In 2003, the season was dominated by two-strokes . It looked as if Ricky Carmichael would have a perfect 2003 season, but teammate Kevin Windham broke Carmichael’s win streak at Unadilla aboard a CRF450 four-stroke. While Windham would only win one more race in the 2003 season, he had left his mark. Ricky Carmichael, David Vuillemin, Chad Reed and Heath Voss, who were all on two-strokes in 2003, entered the 2004 season riding 450 four-strokes. The change to a CRF450 did not seem to affect Carmichael, as he had a perfect season in 2004 season.
In 2005, Carmichael made the switch to Suzuki. Another change was the introduction of James Stewart to the 250 class. Stewart immediately stood out after his performance in the 125cc class. He was a two-time champion on a 125 and demonstrated he could keep the pace of Carmichael, Reed and Windham on his two-stroke Kawasaki SR250. Chad Reed also stood out as a contender, entering into the season as the 2004 Supercross champion. Kevin Windham was the veteran of the top five, having started his career in 1994, but he wasn’t getting any slower. Windham had been top three in points the previous five years. With this talent pool there was a chance someone could knock the “GOAT” off his mountain.
The season opener in Hangtown in 2005 started great for Carmichael, but disastrous for many other top riders. Ernesto Fonseca took the holeshot, but Carmichael was able to pass him after the second turn. Fonseca’s troubles compounded when he dumped the bike in the third turn causing a pileup that involved Kevin Windham, Chad Reed, James Stewart and Tim Ferry. Windham had to pull off with a broken shifter (which his mechanics scrambled to repair). James Stewart worked his way into the top 10 before crashing a second time. Unfortunately for Stewart, he wasn’t able to finish the second moto as the stomach flu got the best of him. Chad Reed had the most luck by chipping through the pack to a third. Reed would later rebound with a strong second place in moto two, to take second overall. Ricky Carmichael had a healthy lead in both motos for the overall. Reed and Vuillemin would also earn a podium at Hangtown.