Ricky Carmichael's rookie season in the Camping World Truck Series has been highlighted by two top-ten finishes going into his 14th race Saturday, the Las Vegas 350 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

They don't compare with the five top fives and nine top tens by leading rookie contender Johnny Sauter or the nine top tens by rookie Tayler Malsam, nor should they. Sauter, Malsam and the rest of the rookies grew up racing on four wheels. Carmichael grew up racing on two.

"I'm close to 40 races in cars and trucks," Carmichael said. "Not too many. That's been the biggest challenge. Considering how many starts I've had in late models and trucks, I've been able to hold my own and that's important."

Carmichael, 29, is regarded as the greatest motocross and Supercross rider of all time. He won 15 national championships and 150 races before retiring following a partial season in 2007. Carmichael jumped into late models that same season and moved into the Camping World East Series last year. In 13 starts, Carmichael had three top-five, eight top-10 finishes and was sixth in the points standings. He caught the eye of Kevin Harvick, who signed him to drive the #4 Chevrolet.

"Running in the East series, it was pretty easy to get top tens, and we were searching for top fives every race," Carmichael said.

The truck series was a major step up. In addition to rookies Sauter and Malsam and emerging talents Colin Braun and Brian Scott, the series has tough, fast, savvy veterans including Ron Hornaday Jr., Matt Crafton, Mike Skinner and Todd Bodine.

Carmichael doesn't regret making the move despite his limited experience.

"I'm happy that I did it," Carmichael said. "You have to take advantage of every opportunity that you get."

Carmichael's best finish was seventh at Kentucky, the same 1.5-mile length as Las Vegas. He also was eighth at two-mile Auto Club Speedway in California and eleventh at 1.5-mile Texas.

"We have good trucks at every track, but they're a little bit better on the bigger tracks," Carmichael said. "For me, it's been a little bit easier learning to drive on the bigger tracks. I've had a more difficult time adapting to the shorter tracks."

Carmichael's single test day this season was in an ARCA car at Kentucky.

"We put the same carburetor in it that the truck uses so I'd have the same horsepower," Carmichael said. "I learned a lot. It shows you how important testing is."

Carmichael's fame and solid transition to four wheels has brought sponsor Monster Energy along with him from motocross. It is backing him for 16 races this season and negotiations for them to return in 2010 are moving forward. Carmichael hopes to return to Harvick's team for a full season.

"The plan is to do the full season, and we're pretty close to getting the sponsor deal tied down," Carmichael said. "It would be great to run the whole truck series."

by Tim Tuttle/Sporting News

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