FLASHBACK FRIDAY: RED BUD 2003
Ricky Carmichael is known as the greatest of all time for good reason. By 2003, Carmichael probably had more wins than the San Fernando Valley had taco carts. More specifically, he hadn’t finished off the podium since High Point in 2001. The Goat was on a 20-race win streak heading into the 2003 Red Bud National — and he was determined to hold onto it. The premier class in 2003 was made up of both 250 two-strokes and 450 four-strokes and there were no slouches on the starting line in the class of 2003. David Vuillemin, Mike LaRocco, Ezra Lusk, Kevin Windham, Larry Ward, John Dowd, Nathan Ramsey, Heath Voss, Ernesto Fonseca and rookie Chad Reed all wanted their piece of victory pie. Carmichael wasn’t having any of it. If anyone was poised to take on Carmichael it was Tim Ferry. Ferry was one of the only other riders to have taken a moto win in the season and he was a strong challenger—having finished second in the 2002 Championship. While Ferry would never get the pink unicorn of a premier championship he didn’t go down without a fight. Then, 250/450 rookie Chad Reed was another favorite having beaten Carmichael in Supercross several times that year. There was one other rider who had scored a moto win in the 2003 season leading up to Red Bud—Kevin Windham. While not quite a veteran at the time, Windham had been racing for a few years. After sustaining an injury late in 2002 everybody thought the burned-out Windham would quit the sport. Instead, he came back and was as eager as ever to make a run for the championship.
In 2003, it had just been rained on the day before at Red Bud and many thought the conditions would favor the four-stroke riders over the two-strokes, but to the surprise of many it would be a two-stroke rider that would lead out of the gate. Chad Reed showed that he didn’t just have the Supercross hype behind him, he took the holeshot on his YZ250. With Windham and Carmichael right behind him, Chad had no room for error. Reed’s fitness would prove to be his weak point as he ultimately got passed by both K-Dub and RC. Being in the lead can be a vulnerable position and Kevin Windham was the next to discover this out as his CRF450 slid out from under him in a corner. The door was swung wide open for Carmichael to take the lead and once he had it, there was no giving it back. While Mike LaRocco was in no position to take a podium spot after his normal bad start, he definitely opened some eyes as he charged through the pack to make it up to fifth.
Carmichael would go on to win moto two, but the fire had been lit in Windham. One week later Windham would win the overall at Unadilla and end Ricky’s win streak at 21 straight.