The Frontstretch: Beyond the Cockpit: Ricky Carmichael Gauges His Progress by Phil Allaway -- Wednesday July 13, 2011

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Beyond the Cockpit: Ricky Carmichael Gauges His Progress

Phil Allaway · Wednesday July 13, 2011

 

Ricky Carmichael’s transition away from AMA Motocross and Supercross has been a slow one. He started out in the lower levels of NASCAR, racing first in late models before doing a full season in what was then the Camping World East Series. After a part-time season in 2009 as a teammate to Ron Hornaday, Jr. at Kevin Harvick, Inc., running in the Camping World Truck Series Carmichael went full-time last season for Turner Motorsports. He’s now in his second full Truck season there, dabbling in the Nationwide Series, too but still searching for the consistency that’ll launch his stock car career to the next level.

What is it going to take for Carmichael to climb the next rung of the ladder? And what are his long-term plans in NASCAR? Phil Allaway asks him to gauge his progress, part of a wide-ranging interview held at Daytona last week.

Three seasons into running the NASCAR Truck Series, Ricky Carmichael is still looking to drive through the ultimate gates of success in racing: Victory Lane.

Allaway: This race, Daytona was No. 2 of a four-race slate in the No. 30. You started off at Road America, where you finished ninth for a top-10 finish in the Nationwide Series. How was your run?

Carmichael: It was a great run for us, Turner Motorsports, the No. 30 Monster Energy Chevrolet Impala was special. That was my best finish in the Nationwide Series, and I had a great time. I really enjoy the road courses and look forward to another opportunity to be able to do that.

Allaway: In the Camping World Truck Series, you’re currently 12th in points through nine races with three top 10’s. Your best finish was a sixth last time out at Texas. What are your thoughts on your season so far?

Carmichael: I think it’s been fair. We’ve been good at times, [but] we’re not where we want to be. I think we made a lot of gains at Texas. Obviously, the results speak for themselves. So, I’m very optimistic about the races coming up.

We’re six or nine points out of tenth, and we need to be inside that top 10 after the next race. We’re trying to get back on track from how we ended last year, and the feel that the crew chief and the guys on the team gave me at Texas in order to get that top-10 finish in sixth.

Allaway: Going into this season, what were your goals for the No. 4 truck?

Carmichael: I think if we could be anywhere inside the top 5 in points after the season, I’d think that would be like winning the championship. But, no worse than tenth. We are legitimately that good and there’s no reason why we shouldn’t be.

Allaway: This is your fourth year in stock cars now. When you originally entered NASCAR through the now-K&N Pro Series, where did you figure that you would be by now?

Carmichael: Actually, I think I’m a lot farther ahead that I ever thought I would be, to be honest. In 2007, when I started this venture into four-wheeled racing, if you would have told me that I had gotten all of these top-10’s and several top-5’s [in the Camping World Truck Series] and finished ninth in the Nationwide Series, I’d say “No way, you’re crazy.” Sometimes, I think I show a lot of hope, and other times, it’s just average. I think I’m ahead of the curve, but it’s a tough level to learn at, it really is.

But, it’s the only opportunity that I have to do it, and it’s at this level. I’m happy with where I’m at and I never thought that I would be here three years ago, no way.

Allaway: What was the transition like when you first started out in the now-K&N Pro Series?

Carmichael: I really liked the K&N Pro Series. Sixth in the series, [won] the Most Popular Driver Award, a few top-5’s, a bunch of top-10’s. I got a pole at South Boston. To have only raced a car 14 times before I went into that series, I thought that I went above and beyond what I probably should have done. So, I thought it was good and it gave me a lot of confidence. It set me up for the opportunity that I have here [with Turner Motorsports].

Carmichael, committed to climbing into a stock car for years to come is looking at jumping from the Truck Series into Nationwide full-time next year.

Allaway: Even though you’re now full-time in NASCAR, you still have ties to the Motocross and Supercross community. Can you talk a little bit about that.

Carmichael: Yeah, I’ll always be involved with motorcycle racing, Motocross and Supercross. I’m the team advisor for Factory Suzuki, then there’s Fox Racing and Monster on the two-wheeled side. I’ll always be there. It’s the sport that gave me the name I got, and that’s what I made my living doing. I had a great career [there]. I’ll be in that forever, regardless of what happens on this side. I love that sport, it’s given me every opportunity that I could ever want. That’s why I’m here today.

