There are perfect seasons, and then there are really perfect
seasons. The 1972 Miami Dolphins, for example, were perfect. They
won all 17 games they played. Ricky Carmichael in 2002, though,
was really perfect. Not only did he win all 12 250-cc motocross
races on the AMA National Series schedule--an unprecedented
feat--but he also won both motos (or stages) in each of them. It
was the equivalent of the '72 Dolphins leading each of their
games at halftime as well. (For the record, the Fish were behind
at the half three times.)
Entering 2002, the 22-year-old Carmichael was the two-time
defending 250-cc champ and had won three consecutive 125-cc
titles before that. He also has won the last two supercross (or
stadium motocross) titles, so he was clearly the favorite every
time he got on the bike. But in motocross there's no guarantee
that a rider, no matter how impressive his resume, is going to
be around at the end of a race. Injuries are always a concern
(Carmichael sustained a concussion at the start of supercross
season), mechanical gremlins pop up at the most inappropriate
times, and there are simply a lot of bikes flying around.
Nothing, however, went wrong for Carmichael--not even remotely.
"I really didn't have too many close calls," he says. "With
about three races left I figured I could [finish undefeated].
There really wasn't much pressure. If I did go undefeated, it
was a good thing. If not, it was still a good year."
It was far from a good year for most of his rivals, who quickly
tired of the all-too-predictable finishes. "Some of my
competitors sort of got jealous," says Carmichael. "I really
didn't talk to them very much."
So what comes next for Carmichael? Later this month he'll travel
to the California desert to compete for the U.S. in the Motocross
des Nations, a tournament that draws teams from 27 countries.
(Carmichael and the Americans didn't compete last year, as the
event was held shortly after Sept. 11.) Then, after a winter of
training it's back to the track, where he'll do his best to find
a suitable challenge. "The only thing you can do is tie it," he
says of his record. "That's just what I'm going to try to
do." --Mark Bechtel