This Saturday evening in Anaheim, California, the 16-round AMA EA Sports Supercross Series begins. Last year, Ricky Carmichael dominated the series and dethroned Jeremy McGrath (McGrath had won 7 of 8 previous 250 championships). This year promises more competition for both Carmichael and McGrath.
While McGrath returns on his McGrath Racing Yamaha, Carmichael has made the switch to Team Honda from Kawasaki for the 2002 series. One big question has been whether Carmichael can quickly adapt to riding the aluminum-frame Honda. This question was largely answered in the affirmative when Carmichael made his Honda racing debut in Las Vegas a couple of months ago – completely dominating and winning the US Open.
How can you bet against Carmichael repeating as champion in 2002 after he won 13 straight supercross main events in 2001? The answer is you can’t. We feel Carmichael will win the championship again this year, but will be challenged, at times, by McGrath and others.
The other riders (besides McGrath) to watch are Tim Ferry (Yamaha), David Vuillemin (Yamaha), Ezra Lusk (now with Kawasaki), Kevin Windham (Suzuki), Travis Pastrana (also with Suzuki, and new to the 250 class), Mike LaRocco (Honda), and Nate Ramsey (hired by Honda to race their CRF450R four-stroke).
In our opinion, the riders most likely to run at or near the front from this group are Ferry, Lusk, and Windham.
Towards the end of last season, and throughout the Outdoor Nationals, Tim Ferry showed everyone he had mastered the Yamaha YZ426F. On certain tracks, four strokes are an advantage, and Ferry certainly knows how to use that advantage this year. Ferry should win at least one main event.
Ezra Lusk could be the hungriest rider on the track this year. Lusk knows he has the talent and the speed to hang with anyone (including Carmichael and McGrath) and he isn’t intimidated by anyone. With the exception of Jeff Emig (the lone rider to take a 250 supercross championship away from Jeremy McGrath before Carmichael came along), Lusk was the first rider to beat McGrath to the checkered flag in a Supercross race on any sort of consistent basis. This last happened several seasons ago for Lusk, however, who has struggled with injuries since that time. The word is that Lusk is healthy, hungry, and fast on the Kawasaki.
Kevin Windham also has the speed to win supercross mains this year. The trouble is that Windham has always had the speed to win, but rarely fulfills his potential. Is Windham finally ready to start a season with the right physical conditioning and the right mental attitude? It was widely reported he was seeing a sports psychologist last year to help with his one missing ingredient – mental focus and confidence. As always, if Windham puts it all together this year, he will win main events and even threaten for the championship.
In any event, here is our fearless prediction of the top 5 finishers in the 2002 EA Sports Supercross Championship.
- Ricky Carmichael (Honda)
- Jeremy McGrath (Yamaha)
- Tim Ferry (Yamaha)
- Ezra Lusk (Kawasaki)
- Kevin Windham (Suzuki)