No, Ricky Carmichael is not gone, and he’s certainly not forgotten. In fact, he’s fresh off another dominating year in which he captured AMA titles number 14 and 15 (five SX and 10 MX). However, beginning in 2007, he will be downshifting his motocross domination to an abbreviated schedule, both indoors and out. More than likely, we’ve seen his last full-season title chase, and quite frankly, that makes us sad.No matter whom you talk to, it seems like everyone has their own personal reasons for admiring RC and his achievements. For some, it was his dedication and commitment to fitness and his unparalleled drive toward a single goal of winning championships. For others, it was simply his bike-swapping, tank-slapping, WFO approach to racing. The folks here at Dirt Rider salute RC and the past decade of his winning ways by sharing their thoughts about the champ…Ricky Carmichael Interview
By B.J. Smith
After 10 years as a professional racer and 15 AMA Motocross and Supercross championships, 26-year-old Ricky Carmichael just wants to mow his lawn, wash the cars and maybe polish off that half-gallon of Breyers ice cream. Starting in January 2007, Carmichael will begin the next chapter of his life as a part-time motorcycle racer. Dirt Rider had B.J. Smith on location Saturday morning at the water-logged Monster Energy/Kawasaki Steel City National, where he sat with the champ in his plush motor home. Practice had been cancelled, and Carmichael was looking forward to having a day off and watching the opening weekend of college football, a favorite spectator activity of his away from the track.Even with no title on the line and retirement on the way, Ricky still keeps his routine consistent,” Smith says. “Hard work and planning seem to be the secret to his success, but one thing that most people probably wouldn’t know about the guy is that he knows how to relax and have a good time. When his mind is off racing, he’s laid-back and loves to talk about football, hunting and movies.”DR: Do you think you took people by surprise when you made the announcement in Las Vegas that you were retiring, because I remember you saying a few years ago that you would probably be done when you were 25?
RC: I think I surprised some people by saying that. And I think some people still do question what I’m going to do next year. I have options to race the whole year next year. But I’ve made my plan; I’m going to stick to it, and I’m happy with that.DR: So what if you come out swinging next year and rattle off a point lead, because you seem to have left that door open?
RC: It doesn’t matter because I’m still taking time off. I stick by my word, and that’s how it is.DR: So you’re not going to compete for a title? We can put that on the record?
RC: The scenario would have to be crazy. It would have to be silly. You guys think so far ahead; I don’t even think that far ahead. I know the races I want to do, and I’ll cross that bridge if I come to it.DR: How do you just turn it off?
RC: Oh, we’re not turning it off next year. I still have a commitment to race a lot of races. My biggest thing is that I still want to win when I race. I love winning. A lot. I put a lot of emphasis on that. At the level the racing is at now you can’t afford not to be in great shape because that’s when bad things can happen. So I’m going to be on my game all the time when I’m racing. Even if it’s just a selected amount of racing, I need to be 110 percent because I know my team is giving 110 percent.DR: You’re probably physically ready for anything you want to do at this point.
RC: Being physically ready isn’t an issue. I’ll be the first to say I’m not the most talented guy out there. I don’t have the most natural ability of anybody out there. I think the one thing that’s pulled me through since I was a little guy was how much I work and how much I ride. You know, I don’t think I necessarily ride more than anyone else, but my program is just super solid. I know where I’m going, and I don’t do things just to do it.DR: We’ve always heard rumors about your “boot camp.” Is there a rule you live and die by at your compound in south Georgia?
RC: Yeah, there are lots of rules, but you’ll never hear me say any because they’re my best-kept secrets. We have our plan; we know what we need to do. Everyone thinks we’re just gnarly and all we do is hammer out and train, but we really don’t do as much as people think-we just have a good system. You got to know where you’re going. People think that they work hard and train, but in the grand scheme of things, they don’t. Really, there is no secret. It’s just work. It takes work. If it was easy, everybody would be doing it.DR: Is hard work just dead?
RC: Unfortunately, in the world today, everything is generated toward making things easier. Everything is just more convenient. Everything in the world is just making it easier for us to get things done, and that’s where the work ethic goes down the tubes. It’s a shame, but that’s life.DR: So what do you want to do? We know you’re looking at cars…RC: That’s a dream of mine. If there’s anything that’s the biggest challenge, it’s that, for sure. If I could succeed in that, it would be great, but if not, I’m not going to lose any sleep over it by any means. If it happens, it happens; if it doesn’t, it doesn’t. But I’m super motivated by it. I have great opportunities, but at the same time, I’ll never turn my back on this sport. I love this-it’s given me a great life. I’ve made a great living, and I want to be in the sport for a long time.
