Carmichael Still the Man to Beat Coming into High Point National - News - Dirt Rider Magazine

Carmichael Still the Man to Beat Coming into High Point NationalThis was the season motocross fans have been waiting to see for at least three years. Ricky Carmichael and James Stewart were finally to meet head to head in the premier AMA 250 Motocross Championship. As the series moves to High Point Raceway in Mt. Morris, Pa., this Sunday, May 29, for round two of the 2005 AMA Motocross Championship Presented by FMF, it appears that Carmichael is clearly the rider to beat and Stewart still has some learning to do on the 250s.

Last week at the series opener, the Hangtown Motocross Classic in Sacramento, Calif., Carmichael cruised to a dominating victory in 90-plus degree heat in his first outing on Suzuki's new RM-Z450. Meanwhile, Stewart crashed twice and pulled out of the race from exhaustion in his AMA 250 Motocross debut."My trainer Aldon Baker has me set up with a great regimen," said Carmichael, who is shooting for his sixth straight AMA 250 Motocross championship. "I realize how tough the motocross season is and I think I've taken the proper steps to be ready. I'll leave all the mind games to everyone else. I'm just going out there to do the best I can to win."While Carmichael won by a comfortable margin last Sunday he feels he and his new Makita Suzuki will get even stronger as the season progresses."The Yamaha and Honda guys have had four-strokes for a long time," he said. "Suzuki has a lot of pressure on them coming in with a new bike. We've got some things we're going to try to improve the bike and I'm sure it will get even more rideable the more races we have with it."Carmichael will attempt to become the first rider in High Point's history to win four consecutive nationals at the Southwestern Pennsylvania circuit.Carmichael's AMA Supercross rival, fast Aussie Chad Reed, is showing that he's not just a stadium racing specialist. Reed finished second in Sacramento in spite of riding with a slight concussion from a practice accident."I had a pretty hard crash at Hangtown," Reed admitted. "It kept me from riding to my potential. I'm hoping to be 100 percent healthy at Mt. Morris and ready to go so I can give Ricky a bit of a run."Reed is a former Mt. Morris 125 winner.Reed's Yamaha teammate David Vuillemin surprised a lot of people by taking third overall in the season opener. It marked the Frenchman's first podium result in nearly a year. Vuillemin is a two-time High Point 250 winner.This Sunday's race will be very important for Stewart's championship hopes. The winningest rider in AMA 125 Motocross history comes into this weekend's race ranked 12th in the standings, a full 35 points behind Carmichael. A solid performance at High Point is imperative if the young Kawasaki ace has any expectation of getting back in the championship hunt.The High Point National is round one of the Kawasaki/Monster Energy Triple Crown of motocross. Round two will be held at the legendary Red Bud National in Buchanan, Mich., on July 3. The Triple Crown series will conclude with round three at the Monster Energy/Kawasaki National at Steel City Raceway in Delmont, Pa., on Sept. 4.The 125 class promised to be a wide-open affair this year and Hangtown did nothing to disprove that theory. In one of the strangest finishes in the history of the 125 series, Grant Langston and Mike Alessi crashed on the final turn of the second moto while battling for the lead. Langston won the battle by getting his bike going and crossing the finish line for the win. The South African may have lost the battle though. He injured his left ankle in the crash and is questionable for this weekend's race.Mike Brown, the 2003 Mt. Morris 125 winner, is no longer a factory rider, but he's still a leading contender. Brown is ranked second on his privateer Honda and has become an underdog favorite for this year's championship.Makita Suzuki's Broc Hepler, of nearby Kittanning, Pa., will be a local fan choice. Hepler showed remarkable speed in wining the first moto at Hangtown. He ended up finishing third and is looking to move up the ranks at High Point, a place he considers his home track.Young Mike Alessi showed great heart after crashing on the final turn in a tangle with Langston while leading at Hangtown last Sunday. Completely exhausted, Alessi tried with all his might to push his Red Bull KTM up the finish line hill when his bike wouldn't start. Alessi said despite the crash that cost him a podium finish, leading most of the second moto gave him a lot of confidence coming into Mt. Morris.The race will be televised on OLN. Check your local listings for show times.Advance tickets are available at Morgantown, W. Va., area dealerships and at the gate. Call (304) 284-0084 or visit the website for additional information.