After some close, tire-to-tire racing and some serious lead changes, Ricky Carmichael showed why he is the king of Supercross for 2001. After seven laps in the 20-lap main, Carmichael took the lead, and, aside from a little bobble with five laps to go, the series champ was never challenged.
Coming out of the first turn, four of the series leaders — Carmichael, Jeremy McGrath, Timmy Perry and Kevin Windham — were stuck in a pack. McGrath, from San Francisco, the all-time king of Supercross, was leading, and Carmichael was third. After five laps, Perry passed McGarth, and Carmichael moved into second. Several times the two changed positions, with neither rider able to get more than a bike-length lead on the other.
One official said there was more passing in the first half of the main than in any Supercross race in the past decade. Any one of five riders could have won this event. None of the five, in the first seven laps, was able to gain a comfortable lead.
On the seventh lap, Perry made a mistake and Carmichael passed.
McGrath, meanwhile, began to lose ground. Midway through the race, he had no hope of catching the leaders. At one point, his bike stalled in a turn. It was not, as one observer said, his day. Had he won, he would have been able to claim wins in a record 16 different cities.
From the seventh lap on it became a question of who would finish second and whether Carmichael could avoid mistakes. At one point, on a series of small bumps, his front wheel hit and threw him off balance. Perry was able to make up some time, but it wasn't enough.
Carmichael, from Havana, Fla., won; Perry, from Largo, Fla., making his first podium visit, finished second; and Mike Lardcco from South Bend, Ind., was third. McGrath finish sixth.
In the 125cc final, western tour leader Ernesto Fonseca, from Costa Rica, clinched the western title to go with an eastern championship he won two years ago. He took the lead going into the first hairpin turn, then stretched it out. He was never challenged. The race was for second between Ivan Tedesco of Albuquerque, N.M., and Grant Langston from South Africa. Langston chased Tedesco for most of the race. When he finally passed, he led for only a lap before he bounced off the track coming out of a hard left turn. Tedesco finished second.
Race officials say official attendance was 42,135, which nearly filled the University of Utah football stadium.
Because this was the first race on Utah dirt, racers faced a number of different challenges, among them the setup of the engines for the higher altitude and the tight configuration of the track inside the stadium. The race also fueled the debate over two-stroke versus four-stroke engines. Few riders use the four-stroke, but in this event Timmy Perry, No. 6 in standings and riding a four-stroke, caught and passed McGrath on a hairpin turn with a half-dozen laps left in qualifying. It was a first for Perry and, to McGrath's dismay, for the Supercross icon. Fonseca, also on a four-stroke, beating a field of two-strokes by such a large margin, gave strong support for the four.
Where McGrath lost his qualifying heat didn't. He got the hole shot and then widened the lead on each lap.
The track itself, built in two days using 1.5 million pounds of dirt taken from building sites around campus, was generally given good grades by riders.
The final event in the 16-race series will be next weekend in Las Vegas.