DR: How do you start a car career at the same time you’re giving 110 percent to a partial MX career?
RC: I don’t know-we’ll see. You’re right, the clock is ticking, but your guess is as good mine. I guess we’ll find out, because there will come a point in time where a sacrifice will have to be made. Hopefully that’s when my wisdom will prevail and I’ll make the right decision again. I think I’m a racer, and as far as racing goes, I have the determination, will and desire, but I lack a lot of seat time and experience. It’s years and years of work in progress. The only thing about that is I’m not claiming anything. I got a great opportunity to do it. If it works out, I’ll be super pumped, but if it doesn’t, I’ll know I had the best chance to do it.DR: You’ve tested late models. How well did your skills transfer?
RC: They did a bit. It’s four wheels instead of two, but the main thing is the feel and having the determination and drive [to win]. Driving takes way more concentration. I’ve only done short tracks-not the big speedways. But it seems like you can get so lackadaisical on a dirt bike, whereas on the oval, the tires are changing, [there are] temperature gauges, people are in front of you and guys are yelling in your ear. There is a lot more going on, dude, a lot more.DR: Getting back to SX/MX… How much do you think you took everyone by surprise this year?
RC: Oh, so much. But I think I really surprised everyone last year, because a lot of people just thought [Chad] Reed and Bubba [James Stewart] were just going to take me to the house. It ended up being the other way around.DR: Were people doubting you, including Honda when the deals went down in ’04?
RC: Oh, absolutely. But there was one company that didn’t, and that was Suzuki.DR: How much did that bum you out?
RC: It didn’t bum me out. It just motivated me. I know how this sport is now that I’m older. It’s a big, big business, man. If you let that stuff bother you, and a lot of people do, it will eat you up inside.DR: Why do you think there was that doubt?
RC: Probably because I had done so well. They just probably thought I couldn’t keep it up, so they just said, “We’ll just take our chances and do something else.” So Honda took their chances, and they haven’t won too many races.DR: Do you think Suzuki was taking a chance?
RC: In my eyes, no-I was taking a chance because I was proven and Suzuki hadn’t been proven. So I think I was taking a risk because I knew in my heart that I was going to perform. I was hoping that the team would, and they have. It was a big risk, but watching the bike and listening to it before I signed the contract and seeing how it performed and worked, I definitely had a question mark in my head. But at the same time, in my gut, if I had Roger DeCoster’s support, I could get the job done.DR: You hate to lose. I’ve never met anyone who hated it as much as you.
RC: I hate to lose when I know I have a good chance at winning. If we go to the batting cage and you just tear me up, it’s not going to make me mad because I know I’m just not very good at that. But if I know that we’re really similar and equal, then I’ll be, like, dang! But I’ve grown up a lot, and that stuff doesn’t bother me. The only time I get upset is when I know I have a legitimate shot at something.DR: You were really shy when you were growing up, and you still are-especially around strangers. When you started getting more exposure, was that hard to deal with, being constantly watched?
RC: Oh yeah. I still am shy. I feel like the older I get, the worse I get, because someone in my position, or any top athlete, man, has to watch his back. You hear about kids’ parents ripping them off for money, so you never know. It makes you very, very gun-shy. I have a lot of friends, but I only have a couple of people I really hang out with and trust. You have to be smart, and that’s why I’m very shy and don’t talk to a lot of people, because at the end of the day I know what they want and I always look at them and say, “Are you going to be around when I’m 50 years old?” Most of the time they’re not going to be. It’s very hard. I’m a hermit, basically, at the races just because people want me for what I’ve done and who I am, not the person I am. That’s why I’m really quiet and just keep to myself. You have to be or else people just take advantage of you.DR: What are your flaws?
RC: I have lots of flaws. I need to be more responsible when it comes to being just a human being and doing things around the house, being a husband. You can’t let your wife do it all, and basically, she does. A lot of that is because of my sport, so I look forward to being more responsible. That’s a terrible trait that I have; I’m very irresponsible.DR: What’s one thing you want to do when you have the time?
RC: Just the smallest things. I would love to do my own lawn and do it right. Lawn care, washing my own cars-I’m just lazy, man. When my day is done, I don’t do a thing, not one thing. So l look forward to stuff like that. Learning about taxes, paying the income taxes, I wish I was a little smarter at that. But I’m only 26 years old, so I have plenty of time to learn that mess.DR: How much ice cream do you think you could eat in one sitting?
