Few people in any endeavor—in sport, in business or in life—have ever earned that title: the Greatest Of All Time. Ricky Carmichael has. He is popularly acknowledged as the Greatest of All Time in AMA Motocross, and his nickname remains "The G.O.A.T."
In 11 years as a professional, Carmichael became the most dominant rider ever in AMA Motocross. He was named AMA Motocross Rookie of the year in 1996, and logged his first full season in 1997, when he won the 125 Motocross Championship. Since then he won at least one championship every season he raced, and never failed to defend a title when he was able to ride the entire season (a knee injury sidelined him for part of 2004).
In total, he earned 15 National Championship titles in MX and SX, three team world championships (MXoN), and one individual world championship (SX1).
Also impressive: Carmichael has won on three brands—Kawasaki, then Honda, then Suzuki—and his dominance spans eras. He has won titles on the two-stroke machinery he grew up on, along with the four-stroke racebikes that later gained prominence.
Still, Carmichael says, induction into the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame is a great career high-water mark.
“Its definitely special,” Carmichael says. “When you think about all the great racers who have raced motorcycles through history, and about all the great racers still racing currently, it’s pretty cool to be associated with them.”
He is the only rider in AMA Motocross with an undefeated season at the sport's top level, a feat he accomplished an astounding three times, in 2002, 2004, and 2005. He was the AMA Pro Racing Athlete of the Year five times: 2001, 2002, 2004, 2005, 2006.
Though Carmichael was a fierce competitor on the track, he was typically gracious and humble off-track, preferring to let his riding do the talking. His attitude and work ethic won him fans both inside and outside the paddock.
The key to all that success, Carmichael says, was focus throughout all parts of racing, not just at the track.
“I’ve been fortunate in that I’ve been able to surround myself with great people, at Kawasaki, Honda and Suzuki,” he says. “They all gave me a chance to do well. The Hall of Fame induction is really about them. They gave me the shot. It’s really a celebration for them.”
Carmichael has earned a combined 150 pro overall wins. He notched 72 AMA MX overalls, 48 AMA Supercross main events, 26 AMA Motocross Lites overalls and 12 AMA Supercross Lites main events.
Carmichael capped his impressive career with a winning performance at the X Games and a victory with Team USA at the Motocross of Nations in Budds Creek, Maryland, his last race. He then retired from two-wheel competition and took up a career racing stock trucks and cars.
By the time of his induction in 2013, Carmichael was running a successful AMA MX and SX race team, and teaching riders with his Ricky Carmichael Race School. Life, he says, is good.
“I like the position I’m in now,” he says. “I may be retired from racing, but I’m still very active with team ownership, and as a spokesman for the sport in general. I’m just trying to help make the sport bigger and better for the guys coming up.
“I’m in a great position in that I can do the things I want to do, and not do the things I don’t want to do, which is a pretty good place to be.”