So, that’s what I do there today. I commentate, team advisor for Suzuki, you know, helping the young guys coming up.

Allaway: So, what do you do as a Team Advisor? Is your role just to give advice to the newcomers?

Carmichael: Yeah, a Team Advisor role would be like when a young guy’s coming up, kinda give them some pointers, maybe test their race bike, and advise them on things that I think should be better, things that are going good, where we’re at as a team, and just being there to help the team be the winning-caliber team that it was when I retired.

Allaway: How often do you still ride?

Carmichael: I ride probably once every two weeks, so I do still ride quite a bit.

Allaway: When you made your transition over to NASCAR, a lot was made about potentially bringing over a new audience with you. We’re hearing the same thing now with Travis Pastrana. Have you seen any fans transfer over from motorcycle racing to NASCAR as a result of your move?

Carmichael: Absolutely. I think that we have definitely had a little bit of an effect on the younger demographic coming over, you know the 15-28 range that NASCAR’s looking for. Without a doubt, from the Motocross/Supercross racing to the X-Games, for sure.

Allaway: Also, not too long ago you attended a special gathering at the Governor’s Mansion in Tallahassee. Can you talk about that a little bit?

Carmichael: Yeah, we had a great opportunity. I live in Tallahassee and NASCAR had a deal at the Governor’s Mansion. I got to tour the Governor’s Mansion with Governor Rick Scott and I tell you, man, that was a cool opportunity. I live there, it was just down the road from me, and I’d never been there. So, to be able to get the nod from NASCAR, the invitation from the state and the Governor and his wife to come there and tour the Mansion was something special. It’s not every day that you get to do that. So, I gotta thank them for the invite. It was an honor to be a part of it.

Allaway: Next year, do you plan on continuing in the Camping World Truck Series, or do you plan on moving up to the Nationwide Series?

Carmichael: My plan for 2012 is to go full-time Nationwide racing. That is my plan and my goal. That’s what we want to do.

Allaway: Are you planning on staying with Turner Motorsports in order to do that?

Carmichael: As of right now, that is the plan. I’ve got a good relationship with them. Obviously, so much of it depends on sponsorship, but I’ve got a great sponsor behind me in Monster Energy, so we’ll see what happens.

Allaway: At the current pace, how long do you think it might be before you would be ready to make your Sprint Cup debut?

Carmichael: A long time from now. I don’t think I’m ready for that stage yet. I still need to put up some solid efforts in the Truck Series and get way more time under my belt in these Nationwide cars. I still need to put many years in.

Allaway: Ultimately, Sprint Cup is the goal out of this foray into NASCAR. Once this is all over and done, what would you wish to have achieved there?

Carmichael: To be able to know that I was competitive, and was able to compete at the Cup level. That is my long-term goal. That’s where I want to be and I will do everything I can to get there.

If you’re realistic with your goals, then I can achieve far more than I was supposed to. So, if anything, nothing ventured, nothing gained. Anything is a success at this point.

Daytona isn’t the first Nationwide race Carmichael’s failed to finish. This frustrating Fontana incident last Fall sent him to the garage early, one of three career DNF’s in six Nationwide starts.

Allaway: As a capper, do you have any advice for Travis Pastrana for his upcoming Nationwide foray?

Carmichael: I just think he needs to have a good time and that he needs to do what’s good for him. I’m not really sure where he wants to go with this.

He’ll have fun with it, but I’m not sure if this will be a place where he’ll be for a long time. With that said, to be honest, I have a hard enough time keeping up with myself that he’s the least of my worries.

After a disappointing Nationwide night at Daytona, wrecking early en route to a 39th-place finish Carmichael’s kept right on chugging in the Truck Series. A 13th-place result at Kentucky Thursday, one lap back dropped him to 13th in points but still kept him within striking distance of the top 10 going forward.

“We had a tough night but we were still able to bring home a decent finish,” he said. “The Monster Energy Chevy was really fast on old tires but we were stuck in traffic and couldn’t make up any ground on the leaders. We’re having consistent results but I’m ready to break through and start finishing in the top 10 on a regular basis.”

Contact Phil Allaway

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