RC: Oh, dude, you shouldn’t have even asked me that question! [Laughs] I’m sure I could eat a Breyers half-gallon. The only reason I haven’t done it is so I could say that I haven’t done it, but ice cream is a weakness of mine, that’s for sure. I don’t know-I just love it because I don’t get to eat it that much. It wouldn’t be special if I ate it all the time.DR: What is the biggest difference between race RC and home RC?
RC: You’d see a totally different person. I’m a very driven person. Riding and training is easy for me. I have plenty of self-motivation. When I go to the race, I get tunnel vision and I’m super focused. But when they see me at home, they’d be able to say, “Man, this guy is normal.” People would see a fun person, if you will. But again, at the races we’re at work and we get paid a lot of money to provide services for our sponsors, and I take a lot of pride in that, as you know. I love my boat. I have a 40-foot Cabin Cruiser, a Formula, and when I cross over that bridge into Destin, Florida, the racing goes out the window. It’s like a weight being lifted off my shoulders. Or when I go hunting. It’s so relaxing-my heartbeat is low, the air is clean and my mind is clear.DR: You’re not much of rockstar, are you?
RC: To sum it up. I’m just a normal dude. I love football, baseball and being a normal guy. The racing is just what I know. That’s why I do it, and I love winning races and just racing, for that matter. I enjoy the perks of being famous to some extent, but that’s not why I do this. I do it because I like to race. I don’t race to be popular.
The Art of Four
Every battle is won or lost before it is ever fought
By Pete Peterson
Ricky Carmichael understands this better than anyone who has ever faced him. He managed to stay ahead of his competition not by being in a class above them, but by staying a step ahead of them.Ricky was always competing, always building himself up and tearing down the competition. He practiced until he had the speed to win, trained until he had the conditioning to win and tested until he had the bike to win. Everyone knew this. Every restful moment his competitors might have had was broken by the nagging knowledge that Ricky was right then doing something to get better.Ricky never seemed to be racing the moto he was in. He always looked to me like he was already racing the next week’s moto. Already telling his competition that he could walk away from them with more speed than they could ever find in a week. Always staying strong to the end, even when not challenged to do so, to make them all aware that any battle taken up with him would go the distance. And always charging back from any crash or setback to declare that nothing would get in his way.Ricky’s methods made him the gentleman intimidator. His competitors would line up trying to feel confident, but surely the blistering speed he’d shown in practice that morning and the beating he’d delivered the week before was really what was on their minds. No one could take a beating from Ricky and tell themselves, “I’ll get him next time.” With Ricky, that just was the next time. The next race would really be the next time after that.And Ricky always looked even further ahead. He kept his sights on the big prize-the championship. And he kept his intensity and focus until that championship, once again, was his.And that’s when he started racing for the next championship.
Ricky, don’t stop now.Size Matters
By Karel Kramer
Years from now RC’s records will just be notations in lists and history books, and I’m not sure many will realize then (or that many of us do now) the odds he battled to set and break so many records. His record is equivalent to Michael Jordan’s accomplishing everything he did in basketball but while standing only 5 foot 10 inches tall. A rider of Ricky’s stature and weight should not be able to handle a 250 or 450 at all, let alone be blazing fast on them. He’s made it all look easy despite the odds. I realize that all factory bikes are great, but RC has rarely had the benefit of having the best bike available, either. And in an era of leapers, and he is one, he clobbered the competition with blinding corner speed.I was embarrassed at the booing he had to endure at the height of his power. At a time when a similar win record would have guaranteed hero worship for other riders. But when he hobbled into Anaheim on crutches after major knee surgery, when many other less accomplished racers wouldn’t have bothered, he caught the attention of the fans for good, and now he finally gets the honor due to a champion of his…well…stature.I was embarrassed at the booing he had to endure at the height of his power. At a time when a similar win record would have guaranteed hero worship for other riders. But when he hobbled into Anaheim on crutches after major knee surgery, when many other less accomplished racers wouldn’t have bothered, he caught the attention of the fans for good, and now he finally gets the honor due to a champion of his…well…stature.The Character
By Jimmy Lewis
