2006 AMA Dirt Bike Supercross Wrap-Up - Dirt Rider Magazine

Davi Millsaps

It's over. It's in the books. And holy Hannah, is it one to remember. The 2006 Amp'd Mobile AMA Supercross and Amp'd Mobile World Supercross GP series lived up to its intense potential with a stress-stretching finale that held the top three positions in a factory of limbo. Nothing was decided. Nothing was guaranteed. Nothing was known until the checkered flag waved on the last lap in Las Vegas. Supercross 2006 ran on gas-fueled drama, adrenaline-rushed victories and multibranded battles. It also stalled on tragic, disastrous injury. As we look back to the season that was, these are the stories and topics that throw us back in the mix of what could've been the most memorable SX season ever.Battle of the Brands

Honda's performance in this year's Lites class might serve as an indicator of days to come. It wasn't long ago when the CR125R was the weapon of choice in the entry-level SX class. But with aggressive development by Yamaha and its advancement of four-stroke performance along with the ever-present must-win attitude of Mitch Payton and his Pro Circuit machine, Honda had lost some of its entry-level thunder. Speaking of the king of satellite teams: Pro Circuit Kawasaki's winning ways continued this year with veteran Grant Langston grabbing another title for the shop wall. What about the new phenomenon that is Ryan Villopoto? He is for real. The quickest SX learner since...well, maybe ever. And don't forget "walk-on" Chris Gosselaar, who stepped it up with his best SX performances as he "earned" his checks each week by getting on the podium. He had more third-place finishes than anyone in either supercross class with five in only seven rounds of East Coast racing. Even still, with all the competition out there, Honda was the only factory to pack a 250F in its semi.And it paid off. With a near sweep of both coasts, Honda had a hugely successful year with everyone else playing catch-up. Privateers, local kids and factory riders alike are jumping on the newly popular bike. Look at this year's top spots in the East and West Lites divisions and you'll see a little more red than green, and a lot more than blue or orange.Suzuki missed the boat this year when Broc Hepler, its best title hope, reluctantly admitted injury and missed the entire series as did Suzuki's three-year-old bike. Next year could see a swing with Suzuki releasing an all-new 250F and possibly adding its factory star to the mix. As for KTM, well, it has just lost team manager Larry Brooks, and we have yet to see how that will affect the team's flow, though Mike Alessi did put in his most consistent ride at Las Vegas with the addition of mentor/coach/advisor David Vuillemin to his corner.As the top of the Lites class held Hondas in a majority with Kawasaki keeping it close, the big-boy class of the 450 machines saw just the opposite. The top three had everyone represented except Honda, with the red riders consistently off the podium yet dominating the fifth through 10th positions. Carmichael, Stewart and Reed did what they always do and got through the season close, really close. With Suzuki taking two spots out of the top 10, Kawasaki doing the same and Yamaha with only one, Honda actually made the best top 10 showing (except for that whole top three thing) with five out of the top 10 bikes being the Honda CRF450R. If you take into consideration Kevin Windham's absence from the first part of the series and Ernesto Fonseca's absence from the last part, Honda did remarkably well. Yamaha, while it still had a savior in Chad Reed and had the championship in sight, was completely absent from the satellite/privateer teams-now a huge factor in the top five, let alone the top 10. If you had to pick a manufacturer's champion in the supercross class, it might just be Suzuki, which put two bikes in the top five. Kawasaki was in the running to tie, but Nick Wey and his MDK Motorsports Honda proved the spoiler of yet another factory's results.The King

Jeremy McGrath's return to supercross in 2006 was brilliant. His reunification with Honda and both the company's and MC's race-a-few attitude had MC defending himself from the first press conference against questions like "Will you race the whole year if you're in the points?" MC did keep to his word and walked away after round six in San Diego-once again leaving some serious impressions on the sport.McGrath's holeshot and fourth-place finish at round two (on a two-stroke!) in Phoenix was the highlight of the series for many. Not only did he remind the best racers in the world where the sport came from, but he goose-bumped every arm, hoarsed every throat and pumped every fist in Chase Field with the most wonderful first-lap trick to date: the don't-ever-forget-who-the-man-in-front-is Nac Nac. RC, Reed and Bubba gave him a victory shower of champagne from the podium after the unbeatable display of first-lap showmanship. Jeremy is king. And he managed to beat the likes of Jeff Dement (raced 12 rounds), Kyle Lewis (raced nine rounds) and Mike Brown (raced 10 rounds) with only five rounds of points! Maybe more impressive is The King being just 10 points back of Tyler Evans and seven measly points behind injured Yamaha factory rider Heath Voss (who did race nine rounds, by the way). Basically, as a part-timer, MC rules. He could still make a run at the top five in points if he wanted, but he doesn't really have time. You see, he did all this superhero supercrossing while fighting legislation in his own county that presently makes it illegal for him, or anyone for that matter, to ride a dirt bike on their own property. Oh yes, he also had time to create, organize and promote the McGrath Invitational, a two-day televised supercrosslike event inviting the top 20 supercross racers to vie for a chunk of $500,000. Check out www.mcgrathinvitational.com.

