It took Ricky Carmichael two-and-a-half years to build the longest winning streak in AMA Motocross history and, after losing his first overall following a 27-race winning streak, it took exactly one week for RC to return to winning ways last week in Mt. Morris.
As the series moves to the gruelling sand of the Motocross 338 circuit in Southwick on Sunday June 11, Carmichael has also taken back the lead in the AMA Toyota Motocross Championship presented by FMF.
Kawasaki's James Stewart showed blazing speed and took victory in the series opener on May 21 in Sacramento and his win made him the first rider other than Carmichael to lead the AMA Motocross point standings in five years. But that speed came at a cost as Stewart suffered a hard crash at Mt. Morris, resulting in a concussion. He dropped from first to seventh in the series standings after scoring no points in round two but Stewart hopes to return to action at Southwick.
While Stewart had problems, Carmichael continued his uncanny consistency and pace en route to winning Mt. Morris and earning back the series lead. He genuinely seemed to regret the fact that Stewart toppled out of their last battle.
"I felt bad for James," Carmichael said. "We were having a great race and I hated to see him crash like that. It was a nasty place to go down. There is only a certain speed that you can go, and I think we are on that limit."
Coming into Southwick Carmichael finds himself in a familiar position of leading the point standings. He's nine points up on Yamaha's Chad Reed, with David Vuillemin a distant third.
"The pressure is off a little bit in the point standings," Carmichael admitted. "But the championship is not over by any means. We have a long series to go and I'm sure James is going to come back strong. I still have goals and want to win as many races as I can."
Carmichael has announced that this will be his last full-time season on the circuit. The 26-year-old Floridian is nearly unbeatable on the sandy Motocross 338 course. He's won eight of the nine nationals (including the Motocross Lites class) at Southwick since turning full-time pro in 1997.
Young Mike Alessi leads the AMA Motocross Lites class after two rounds. The Red Bull KTM rider from California, who just turned 18 a few weeks ago, won the series opener and was third in round two. Alessi holds a narrow eight point lead over 17-year-old Ryan Villopoto, who won last week in Pennsylvania. Josh Grant, 19, has been consistent; taking fourth and second respectively in the first two rounds, and is a close third in the standings.
That sets up an early three-way battle for the Motocross Lites lead between three riders, all under 20.
Alessi is trying to play a smart strategy in this year's championship chase.