I’ve spoken with Ricky Carmichael maybe five times for work, so I don’t really know the guy. I feel like I’m bothering him and taking time away from his real job, which is twisting the throttle and kicking ass. But what I have been lucky enough to experience is the thrill, along with the discomfort, of riding a few of his championship-winning bikes, which spoke volumes about the rider they carried. The setup was not for everyone-a low bar, swept back and an equally low subframe. It wasn’t even a typical setup for small guys, but it worked for him. The suspension setup was also unique, or bizarre, depending on how you look at it. But how would I know? I couldn’t ride it to the level where it was intended to work.During my early years as a journalist, my roommate was Spencer Bloomer, then a Team Green technician, who built a lot of RC’s Amateur National bikes, most of which carried him to championships as well. Spencer used to come home from these races astonished at the speed of the little red-headed kid and even more impressed by Ricky’s family dynamic. There was the stern regiment imposed by his mother that was balanced by a very laid-back father in Big Rick. Mom was tough on the kid; she’d get on him for losing to some guy at a local race like it was a World championship. Even after Ricky told her, “Mom, that guy is Bobby Moore, the 125cc World champion.”Didn’t matter to Mom, “I don’t care who it is, you have to ride faster!” And he did. Through obvious hard work and lots of dedication, he turned Mom’s energy around into motivation to come out swinging harder next time. Most kids can’t (and don’t) take this; there must be something in a champion that allows this to work for him.And some fans were worried about the other fans booing RC. I’m sure it only motivated him to go back and do what he seemed to do best, work harder and ride faster, because he knew he could do that.Crashes are ugly, and I’ve got a few in mind that show the determination of Ricky. In every one, the bike may be five ways past sideways, but the right hand is twisting the throttle and it is the last thing to let go. Who knows where his legs are-does it really matter?In his career he opted for changes in his racing program that challenged him, such as going to a bike and team that were perceived to be better with the switch from Kawasaki to Honda and then taking what seemed like a risk in switching to Suzuki. Both times he removed the machine from the equation and showed it was the rider that really made the difference. Yet always thanking the team behind him and giving the credit that was due to those who helped along the way.Whether or not he is racing full time, part time or just looking for the next phase in his career, which is his life, his character is to be a champion. And I’m sure he’ll put the same heart and effort into whatever he ends up doing, which truthfully, even after reading the previous interview, only he seems to know exactly what that is.
The Clean Getaway
By Rodney Webb
“Are you OK, sir? Do you need some assistance?” The lady behind the front desk asked as I tromped by, dropping enough mud clods from the ninth round of the Toyota AMA Nationals series to build a small rhythm section right there in the lobby of the Marriott Courtyard hotel. It was a fair question, I suppose. There I was, one part swamp monster and one part MX photographer. One shoe caked with mud and the other missing altogether.”No, I’m swell” I replied. Although what I really wanted to say was, “Here’s my press pass and the keys to my rental car. Head northeast about 30 miles to the Spring Creek Motocross Park in Millville. After fighting through the 20,000 die-hard (and soaked) fans leaving the track, paddle out to the straightaway beyond the first turn and let me know if you find a size-nine Merrell.”The rain came down hard a couple laps into the second moto of the Motocross Lites class. I pulled out my portable umbrella and squatted down over my camera gear. This worked brilliantly until I noticed rainwater beginning to roll down the hill toward me. What started out as a trickle quickly turned into a mini river with enough steam to carry away my 300mm lens. I quickly grabbed a jagged rock and dug a moat around my gear and myself. I must have looked like a turtle peering out from under my umbrella, watching the remaining 20 minutes of the Lites race from my little island.Toward the end of the moto, the rain let up enough to allow me to squeeze off a couple of shots. I would love to brag about the exciting battles that ensued and who was banging bars, but unfortunately by this time, every rider looked exactly the same-brown gear, brown helmet, brown bike. Everyone could have been a factory rider for Team Turd at this point. I realized the only window of opportunity to shoot the final moto of the day would be the first lap or two. After that, there would be another brownout.I decided to shoot the start of the last moto from my favorite grassy hilltop, which overlooked the double just beyond the first turn. This presented the problem of me leaving my island and fording the creek that used to be the racetrack. After a couple of near belly flops into the soup while attempting to walk uphill to cross the track, I turned and walked downhill about a quarter of a mile to the pedestrian pipeline that went under the track and into the infield. From there, I was able to walk on grass back up the hill on the other side of the track. Ten minutes