“Expectations” is a word that five-time AMA Supercross Champion Ricky Carmichael has had to confront this year more than any other.
Since he switched from two wheels to four and joined the ranks of the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series full-time in 2009, Carmichael has posted two top-10 finishes—one at the California Speedway in February, and the other at the Kentucky Speedway just last weekend.
While the veteran sits at a lowly 21st in Truck Series points, he isn’t losing his mind over not excelling, not consistently running up front, and not winning for someone who jumped to immediate success in the motocross ranks before he even turned 18.
“I think I’ve got pretty fair expectations, realistic expectations,” Carmichael said. “Some people don’t because of where I came from, and that’s the unfortunate part. I put my pants on the same way everyone else does and I think I need to have a little slack cut to me because I haven’t done this as much as I’d like to.”
But where do the expectations come from?
Carmichael wasn’t just another supercross success. His nickname, “the GOAT,” standing for the “Greatest of All Time,” has followed him to NASCAR. With it came money, fame, and a bit of extra attention from his peers.
“It’s been pretty big in the garage, and I think a lot of people here, they watched me in motocross and supercross racing,” Carmichael said. “Obviously a lot of the fans are able to cross over, so that’s been really good, and some of the sponsors know me too because of the success that I had in that form of racing.”
While the two-wheel crossover fans may expect wins, or at least for their favorite driver—no longer rider—to compete for victories each week, Carmichael isn’t getting ahead of himself.
Fifteen overall AMA championships came quickly for the 29-year-old phenom, putting him in the same age ranks as relative NASCAR newcomer Clint Bowyer, who edges Carmichael years-wise by just under six months. The initial urge to switch, Carmichael said, came from watching the close friend.
“I watched Clint growing up as we were big friends of his family,” Carmichael said.
Bowyer, like Carmichael, began his career on two wheels. Also, like Carmichael, he eventually made the switch, only earlier on.
Since 1996, Bowyer has raced with a roof over his head, and reached his latest career peak last season by winning the NASCAR Nationwide Series championship a year after making the Sprint Cup Series’ Chase for the Championship. The success lit a fire under Carmichael and got him looking at NASCAR racing.
“I watched him and that kind of inspired me,” Carmichael said. “I was able to just get some opportunities to try stock car racing. I loved it from the first time I did it and here I am today.”
Although their experience varies, Bowyer and Carmichael aren’t far from being in the same place. Both race under the umbrella of NASCAR’s three major touring series, both are seated in competitive equipment and both have age on their side, below the curve of the so-called NASCAR Cup Series veterans.
Sometimes, all that talent just needs some time to shine. Luckily, Carmichael has his sponsorship situation, which brought Monster Energy over as a personal sponsor from motocross, and Kevin Harvick Inc.'s stellar equipment—the same stuff that's won three straight Camping World Truck Series races with Ron Hornaday Jr. behind the wheel.
“I haven’t raced but maybe 35 car races in my life,” Carmichael said. “I would never even expect to come out here and do what I did in motocross. It will never happen. But I do expect out of myself to be competitive and meet the expectations of my boss, my sponsors and my fans.”
By scoring his second top-10 of the season at the Kentucky Speedway, Carmichael is doing just that.
Even still, the cool-minded rookie is keeping a level head. Carmichael said the way the cards folded, he “finally got a little bit of luck for once.”
Saturday night’s results may have been luck in Carmichael’s eyes, but at some point or another, the fire of a winner will burn again. At 29 years old, Ricky Carmichael has a lot to learn, and a lot of time to learn it.
This article was originally featured at SpeedwayMedia.com.
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