Reed Opens Supercross Series Title Defense in Anaheim, Carmichael and McGrath Return and Stewart DebutsYamaha’s Chad Reed, the 2004 THQ AMA Supercross Champion, opens his title defense in the 2005 series opener at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, Calif., on Saturday, Jan. 8. This year’s series, which concludes with round 16 in Las Vegason May 7, is easily the most highly anticipated season in the history of AMA Supercross.Reed’s title defense is just the beginning of the story of Anaheim I, which is the first of threerounds in 2005 at Angel Stadium. What makes Anaheim I so intriguing is the confluence of superstarsof the sport finally coming together and meeting head to head for the first time. Chad Reed vs. RickyCarmichael vs. James Stewart vs. Jeremy McGrath vs. Travis Pastrana vs. Kevin Windham vs. MikeLaRocco and so on.”It’s one of those rare moments in racing where all the top riders will come together,” said Reed, who will be trying to win the Anaheim opener for the third straight year. “If I weren’t racing myself I would definitely be in the crowd watching. I’m honored to be mentioned as one of the top riders in this group.”Stewart’s debut in the main 250 class is what many fans are looking forward to seeing. Kawasaki’s racing phenom broke nearly every conceivable record in the 125 class and he has goals to do the same someday in the 250s. In spite of the fact that many past AMA Supercross greats,including Ricky Carmichael, never even finished on the podium in his first season of AMA Supercross, the pressure and the hype surrounding the 19-year-old Stewart as he approaches his debut is tremendous.”It’s funny because when most riders come into the 250 class it’s cool even if they make themain and just have a decent race,” Stewart said. “Now everyone is expecting me to either win orcrash my brains out. I’ve never said anything about where I expect to finish. I’m not hyping myself. I’mjust excited to be racing in the top class against the best riders. By listening to people you’d think myentire career depends on how I do at Anaheim I, but I’d be pumped if I have a good race and finish onthe podium. It would still be better than almost anyone has ever done in their first race.”Carmichael is returning to AMA Supercross competition after the three-time series champ satout last season recovering from knee surgery. The one stat that stands out with Carmichael is that the25-year-old Floridian has never lost a title defense in his eight-year pro career. He’s anxious to winback the title he vacated after 2003. If he does so he would bring Suzuki its first AMA 250 SupercrossSeries championship since Hall of Famer Mark Barnett scored the title on a yellow bike in 1981.”This is a very exciting time for me,” said Carmichael, who was recently named the AMA SPEED Channel Athlete of the Year for a record tying third time. “I’m looking forward to working with my new team and going for a fourth supercross championship.”If the opportunity to watch the Big Three of Carmichael, Reed and Stewart race together for the first time is not enough, there’s also the return of Jeremy McGrath to consider. The former King of Supercross is coming back in a limited return two years after he announced his retirement at the Anaheim opener. It’s fitting that Anaheim marks the race where McGrath makes his comeback. Heconsiders the Big A his home track and it is the place in 1993 where he won the first of his record 72-career victories and began his unmatched run of seven AMA Supercross Series championships.McGrath will also be reunited with Honda, the team he rode for during the prime of his career in the1990s.”I’m realistic about this,” McGrath said of his return. “I’m not calling it a comeback. It’s just that Iwant to race and want to have fun. It’s never going to be like it was. I just want to have a good timewith it and not put too much pressure on myself and enjoy it this time around. I am in a really uniqueposition. Not many guys can call their own shots and just race half the season like I’m doing.”Among others who could emerge from the shadows of the big stars and score a surprisevictory at Anaheim include riders such as Honda’s Kevin Windham and Mike LaRocco. Windham isconsidered one of the most naturally gifted riders in the history of the sport and finished runner-up toReed in the series last year. LaRocco was the third ranked rider in 2004. The Hoosier native, whoturns 34 in February, is hoping to extend his career a few years by racing only AMA Supercross fulltime. He competed in only a single AMA Motocross event last summer so he should be fresh for theAMA Supercross season.Travis Pastrana, the oft-injured X-Games hero, is planning on returning to AMA Supercrosscompetition at Anaheim. The Suzuki rider does not expect to be fully fit for the race however as he isjust coming off a wrist injury. Nick Wey and David Vuillemin are two other riders expected to beamong the front-runners in the opener.Anaheim I will receive next-day coverage on ESPN2 starting with the AMA 125 WestSupercross race at noon and the main 250 race at 1:00 pm Eastern.Doors open to the public Saturday at Angel Stadium at 12:30 pm and the main event starts at7:00 pm. A Pit Party is planned so the public can meet the racers from 12:30 to 5:30. Tickets areavailable at the Box Office, all Ticketmaster outlets, all participating Yamaha Dealers or charge byphone at 213-480-3232 or 714-740-2000.