The following is from AMA Pro Racing...
Ricky Carmichael comes into the 19th Annual Monster Energy/Kawasaki Pro Motocross National at Steel City Raceway on Sunday, Sept. 3, the newly crowned champion of the 2006 AMA Toyota Motocross Championship Presented by FMF. With the championship clinched Carmichael says he will turn to preparation for the Motocross of Nations. If that preparation includes winning at Steel City it will mark his 70th-career AMA Motocross victory.
While Carmichael is likely to receive a hero’s welcome at Steel City, another one of the crowd favorites will try to spoil RC’s party. Kawasaki’s James Stewart is the only rider to beat Carmichael in the series this year and a healthy Stewart has the speed on any given weekend to give Carmichael a major challenge.
Carmichael, the seven time AMA Motocross Champion from Tallahassee, Fla., will try to ride his Makita Suzuki to a sixth victory at Steel City Raceway. Stewart, who won three times in the 125 class (now called Motocross Lites) is seeking his first premier class win at the famous track in Delmont, Pa.
“Me and James have been having some sweet battles,” Carmichael said of his rivalry with fellow Floridian Stewart. “It has been fun, and that’s what racing is all about. We’ve been racing clean and fun. He gets the best of me, and then I get the best of him.”
Yamaha’s Chad Reed currently holds down second in the championship, but will miss the rest of the season with a shoulder injury.
Kevin Windham will be the only other past Steel City National winner in the Motocross class. Windham is battling fellow Honda rider Davi Millsaps for second in the championship. Stewart has an outside chance of earning that spot as well.
With the championship decided in the premier class, attention will turn to AMA Motocross Lites. There new Monster Energy/Pro Circuit Kawasaki sensation Ryan Villopoto leads Red Bull KTM’s Mike Alessi by 20 points. Honda’s Andrew Short is closing in as well making for an exciting three-rider battle for the title in the final two outdoor events.
The 18-year-old Villopoto, from Poulsbo, Wash., has been one of the biggest stories in AMA racing this summer. In his first full year as a pro, Villopoto has emerged as potentially the next big star in the championship, following in the footsteps of Carmichael and Stewart. Alessi looked to be in a strong position to earn the title, but some bad races late in the season have hurt his chances.
Short has made a strong second half surge in the series. Should he manage a win it would mark the first Steel City Lites class win for Honda since Steve Lamson’s victory in 1995.
The hottest rider in the class coming into Steel City is local hero Broc Hepler. The Makita Suzuki rider from Kittanning, Pa., has won the last two rounds leading up to Steel City. A victory this weekend would give Hepler the most wins he’s ever had in a single season.
The Monster Energy/Kawasaki Pro Motocross National at Steel City will be televised on OLN. The Motocross class will air on Saturday, Sept. 9 at 6:00 pm, while the Motocross Lites class will broadcast on Monday, Sept. 11 at 5:30 pm.