On Top

Topping the top-privateer pile was consistent finisher and three-time podium stander Nick Wey and his MDK Motorsports Honda CRF450R. The top privateer by a mile, Wey cashed out with more than $8000 in payouts throughout the season, a 2006 Toyota Tundra, a 2006 Weekend Warrior Supercross Edition trailer from Giant RV and $25,000 in cold, hard cash from U.S. Smokeless Tobacco Company for "killing it" in the Amp'd Mobile World Supercross GP. Congratulations Nick, you give privateers a good name.The Bluff

AMA's retraction of team Makita Suzuki's 25-point fuel penalty shook things up for sure. When it was announced that his VP racing fuel had been tested and deemed illegal, Carmichael bounced back and showed he wouldn't budge under the pressure of controversy with a victory at Atlanta. In the end, the team, with some help from VP Fuels, called the AMA's bluff and RC got his points back. But where does this leave the rule? Should there be a rule? Lots and lots of questions need to be answered by the AMA.RC

With a wall full of championships and the luxury of going out on top, Ricky Carmichael has officially put on his part-time hat. And he couldn't have timed it better. He still has an outdoor title to defend-which should be equally as difficult as his AMA supercross title was-so that should get all the competitive juices out for the summer. James Stewart is the future of this sport, and Carmichael beat him in one of the titles this year straight up. For RC, this is the perfect time to scale back. The only interesting hitch no one's considered is this: Ricky's never gone half into anything.How is it going to be? Will he be Jeremy-esque and take it in stride with a confident charisma and some well-deserved respect from the community? Or will he hate not trying his hardest, working his hardest and not committing his life to the sport? Sure, he needs and deserves a break, but the winningest AMA athlete of all time has a hard time with getting second. We'll see how that goes (unless, of course, he just wins everything he chooses to enter!). One thing's for sure; if he takes just a fraction of his work ethic, determination and talent into mentoring the upcoming Suzuki squadron, the yellow bikes will be up front a lot. Wouldn't you want Ricky as your coach?AMA Vs. The World

Two titles. Two champions. Supercross has ultimately reached a confusing end. It's no doubt the Canadian rounds of the World Supercross GP are of great importance to the factory teams and racers. In fact, they've reached the point of total participation from all the major players. Carmichael, Stewart and Reed attended every round up north in '05/'06 and, in the end, Stewart came out as the man on top of the world.But what does it really mean? Is his championship somehow more significant than RC's AMA title? Or is Carmichael the one whose title truly measures the caliber of talent and consistency our sport's champions often have? The AMA does have the whole history, record book and rule-making thing going for it. Then again, Live Nation (formerly Clear Channel) does put the series in nice stadiums and gives us great fireworks complete with the Supercross Voice Guy (try and say "Caaaaarmiichaelllll" like he does, it's fun). Discovering which supercross title holds the most clout has many complications. Check this out.The World title ignores Daytona. Apparently Live Nation is pissed at Honda or Honda wants a race of its own or the city of Daytona has a thing against the Voice Guy. Whatever the reason, Live Nation counts that round in its promotion of the AMA series but not in its promotion of its World series. Wait, there's more. The AMA title ignores Canada. Yep, no AMA points for the Canadian rounds. And neither series counts the U.S. Open into its championship points. This is confusing as hell. Especially to someone outside the sport who asks, "Who's the best at this here supercrossing sport you're always goin' on about?" Don't you hate that question? It's like they want us to be NASCAR and have one guy win it all in a decisive, yearly championship.Well, fine. What if you counted them all? If you combine all the supercross races raced by the top three players (Carmichael, Reed, Stewart) in the last couple of years to make one big series, then we'd have an accurate view at who the true supercross champions would be, right? Right. So that's what I did. I made my own series, and in the final standings for the '05/'06 season, this is how the points would break down in the mother of all supercross series. Nineteen rounds. October to May. One winner. Interestingly, only Nick Wey and Ivan Tedesco traded places. Unless you count James's World title versus Ricky's AMA, then that changed, too. Consider this a glimpse of what motorcycle racing could become: The Ultra SX Championship. That's it. Supercross is over. Go outside and play for a while in the summer and relax. Your stadium seat will be empty until October, when a new batch of stories will unfold. I can hear the supercross voice already!Well, fine. What if you counted them all? If you combine all the supercross races raced by the top three players (Carmichael, Reed, Stewart) in the last couple of years to make one big series, then we'd have an accurate view at who the true supercross champions would be, right? Right. So that's what I did. I made my own series, and in the final standings for the '05/'06 season, this is how the points would break down in the mother of all supercross series. Nineteen rounds. October to May. One winner. Interestingly, only Nick Wey and Ivan Tedesco traded places. Unless you count James's World title versus Ricky's AMA, then that changed, too. Consider this a glimpse of what motorcycle racing could become: The Ultra SX Championship. That's it. Supercross is over. Go outside and play for a while in the summer and relax. Your stadium seat will be empty until October, when a new batch of stories will unfold. I can hear the supercross voice already!

The Most Influential Obstacle Award of 2006 goes to the supercross whoops! Bike setups, race strategies and track changes were all affected by the big bumps. Grant Langston takes his pounding.
The Most Influential Obstacle Award of 2006 goes to the supercross whoops! Bike setups, race strategies and track changes were all affected by the big bumps. Grant Langston takes his pounding.
No one jumps straight anymore. James Stewart pulls Chad Reed off a supercross triple, perfectly displaying the speed and style required to run up front. In supercross, this means attacking the triples with more speed than ever, making your bike do silly things on the face and flying as low as you can go. It\'s a combination of a whip and a scrub that is very, very cool to watch.
Corner speed is still key. Ricky Carmichael is arguably on the gas more than any other racer, and even in flat corners like this, he can gobble up time and chow down on the competition. Traction, power and acceleration combine to make fast lap times.
The Most Influential Obstacle Award of 2006 goes to the supercross whoops! Bike setups, race strategies and track changes were all affected by the big bumps. Grant Langston takes his pounding.
No one jumps straight anymore. James Stewart pulls Chad Reed off a supercross triple, perfectly displaying the speed and style required to run up front. In supercross, this means attacking the triples with more speed than ever, making your bike do silly things on the face and flying as low as you can go. It\'s a combination of a whip and a scrub that is very, very cool to watch.