and half a mile later, I reached my destination atop the grassy hill, which was literally about 50 feet (albeit across the track) from where I stood during the downpour.As the 30-second board went up, the rain came down once again. I pushed the button on my umbrella with my left hand and hoisted the camera up to my eye with my right. I suffered some arm-pump, but the gate dropped and the tracked roared to life. No time to adjust things now. My arm holding the camera began to shake with fatigue just as the field rounded the first corner. I sat on the motor drive as Carmichael crested the peak of the first jump. I couldn’t believe my eyes. It wasn’t strange to see Carmichael leading the pack, but it was unbelievable to see him out front looking fresh as a daisy compared to the field of mud hounds trailing him in hot pursuit. If RC could stay out front now, it would surely be the cleanest getaway ever.Well to make a long story short, the champ did stay out front. He didn’t stay clean for very long, however. In fact, he might have ended up the muddiest rider of them all. That’s because he got roosted by every rider in the field (at least once) as he put each of them one lap down. I didn’t realize what was happening until I heard over the PA system that he had stretched his lead to a full three minutes. That was pretty insane considering practice lap times were hovering around the two-and-a-half-minute mark. Eventually, only David Vuillemin remained on the same lap as the leader. But Carmichael got him, too, and the crowd went nuts.The race ended, and I managed to stay somewhat clean and dry throughout the ordeal. I was pretty darn proud of my cleverness. Most of the fans hung around until the end to see the lappings, and this is what got me in trouble. By now I’ve learned to ignore a lot of the fans’ request to take their pictures or trade them my camera rig for theirs, etc. The trick is to avoid eye contact. However, I failed to follow this cardinal rule when my eyes locked with a 5-year-old boy’s standing along the fence with his parents. I guess I felt bad that it rained, and the racing action was probably not exactly what he had been hoping for. That thought was coupled with being a dad myself; I couldn’t bear to blow him off when he looked up at me and asked, “Hey, Mr. Cameraman, can you get me those goggles right there?” The “goggles right there” had apparently outlived their usefulness and were abandoned at some point during the race. Regrettably, they happened to be partially buried 20 feet out in the swampiest part of the track. Needless to say, that young kid from Red Wing, Minnesota, got the goggles. And now he owes me a shoe. So much for my own clean getaway. At least Ricky got his.RC’s Digits
Carmichael has competed in 246 AMA SX/MX championship races (including 125 ESX)
Carmichael has won 154 of those AMA SX/MX championship races
62.6%-Carmichael’s career AMA winning percentage (154/246)
79.3%-Carmichael’s career AMA Motocross winning percentage (96/121)
46.9%-Carmichael’s career AMA Supercross winning percentage (58/125)
0-Combined AMA Motocross (MX/Lites) championships
7-AMA Motocross championships
5-AMA Supercross championships
3-AMA 125cc Motocross titles
3-Motocross des Nations-winning teams (five-time team member)
1-AMA Eastern Region Supercross championship
42-AMA Supercross and Motocross wins
96-Combined AMA Motocross (MX/Lites) overall victories
70-AMA Motocross wins
46-AMA Supercross wins
26-AMA 125cc Motocross wins
12-AMA Regional Supercross victories
3-U.S. Open of Supercross crowns
2-FIM World Supercross wins
130-Consecutive AMA Motocross moto podium finishes (7/1/2001-9/3/2006)
121-Consecutive AMA Motocross starts (September 1996-September 2006)
67-Consecutive AMA Motocross overall podium finishes (Budds Creek 2001-Delmont2006)
31-Consecutive AMA Motocross moto wins (8/24/2003-9/12/2005)
27-Consecutive AMA Motocross overall wins (8/17/2003-9/11/2005)
13-Consecutive AMA Supercross victories-2001 (tied with Jeremy McGrath)
10-Consecutive AMA Motocross Championship years (1997-2006)
9-Consecutive AMA Eastern Region Supercross wins in 1998 (perfect season)
For the Record
In 2002, Carmichael became the only rider to win an AMA Supercross title afterfinishing outside the top 10 in the opening round (he crashed out of Anaheim 1)
In 2002 and 2004, Carmichael completed perfect seasons in AMA Motocross by winning every moto he entered (24/24)-the only rider ever to do so.
In 2002, Carmichael led 352 of the 365 laps run in the AMA Motocross Championship
Carmichael holds the record for most back-to-back AMA Supercross wins with 25 (2001-2002)
Carmichael won all seven races he competed in at the following AMA Motocross tracks during his MX Class career:
Carmichael is one of three riders to win supercross races on three brands (Jeremy McGrath and Mike LaRocco are the others)
Carmichael won every moto he raced at Glen Helen except for moto one in 2001 and moto two in 2006
Carmichael never had to race to the final round to win any of his 10 AMA Motocross titles
Carmichael never won the supercross opener. He raced seven AMA Supercross opening rounds in the 250 (SX Class)
Carmichael DNFed only one moto in AMA Motocross in his career due to a nonmechanical issue (9/10/2006)