We're now seven weeks into the 2013 Monster Energy AMA Supercross Series and that means that Ricky Carmichael has had time to reflect a bit on what it's like being a team owner for the first time. The five-time Supercross Champion is the co-owner of the Dodge/Sycuan Casino/RCH Racing/Bel-Ray Suzuki squad, which is made up of former 250 Supercross Champion Broc Tickle and Josh Hill, who has been struggling with health issues for the past two-plus years and, up until the San Diego Supercross two weeks ago, had not lined up for a 450 main event since the Las Vegas Supercross in 2010.
Carmichael's first day on the job, so to speak, at Anaheim I didn't go too well, with Hill breaking a bone in his hand - the injury causing him to miss the next four rounds. Although Tickle's first race on the team went much better than Hill's, an 18th place finish really wasn't what either he or Carmichael had in mind going in. Carmichael said he would have been happy with a 10th-place finish or better from either one of his riders. Well, there was always next week.
But that also didn't go so well with Tickle getting 12th. However, it was at least a step in the right direction.
"It's a work in progress," says Carmichael of his team. "It was a bummer to see Josh go out the first round; we had a horrific first round and got ourselves in a hole. That was a bit of a bummer."
Since Anaheim I, improvement has been painfully slow for Carmichael, someone who is so used to winning, but he realizes it takes time to get the ball rolling with a new team.
"Our expectations are no worse than 10th and anything [better than] fifth would be like a win for us, so we're right there, barely in 10th [in the points standings] after that first round. But we're slowly digging our way out. I think [Tickle] is getting better and the team is getting better every single week."
Even though Carmichael says he's happy with 10th -place finishes right now, you know deep down inside he'd really like his team finish to be in the top five at every race or even on the top step of the podium. Instead, an RCH Suzuki has finished inside the top 10 only three times so far. And he can't help get a bit knotted up.
Carmichael and partner Carey Hart. Photography By: Kit Palmer
"Sometimes I do get... anxious," he says. "But at the same time, experiencing a different sport [car racing] at a really high level, I know what to expect - I set my expectations and we have to live up to those expectations and for us anything above the top five is great, anything worse than 10th is a loss for us.
"Plus, we want to over achieve with what we've got. As I get older, I can accept that, and if we over achieve for what we've got, then we're doing good. If we under achieve with the talent we have, that's a loss. There are a lot of guys out here with bank rolls a lot higher than ours and getting paid a lot more than our riders and are under achieving - to me that's a loss.
"Our expectations for Broc is right in there, though, but we always want him to be better, but [he's at] our expectations, somewhere in that range, and [at times] we've exceeded that, and I think it's only going to get better as the season goes on in Supercross."
And results have been getting better for the Carey Hart/Ricky Carmichael-owned team lately.
"There's been a trend the last few weeks," says Carmichael. "We've been getting better, better and better, but we're still not consistent enough off the gate, but at least there is some light at the end of the tunnel and that's half the battle in the 450 class.
"The biggest [problem], and he [Broc] is aware of it, is the starts. These guys ride extremely fast the first few laps - actually, pretty much the whole time - and are really aggressive. He's been lining up after qualifying position like seventh, so that's where we need to be finishing. It's just work in progress and me trying to coach him along and help him get the results that we feel he is capable of doing. He's on the same page with us, so, yeah, obviously the starts have been killing us."
Team RCH Racing’s Broc Tickle. Photography By: Kit Palmer
Although Tickle didn't have his best finish of the year with a 10th at last weekend's Dallas Supercross, Carmichael was pleased with his performance.
"I was happy with how he rode in the main event," said Carmichael. "Realistically, I think that Broc should have finished eighth or so. That's where I need to do a better job coaching him on a track like Dallas. Everybody was doing the same stuff, the track was really basic, and the lap times were extremely short. On tracks like Dallas you have to ride smart and put yourself in good spots, because it's really hard to make up time. There are just not enough areas to pass. Positions 1-15 were as close as they've been all year. You have to be on your game and ride at a high level. You have to ride up front. But all in all that was one of the best main events that he's raced all year. He was catching guys that had been passing him all week. We're right there. We're one good weekend from sitting seventh in rider points. I really think he's going to start rolling in Atlanta where he will get some really good dirt on a technical course."
Carmichael is also pumped on Hill who has been knocked down by injuries so many times in his career but has finally been able to put together two good rides at Dallas and San Diego.
"Josh isn't 100 percent yet, so there is nowhere to go from here but up for him."
As far as being a team owner, Carmichael says he enjoys his new job.
"It's fun, but you always want to do better. Our long-term goal is to be contending for a championship; that's what I want to do, that's what our sponsors want, and that's what we're working for. We know it's not going to happen overnight, but we're going to work like we want it to happen overnight. We'll get there and I really have to thank our sponsors Suzuki, Dodge, and Sycuan Casino for giving us all their support. It's been fun and every week we've been getting better.
Being a team owner isn't the only thing on his plate, he also keeps quite busy with his Ricky Carmichael Universities and his Ricky Carmichael Amateur Supercross.
"I'm really excited about the Ricky Carmichael Universities. We've got one at Red Bud this year on July 3, the week of the National, so we're looking forward to that. (For more information, visit RickyCarmichaelUniversity.com). And then we're going back to England for a two-day school that'll be July 11-12 at FatCat Motorparc, the positions there are going fast. I think we pretty much have the first day sold out already. That was a great experience last year; they just loved it when we came over there.
Josh Hill hasn’t been a hundred percent this year. Photography By: Kit Palmer
"And then, of course, we have the Ricky Carmichael Amateur Supercross [at Daytona], and I have to thank all the manufactures that are supporting that event, because without them, it wouldn't be possible. Things are going great with that (for more information, visit RaceDaytona.com and RickyCarmichael.com)."
Carmichael says that he's not really pursuing a career in car racing anymore.
"It would be impossible to do all that with all the car stuff. It's tough. It's almost to the point to where that ship has sailed with that [NASCAR]. I've met a lot of great people and, in my opinion, with what I had, I think I did really, really good [in car racing]. I got a pole at the Camping World Truck Series in Atlanta and had a good chance to win at Talladega. Like I said, I got a couple of poles and got to do a lot of things that [race-car drivers] haven't done who have been in it a lot longer than me. Plus, I've met a lot of people and made a lot of new fans along the way."