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Carmichael begins quest for final AMA season?

18 May 2006

The 38th Annual Hangtown Motocross Classic near Sacramento on May 21, 2006, kicks off what could be one of the most pivotal seasons in the history of the AMA Toyota Motocross Championship presented by FMF. Ricky Carmichael, the six-time and defending AMA Motocross Champion, is set to begin what may be his final full season in the series.

In a recent announcement issued by Makita Suzuki it was stated that Carmichael re-signed with the team for three years but that beginning in 2007 would only race select events and focus on mentoring Suzuki's up-and-coming riders. That announcement puts added emphasis on the 2006
championship. Not only will this likely be Carmichael's last championship run, it could also mark the final time Kawasaki's James Stewart, the heir apparent to the AMA Motocross throne, will have a chance to beat his archrival in a head-to-head battle for a title.

Carmichael's record in AMA Motocross is well documented. The 26-year-old Floridian has set numerous records during his 10-year career, but the one record that stands out above all others is that he has won every AMA Motocross Championship that he's competed in since turning pro full time in 1997. Carmichael thinks he has at least one more championship run in him.

"I'm looking forward to the outdoor season getting started," Carmichael said. "I've always been more comfortable with motocross. It comes naturally to me. I think it's going to be a good fight. James on a 450 is going to be tough for sure. Last year it was a little tough for him racing on a 250." Virtually every rider in the series has switched to four-stroke, 450 machinery eschewing the two-stroke, 250s.

Stewart is riding the momentum of one of the best second-half finishes in AMA Supercross history. He won eight of the sixteen AMA Supercross rounds including five of the last six events. Stewart is also eager to make his difficult rookie season in the AMA Motocross Championship a thing of the past.

"The biggest difference going into this season is that I'm totally healthy," said Stewart, who is looking to win his first AMA Motocross overall in the premier class. "It just seemed that things didn't go my way last year, but I
think it will be good this season. We'll see what happens in Sacramento. I just hope the championship goes down to the final race like it did in supercross. It should be a good battle all the way."

Others who could sneak up and join Carmichael and Stewart as contenders include riders such as Sobe/Samsung Honda's Kevin Windham. Windham was runner up to Carmichael last year and was one of only two riders besides Carmichael who were able to win a moto last year. Yamaha's Chad Reed was the other rider to score a moto victory last year. The Aussie could be a factor if he stays healthy this summer. Carmichael's teammate Ivan Tedesco won the AMA Motocross Lites Championship last season and is hoping to surprise
people this season in the premier class. Davi Millsaps, who is moving up after just winning the AMA Supercross Lites East title, will represent Honda in motocross.

The AMA Motocross Lites Championship promises again to be a wide-open battle for the title. There is no clear-cut favorite in the class.

Grant Langston, of Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki, is a past champion of the class and might be the pre-season favorite, but he injured his wrist at the final AMA Supercross round and may not be 100 percent at Hangtown. It was at this race last year where Langston dramatically picked up his bike after a last turn crash and rode across the finish line to win despite suffering a dislocated left ankle.

Honda's Andrew Short is another rider many are saying will have a breakthrough season. He finished second in the series last year to Tedesco and is hungry to perform well after leading, but faltering late in the AMA Supercross Lites West Series. Red Bull KTM's Mike Alessi could be the rider to beat this year. He scored a pair of national wins in his first full season of pro racing last year and seems to be peaking as the outdoor nationals begin. Sobe/Samsung Mobile Honda's Josh Grant came out of nowhere to lead at Hangtown in 2004. Grant is no longer a secret, and in fact, is considered one of the leading contenders to win this weekend.

A host of other riders could step up and the picture should be a lot clearer after Hangtown.


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