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Motocross Is Still a Winner

Carmichael and Stewart put on a clinic before 22,000 in the final AMA outdoor national event.

September 13, 2004|Shav Glick | Times Staff Writer

Are there any fans as hardy as those who follow motocross?

As early as 7 a.m. Sunday, six hours before the first race, cars, pickups and RVs were lined up single-file along the only two-lane road into Glen Helen Raceway Park, swarming out to fill any spot they could find in the dusty surroundings. Unmindful of the anticipated 100-plus degree heat, with no shade and no seats, they came to see the year's final AMA outdoor national motocross.

Once, before Carlsbad, Saddleback, Indian Dunes and other Southern California motorcycle parks were shut down, world-class motocross was a common event. Now, however, Sunday's AMA national is the only opportunity to watch the world's finest riders on a natural terrain, hillside course.

An estimated 22,000 came to see two of the most recognizable and successful riders in the sport's history -- Ricky Carmichael on a Honda and James "Bubba" Stewart on a Kawasaki. Between them, the two Florida riders won every moto but one, Carmichael going 24-0 for the second time, and Stewart 23-1.

They did not race against one another, but gave clinic demonstrations of how to ride a rough, hilly course in the heat -- Carmichael in the 250cc main event and Stewart in the 125cc support race.

"Those last couple of laps I had a lump in my throat," said Carmichael, who was riding his last race for Honda. "I'll try and keep the streak going next year."

That will be on a Suzuki, Oct. 8-9 in the U.S. Open at Las Vegas. He will start training on his new bike next Monday on Suzuki's training track in Corona.

"I can't wait to see him on our bike," said Roger DeCoster, who has managed Suzuki's racing team the last nine years.

Although riding a less powerful bike, Stewart's lap times were close to Carmichael's and quicker than any other 250 rider.

Carmichael, wearing No. 1 plates instead of his familiar No. 4, did a lap in 2 minutes 40.178 seconds, with teenager Stewart clocking a 2:42.135.

Chad Reed, national supercross champion from Australia, did 2:42.260, good enough to earn him second place in final standings.

"I'm looking forward to next season," said Stewart, riding a 125 bike for the last time before moving up to 250. "It is going to be the most important year of my life."

The first time Carmichael, Stewart and Reed will meet is Jan. 8 in Angel Stadium for the supercross opener.

Spectators were scattered all around the hillside course, trying to catch a glimpse of riders fighting to maintain control in the deeply rutted line or climbing the steep Mt. St. Helen, the long uphill that finishes with an almost vertical wall.

The pits were so crowded that riders had difficulty getting themselves and their bikes to the starting line.

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