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Four still in the race for motocross title

Going into season finale at San Bernardino, Langston, Short, Ferry and Alessi have a chance.

September 09, 2007|Jim Peltz | Times Staff Writer

With Ricky gone and Bubba out, there's a scramble to be this year's king of motocross.

Four riders have a shot at winning the AMA Toyota Motocross championship today in the series' season finale at hilly Glen Helen Raceway in San Bernardino.

That's because Ricky Carmichael, the series champion for the last seven years, rode a limited schedule this year as he transitions from two-wheel racing to become a stock-car driver.

His heir apparent, James "Bubba" Stewart, was poised to take his first major motocross off-road motorcycle racing title this year but injured his knee in July at a race in Washougal, Wash.

That leaves four riders with an unexpected shot at the series title at the Giant RV AMA Motocross Nationals: Grant Langston, Andrew Short, Tim Ferry and Mike Alessi of Victorville.

Langston has the series lead, but only 15 points separate him and the fourth-place Alessi.

"When James got hurt it just blew things wide open," said Langston, 25, of Clermont, Fla. "Did I expect to be leading the points going into the final round? No, not really."

Today's event -- which is broken into two races, or "motos" -- also has four manufacturers vying for the title. Langston rides a Yamaha, Short a Honda, Ferry a Kawasaki and Alessi a KTM bike.

Stewart won both motos at Glen Helen last year after Carmichael, who already had clinched the 2006 title, crashed in the first moto and injured his shoulder.

The 21-year-old Stewart also won his first Amp'd Mobile AMA Supercross title this year. Supercross is the stadium version of motocross.

The Glen Helen circuit is 1.75 miles long and features three major hills, one of which requires the riders to climb vertically about 20 stories, turn right and then immediately plunge down the same hill.

In the second-tier motocross lites class, Ryan Villopoto has the points lead over Ben Townley. Villopoto won the Glen Helen event a year ago.

Preliminary heats start at 9 a.m., with the first of the two motos scheduled for 1 p.m.

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james.peltz@latimes.com

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