Ricky Carmichael’s Honda debut at the 2001 THQ U.S. Open’s first night of racing was a success, as the defending champ rode to nearly flawless wins in his heat race and the main event, putting him in good position to score the overall win and the $100,000 that accompanies it. Still wearing his familiar number four, the Floridian pulled two perfect holeshots and rode cleanly to pick up a perfect 50 points at the midway point of the two-night competition in Las Vegas, Nevada’s MGM Grand Garden Arena.
The much-anticipated showdown between Carmichael and arch-rival Jeremy McGrath never really materialized, as the Mazda Yamaha rider drew a poor gate pick for his qualifier, went down in the first turn as a result, and got a poor start in the main as a result of that (gate picks for the main are determined by a rider’s qualifying performance). McGrath did indeed look strong, passing up to third place (after rejoining the race dead-last) in his heat, and taking fourth in the main. He had actually gotten a decent start in the feature, but stalled his bike on lap one when Travis Pastrana got out of shape in front of him, again putting the Californian at the back of the pack.
Timmy Ferry capitalized on that mix-up, getting around both riders following a poor start and then passing Mike LaRocco for second, a position he retained to the finish (making it a Florida 1-2 punch). The Team Yamaha rider was aggressive and confident on his big YZ426F, and it looks like he’ll have to be taken seriously come Supercross time in Januray. Amsoil/Dr. Martens/Journeys/Competition Accessories-backed LaRocco followed Ferry in to round out the podium, and McGrath passed as high as fourth before the checkers fell. Team Suzuki’s Kevin Windham completed the top five ahead of Nick Wey. Riding a trick 125 chassis housing a 200cc motor, KTM Red Bull’s Brock Sellards was next, Pro Circuit/Kawasaki/SplitFire’s Mike Brown was eighth, and Team Suzuki’s Pastrana took ninth following a crash about midway through. Fast by Ferracci Husqvarna rider Steve Lamson rounded out the top 10.