When the supercross season opens Saturday at Toronto's Rogers Centre, a familiar rider, 15-time champion Ricky Carmichael, will be at the starting line aboard his No. 4 Suzuki.
But for the first time in years, Carmichael won't be racing for another title.
He had announced that the 2006 season was his last full year of competition, which he punctuated by winning the Amp'd Mobile AMA Supercross championship for the fifth time, and then the AMA Toyota Motocross 250cc title for the seventh consecutive time. He has also won three 125cc motocross titles.
Carmichael, who turned 27 Monday, is shifting from off-road motorcycles to stock car racing, with hopes of one day driving in the NASCAR Nextel Cup series.
In the meantime, the Floridian agreed to ride some supercross and motocross races in the 2007 season for his Makita Suzuki Racing team.
He hasn't announced his entire schedule, but his supercross events will include the Toronto race and the first of three races at Angel Stadium in Anaheim in January.
Supercross stadium racing opens with two December events in Canada, followed by 16 U.S. races in the first half of 2007. The Angel Stadium events are scheduled for Jan. 6, Jan. 20 and Feb. 3.
The motocross season then completes the year with races on larger circuits at outdoor venues.
Carmichael's pullback from the sport means that several other riders will have better shots at winning the championship.
They include James "Bubba" Stewart of the Kawasaki team, the defending winner of the Toronto race and Carmichael's archrival last year; Yamaha's Chad Reed, the 2004 supercross champion, and Carmichael teammate Ivan Tedesco of Murrieta, who has recovered from a shoulder injury suffered last May.
Although he isn't chasing another title, Carmichael says he plans to race hard -- while trying to avoid incidents that could derail another rider's championship hopes.
"I'm preparing 100%, like I'm racing the full series," he told reporters last week.
But he added, "I've never been the kind of guy that's just going to go out and take someone down just for a win. You know, those guys are going for a title, and I don't want to mess anything up.
"I know I've had my time, and I feel that the only thing now I can do is tarnish what I've done. I want to go out and race for the love of the sport.... "
(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)
The 2007 season
Facts and figures on the AMA Supercross Series:
What: The 18-race Amp'd Mobile series.
* When: Opens with Saturday's event at Rogers Centre in Toronto, concludes May 5 at Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas.
* Anaheim events: Jan. 6, Jan. 20 and Feb. 3, all at 7 p.m. at Angel Stadium.
* 2006 champion: Ricky Carmichael.