Team Makita Suzuki’s Ricky Carmichael (4) led every lap of the main event at round four of the FIM THQ Supercross Grand Prix and round two of the THQ Supercross Series at Bank One Ballpark in Phoenix, Arizona, tonight to earn his first Stateside victory on his Suzuki RM250 and the first AMA 250cc Supercross victory for the Suzuki brand since Larry Ward won the Seattle Supercross in 1999.
The 25-year-old Floridian got the holeshot in the 20-lap main and withstood early pressure from Amsoil/Chaparral Napster Honda’s Kevin Windham to win by over 10 seconds. Carmichael lapped the field up to 10th place during the race.
“I told my wife – she’s from Arizona – that there’s something special about this place,” Carmichael said. “I got my first 250cc podium here, and I was looking forward to it. Me and K-Dub were reeling off some good laps, and I think Chad [Reed] got off to a bad start. I’m just really happy for Suzuki. There has been a lot of talk and this and that, but that team is really good, and I’m really comfortable with my bike. I’m happy for them more than I am for myself.”
Windham also got a good start in the main event and it looked like he would battle with Carmichael for the duration. But it wasn’t to be as last week’s Anaheim winner got close, but never close enough to seriously threaten Carmichael, the Suzuki rider pumping out quick lap after quick lap until comfortably in front. Even so, Windham’s runner-up finish was good enough for him to retain the THQ AMA Supercross Series points lead heading into round three at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, California, next weekend. Windham leads Carmichael by two points, 47-45.
Yamaha’s Chad Reed didn’t get a good start, but he worked his way through the pack to capture third place, well clear of Honda’s Ernesto Fonseca who ended up fourth. Yamaha’s Heath Voss finished fifth, holding off the charging Team Makita Suzuki of Sebastien Tortelli. Tortelli had come from deep in the pack to finish sixth. Nick Wey ended up seventh, just ahead of Team Yamaha’s David Vuillemin. Supercross legend Jeremy McGrath finished ninth with Damon Huffman 10th.
Mike LaRocco crashed early on and ended up 15th.
Notable among the non-finishers was Team Cernic Suzuki’s Travis Pastrana. Pastrana crashed early on and pulled off the track.
In the 125cc final it was Team Makita Suzuki’s Broc Hepler (60) winning the first supercross of his career, the youngster following rookie Ryan Sipes into turn one, but quickly taking the lead on the opening lap. Hepler was never headed from there, taking the win by over nine seconds.
The result was a huge turnaround for Hepler, the Pennsylvanian finishing 18th last week in the muddy Anaheim 125cc final.
Second place tonight went to Ivan Tedesco, the Pro Circuit Kawasaki rider coming through from a bad start but unable to make a dent in Hepler’s early lead.
Sipes turned his holeshot into a third-place finish, the Suzuki rider now tied with Tedesco for the lead in the championship with 35 points.
KTM’s Nathan Ramsey, the points leader coming into Phoenix, had a night he’d rather forget with mechanical problems putting him out of the points.
Bank One Ballpark
Results: January 15, 2004
250 MAIN: 1. Ricky Carmichael (Suz); 2. Kevin Windham (Hon); 3. Chad Reed (Hon); 4. Ernesto Fonseca (Hon); 5. Heath Voss (Yam); 6. Sebastien Tortelli (Suz); 7. Nick Wey (Hon); 8. David Vuillemin (Yam); 9. Jeremy McGrath (Hon); 10. Damon Huffman (Hon); 11. Michael Byrne (Kaw); 12. Tim Ferry (Yam); 13. Erick Vallejo (Yam); 14. Kyle Lewis (Hon); 15. Mike LaRocco (Hon); 16. Sean Hamblin (Kaw); 17. James Povolny (Hon); 18. Jeff Gibson (Hon); 19. Tyler Evans (Suz); 20. Travis Pastrana (Suz).
Time: 17 min., 22.470 sec.
Margin of victory: 10.420 sec.
125 MAIN: 1. Broc Hepler (Suz); 2. Ivan Tedesco (Kaw); 3. Ryan Sipes (Suz); 4. Turbo Reif (Hon); 5. Danny Smith (Yam); 6. Tommy Hahn (Hon); 7. Jesse Casillas (Hon); 8. Jay Marmont (KTM); 9. Christopher Gosselaar (Suz); 10. Andrew Short (Hon); 11. Billy Laninovich (Hon); 12. Steve Mertens (Yam); 13. Sean Collier (Hon); 14. Ryan Morais (Suz); 15. Tim Weigand (Hon); 16. Richie Owens (Suz); 17. Tiger Lacey (Hon); 18. Johnny Marley (Hon); 19. Benjamin Coisy (Hon); 20. Paul Carpenter (Kaw); 21. Ryan Abrigo (Hon); 22. Nathan Ramsey (KTM).
Time: 13 min., 21.460 sec.
Margin of victory: 8.146 sec.