Team Makita Suzuki's Ricky Carmichael grabbed his first win of the season in Saturday night's second-round AMA Supercross Championship event at Phoenix.
The victory moved Carmichael into a share of the championship points lead, as the reigning world and AMA supercross king beat former champion Chad Reed by 2.5secs, with James Stewart a further 13secs behind, and unable to prevent his round one advantage from being wiped out.
The evening didn't get off to the best of starts for the defending champion, as he got caught up in a turn-one melee, before recovering to third place by the end of the eight laps, completing a Suzuki 1-3 behind team-mate Ivan Tedesco.
"I feel good, I'm happy to get the win and it was a good race for the fans," said Carmichael, who racked up his 130th combined AMA supercross and motocross victory aboard the new RM-Z450 four-stroke, "I was unhappy with the heat race, and pretty upset after it as I knew I was better than that."
The Floridian also suffered a poor start to the main event, but charged hard and picked off his competitors quickly. By mid-race, he had taken the lead and never looked back.
"It was a good race," he said, "I didn't get a good start, but I just tried to plug away and not make any mistakes. I made a few, but fortunately not big ones. The championship fight is turning out to be pretty good, but I'm trying to have patience and enjoy the moment - and the momentum. Hopefully, we'll all stay healthy and give the fans what they want to see - may the best man win!"
Tedesco held second place early on, behind holeshotter Jeremy McGrath, but he fell while challenging for the lead.
"I was in a good flow, but I guess I tried a little too hard to catch Jeremy," Tedesco sighed, "The track was really slick and the front end just washed out. No doubt about it, if you pushed too hard on that track, it was going to put you on the ground."
Seven-time supercross champ McGrath only led the first lap and a half before being passed by Yamaha's Reed, while Stewart, on a Kawasaki, was working his way through the field after a first turn crash left him in last place and over 30 seconds behind the leaders.
Seeing Reed out front, Carmichael began his charge, but was aided in his pursuit when the Australian spun in the rhythm section and was forced to stop. By the time Reed got back into his stride, Carmichael was on his tail, a position he held until lap eleven. Reed proved unable to live with the Suzuki after Carmichael passed, but had enough in hand to maintain second despite Stewart's fine recovery ride. McGrath eventually claimed fourth, ahead of Nick Wey.
Kawasaki's Ryan Villopoto grabbed the holeshot in the West Lites main event, but then ran into the fallen Andrew Short, who had grabbed the lead on the opening lap. Both riders were swallowed up by the pack before they recovered, while Grant Langston also went down and effectively ended his chances of victory.
Through it all came Red Bull KTM's Nathan Ramsey, who claimed the lead on lap four and was able to cruise to his first win of the season. Honda's Billy Laninovich finished second, while Langston managed to duck past Short with two turns to run to secure third.
250 main event:
1. Ricky Carmichael
2. Chad Reed
3. James Stewart
4. Jeremy McGrath
5. Nick Wey
6. Michael Byrne
7. Ernesto Fonseca
8. Mike LaRocco
9. Ivan Tedesco
10. David Vuillemin
West Lites main event:
1. Nathan Ramsey
2. Billy Laninovich
3. Grant Langston
4. Ryan Villopoto
5. Andrew Short
6. Sean Collier
7. Paul Carpenter
8. Darcy Lange
9. Brett Metcalfe
10. Mike Alessi