AMA: AMA SuperCross Superstars Ready to Rumble
4 January 2001
PICKERINGTON, Ohio - Former AMA champion David Bailey said it best in a recent column in Racer X Illustrated: "I can feel something in the air. Something that has been missing for a while: Several championship contenders in top form at the same time, plus a host of others who can win." That sums up perfectly the anticipation for the 2001 AMA EA Sports Supercross Series presented by Speed Stick that gets underway this Saturday, Jan. 6, at the sold-out Edison International Field in Anaheim, Calif. The three biggest names in the world of Supercross and motocross racing -- Jeremy McGrath, Ricky Carmichael and Travis Pastrana -- and the rest of the series riders are set to kick off what could be one of the most memorable seasons in AMA racing history. And what of McGrath, Carmichael and Pastrana? One is a legend; one is entering the prime of his racing career; and one is young, but full of raw talent. Future Motorcycle Hall of Famer McGrath is starting his 10th AMA Supercross campaign. The 29-year-old from Murrieta, Calif., is shooting for a record eighth Supercross championship. McGrath's credentials are beyond compare. He has a lock on the AMA Supercross record book with the most championships, most wins, etc., and is easily the greatest rider the sport has ever seen. This season McGrath is running his own team backed by Yamaha and Mazda. He could face the stiffest competition in the form of Carmichael and Pastrana, but McGrath is still the King of Supercross and he considers Anaheim his home Supercross circuit. He won his very first AMA Supercross national at Anaheim back in 1993 and has won four more at the stadium, including last year. Many see Carmichael as McGrath's biggest threat for the 2001 Supercross season. The 21-year-old Floridian, who rides for Kawasaki, is brimming with confidence after stepping up to the 250cc class last year and winning the AMA Chevy Trucks U.S. Motocross Championship title. At 21, he is just now entering the prime of his racing career. Supercross racing has been the one chink in Carmichael's tough armor. He earned only one Supercross victory in 2000 and finished fifth in the series. Carmichael is focused like never before and truly believes he is the rider to beat this year. Known as a great frontrunner, a victory for the young Carmichael at Anaheim could spell trouble for the rest of the Supercross competitors. All eyes will also be on 17-year-old motocross prodigy Travis Pastrana of Team Suzuki. The native of Annapolis, Md., was the 2000 AMA Supercross/Motocross Rookie of the Year and won the 125cc AMA Chevy Trucks U.S. Motocross Championship. In just one full season of professional racing, Pastrana already rivals McGrath in popularity because of his winning performances in the Summer X Games, which led to network television appearances for the youngster on the "Late Show with David Letterman" and the "Tonight Show" with Jay Leno. The Anaheim event will mark Pastrana's debut in AMA 250cc Supercross competition. The opening round will be doubly important to Pastrana. If he does well in the early rounds he will contest the entire Supercross series, but if he struggles, he'll likely move back down to compete in the 125 Eastern Region Supercross Series. Of course there are many more riders who have a chance at the championship. Chief among them is Team Yamaha's David Vuillemin. The Frenchman who finished second to McGrath in the Supercross championships last year is ready for another shot at the title. He made some statements to the French press during the off-season that didn't please McGrath, so perhaps he is trying to use some pre-season psychological warfare on McGrath. Many feel that Vuillemin is the biggest threat to McGrath in 2001. The rugged veteran Mike LaRocco won the two-event World Supercross championship during the "off-season" and is always a steady competitor. Honda's Ezra Lusk is the only rider in the last seven years to win at Anaheim besides McGrath. In the past, Lusk is one of the few riders who has been able to beat McGrath at his best and he will try to get win number three at Anaheim this weekend. Kevin Windham, Ernesto Fonseca and Sebastien Tortelli are other big-name riders that could pull off the upset at Anaheim. One thing is certain; the 2001 AMA professional racing season is about to kick off with a bang.