Bank One Ballpark, Phoenix, venue for last Saturday's second round of the 2005 AMA Supercross series, was significant for two main reasons; Ricky Carmichael took his first AMA victory with Suzuki and superstar James 'Bubba' Stewart broke his arm on only his second 250cc outing.
Kawasaki ace Stewart sustained the injury in a practice fall and will miss at least the next few rounds of the series - starting with Anaheim II this weekend - thus delaying the much anticipated head-to-head clash between Bubba, Carmichael and reigning AMA champ Chad Reed still further. The trio met at Anaheim I, but wet weather prevented a fair fight.
But in contrast to the monumental disappointment suffered by Stewart and Kawasaki, Carmichael and Suzuki are riding high heading in to Anaheim II. RC's Phoenix win was Suzuki's first in AMA Supercross since 1999 and moved Ricky to within two points of Honda's Kevin Windham, who won the muddy Anaheim I season opener.
"Around lap 13 or 14 I knew I had it if I didn't make any mistakes," Carmichael said of his Phoenix race. "The last few laps seemed to take an eternity. I'm happy for myself, but I'm most happy for Suzuki. They deserve it. We'll take this momentum with us going into next weekend."
Carmichael and Suzuki are using innovative approaches to set up the team's RM250 and find additional speed on the technical supercross tracks.
"We've taken some things from MotoGP," Carmichael said, referring to world championship Motorcycle Grand Prix road racing. "They're a little more specific with their timing and finding out where you're losing time and that's what we have to do since all the riders are pretty close in talent."
Even though he was largely overlooked in pre-season predictions, Amsoil Honda-rider Windham has emerged as a serious early championship contender. The 12-year racing veteran is looking to win his first AMA Supercross title in his eighth season in the series. He finds himself leading the series for the first time in his career, but instead of being overly excited about that fact he's being realistic.
"This is a long series with a lot of races," Windham said. "I'm happy about leading the series, but we have 14 rounds left and so many things can happen. I never really got comfortable at Phoenix and didn't feel I could push it for 20 laps. Hopefully I'll learn a few things from video of the race and can be stronger in Anaheim this weekend."
Carmichael's team-mate Sebastien Tortelli comes into Anaheim II ranked third in the standings. The two-time FIM World Motocross Champion is trying to win his first AMA Supercross race since he came over from world motocross to win in his debut in 1998.