There are perfect seasons, and then there are really perfect seasons. The 1972 Miami Dolphins, for example, were perfect. They won all 17 games they played. Ricky Carmichael in 2002, though, was really perfect. Not only did he win all 12 250-cc motocross races on the AMA National Series schedule—an unprecedented feat—but he also won both motos (or stages) in each of them. It was the equivalent of the 72 Dolphins leading each of their games at halftime as well. (For the record, the Fish were behind at the half three times.)
Entering 2002, the 22-year-old Carmichael was the two-time defending 250-cc champ and had won three consecutive 125-cc titles before that. He also has won the last two supercross (or stadium motocross) titles, so he was clearly the favorite every time he got on the bike. But in motocross there's no guarantee that a rider, no matter how impressive his resume, is going to be around at the end of a race. Injuries are always a concern ( Carmichael sustained a concussion at the start of supercross season), mechanical gremlins pop up at the most inappropriate times, and there are simply a lot of bikes flying around. Nothing, however, went wrong for Carmichael—not even remotely. "I really didn't have too many close calls," he says. "With about three races left I figured I could [finish undefeated]. There really wasn't much pressure. If I did go undefeated, it was a good thing. If not, it was still a good year."
It was far from a good year for most of his rivals, who quickly tired of the all-too-predictable finishes. "Some of my competitors sort of got jealous," says Carmichael. "I really didn't talk to them very much."
So what comes next for Carmichael? Later this month he'll travel to the California desert to compete for the U.S. in the Motocross des Nations, a tournament that draws teams from 27 countries. ( Carmichael and the Americans didn't compete last year, as the event was held shortly after Sept. II.) Then, after a winter of training it's back to the track, where he'll do his best to find a suitable challenge. "The only thing you can do is tie it," he says of his record. "That's just what I'm going to try to do."