat overlooked in the pre-season prognostication that naturally focused primarily on Reed, Carmichael and Stewart.

"I wasn't written about much during the off-season," said Windham. "I was fine being in the shadows. My wife and I had our second daughter and I was sort of tucked away at home practicing and not racing in the off-season events."

Windham, who is the defending winner in Phoenix, is bolstered by his round one victory. "It's huge to win in terms of points," he said. "There's a lot of talent in the series this year and a lot of races so it's a little early to make too much out of winning Anaheim, but it's a great way to start off the season.

"Everything went great in pre-season testing and I feel really confident right now. Honda has given me a very good motorcycle and it makes you feel good to know that you have a great bike every time you line up."

Windham's team-mate Mike LaRocco is second coming into Phoenix and seems thoroughly prepared for the season in spite of sitting out the AMA Motocross Championship for the first time in his career last summer. LaRocco has traditionally been strong at Bank One Ballpark, having scored three podium finishes at the venue, but has yet to earn a victory there.

Three-time AMA Supercross champ Carmichael is third in the standings. RC led much of Anaheim before crashing a couple of times and having a hard time getting into a position to restart his bike. Carmichael, the two-time Phoenix Supercross winner who missed the 2004 AMA Supercross Series recovering from knee surgery, said he's looking at the season long term.

"I'm disappointed for Suzuki that I didn't win the opener," he said. "In the long run I'm happy with my finish since it puts me in a good position in the championship."

Carmichael was alluding to the fact that two of the riders considered his primary competition for this year's title – Reed and Stewart – both had a tough night in Anaheim.

Reed crashed his Yamaha, which resulted in mechanical problems that dropped him to a 16th-place finish. Stewart had similar problems on his factory Kawasaki, and despite being lapped, was able to rally and salvage fifth. Both riders are looking to Phoenix to make up for lost ground after the extreme conditions of the opener.

Jeremy McGrath is also slated to make his return to Phoenix after coming out of a two-year retirement. The all-time AMA Supercross wins leader earned the distinction of winning the very first AMA Supercross Series race in Bank One Ballpark in 1999.

Nathan Ramsey, of Red Bull KTM, leads the AMA 125 West Supercross Series after winning in Anaheim. Ramsey is expected to challenge defending 125 West champ and last year's Phoenix 125 winner Ivan Tedesco for the series title this season.


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