The thrilling three-way title fight for the 2006 Amp'd Mobile AMA Supercross and World Supercross GP championships reaches its penultimate round at Qwest Field, Seattle, this Saturday.
The 'perfect storm' - as the clash between Ricky Carmichael, Chad Reed and James Stewart has been dubbed - has been building all season and now the race for the championships is reaching its peak.
In the premier AMA championship, Reed and Stewart needed something dramatic to happen to have any chance of catching ultra-consistent reigning champion Carmichael - and dramatic is just what they got last Saturday: Carmichael had a major crash in Texas Stadium while battling Stewart for the lead. His Suzuki was damaged in the accident, but he was still able to bring it home to a sixth-place finish.
But more drama followed when Stewart also had problems and went down on his Kawasaki - losing the lead in the process - leaving Reed to take full advantage, with a crucial victory aboard his factory Yamaha. It was Reed's second victory of the year and pulled him within just two points of Carmichael in the AMA championship with only Seattle and Las Vegas remaining.
Stewart is by no means out of contention either - his second-place in Dallas put him a scant 10 points out of the AMA Supercross Series lead - but he's in a much stronger position in the World Supercross GP championship, carrying a seven-point advantage over Carmichael to Seattle, with Reed a further 11-points back.
Stewart's Dallas mishap put an end to his three-race winning streak, but he feels ready to get back to the top in Seattle.
"Winning is all I can try to do now," Stewart said. "Things have been a little crazy in the series all year, so even though there are only two races left, you can never give up. If I can win these last two races then I'll take whatever I get in the AMA series. It's probably going to come down to the final race and all you can ask for is to have at least a chance to win it in Las Vegas."
"The fans wanted this (AMA) championship to come down to the final race and that's what they've got," said a disappointed Carmichael after Dallas. "I would much rather sew up the title early and I've been lucky enough to do that a number of times in my career, but I'll go out there in the last two races and do the best I can to win it this way. The fact that the championship would come down to the final race is something I've said all season. There's just too much talent in the series for anything else to happen."
Reed, who is coming off a shoulder injury suffered last month, is happy just to be in the position to have a shot at the title.
"After I was injured I thought my season was pretty much over," Reed said. "Now the Dallas win has given me new hope. At this point I'm not even thinking about the (AMA) championship, I'm just happy to be where I am. It took a little luck, but I'll take anything I can get at this point."
Meanwhile, the AMA Supercross Lites West Series will be decided in Seattle. Coming into the final round four riders still have a mathematical shot at the title, but realistically it's come down to Honda's Andrew Short and Pro Circuit Kawasaki's Grant Langston.
Just four points separate the two with Short holding the edge over Langston. Short is trying to earn his first AMA Supercross Lites title, while Langston won the East Series last year.