Ricky Carmichael, James Stewart add new NBC booth bonds to their lifelong friendship


NASHVILLE, Tenn. – With nonstop action laid out in panorama far below the Nissan Stadium press box, Ricky Carmichael and James Stewart managed the Supercross chaos as deftly as ever.

But for two riding legends who combined for seven championships and 98 victories in the premier division, this was a new way to navigate the wicked conditions of a treacherous track such as Nashville (which took a toll on some 450 stars).

Instead of braking, throttling and turning their motorbikes with exquisite precision, Carmichael and Stewart were eyeballing, gesturing and speaking excitedly into their headsets, calling the race on NBC with announcer Todd Harris.

SUPERCROSS IN SALT LAKE CITY: Details for watching Saturday

And in contrast to their fierce battles for victories while ripping through the dirt and mud 20 years ago, this was about cooperation instead of competition. When a rider fell during a heat race, Stewart nudged Carmichael and pointed. Shortly before an on camera hit for the “Race Day Live” show, Carmichael briefly coached Stewart on how much time they could spend on each topic.

For a pair of lifelong friends who recently reignited their kinship through a cathartic conversation about the family bonds (and pancakes) that brought them together and the forces that once drove them apart, being reunited in the booth

“It’s so fun to get back to where we were before we raced together and be in a situation where I feel like we’re working together to be the best we can together,” Carmichael, 43, told NBC Sports. “It’s not like we were racing in a competitive nature. I think we push each other to do the best. We support each other to do the best.”

Their rapport is as natural as their friendship, which is grounded in having been raised in the same region and from similarly modest backgrounds that were built around riding motorbikes.

“As far as how we are and why we get along, we’re both Florida boys,” Stewart, 37, said. “We grew up in the same basic circumstances. We grew up with not a lot of money. We grew up in the same way.”

But until this year, their paths had diverged after their riding careers had ended.

While Carmichael dabbled in NASCAR for a few seasons before becoming an analyst fixture on Supercross broadcasts the last several years, Stewart said he “disappeared” after he stopped riding in 2015.

He worked as a coach with Chase Sexton (the presumptive 450 champion entering Saturday’s 2023 season finale) and also started the “Bubba’s World” podcast in 2021, but he hadn’t given much thought to TV until joining the Supercross commentary team.

Midway through the 2023 season, he began joining Carmichael in the booth – a pairing that Stewart viewed just as he did riding against his old friend.

“Well, just like in my racing career, he was always the pedestal,” Stewart said about Carmichael. “That was the top of the mountain in anything with Supercross. To be alongside of him in anything, I know I’ll be at the top.”

NBC Sports interviewed Carmichael and Stewart together via videoconference about their deep roots as friends and competitors, their rapport in the booth and the sitdown last year that reconnected them.

Here are some highlights from the conversation (which has been lightly edited for clarity):


NASCAR on NBC analyst Steve Letarte joined the Supercross broadcast in Nashville and immediately noticed that what makes the Ricky Carmichael-James Stewart combo work is their contrasts, which mirror their distinct racing styles. While Carmichael was the smooth and technical rider, Stewart had breathtaking speed and aggression in a “lap the field or fall trying” approach.

“What I loved about Ricky, who has a tremendous amount of experience, and James, who is learning to be a broadcaster, is they still brought their own views,” Letarte said on the NASCAR on NBC Podcast. “Because what I’ve seen in a lot of sports is if you’ve held the same position as someone else and trying to describe something, they seem to blend over a little bit. I didn’t get that with James and Ricky, I thought they did a nice job of explaining the same things differently, contradicting each other at times, disagreeing at times.”

Carmichael and Stewart agree that they complement each other well.

Carmichael: “That’s a great view that Steve had. We raced the same way, too. We get to the finish line at same time but have two separate ways of getting there. He was going to do certain things to help him win, and I was going to do certain things to help me win. There wasn’t a right or wrong way, and I feel like that’s why we’re so complementary and compatible in the booth.

Steve Letarte joined Todd Harris, James Stewart and Ricky Carmichael during the Supercross broadcast from Nashville (NBC Sports).

“I feel like he knows my style, and I know his style. And I feel like that’s what the viewers are able to see. That’s why it works. But when the rubber meets the road, we throw our egos out the door. James doesn’t have an ego. I try my hardest not to have an ego. We know what we have. We’re thankful from where we came from, and I feel that comes across on the broadcast, and it’s just so fun to work with him in a noncompetitive environment because our whole lifetime has always been about competing against each other. Not because we don’t like each other. But to finally enjoy time like this, and we both can raise our levels is awesome to me.”

Stewart; “We’re winning, too. I like that analogy. I’ve thought about this, and I think that’s why it makes it easier because we’re not saying the same thing, but I think as fans, we can talk about what we’re seeing. We’re seeing the same things, but we can talk it in two different ways that everybody kind of understands, and I think that’s why the broadcast has been good because maybe somebody doesn’t understand the way I said it, but they do with Ricky and vice versa.

“People have been able to get that insight and knowledge and learn something. It’s almost like listening to two different languages. My grandmother gets it. His mother gets it. The hard-core motocross fan gets it. I say nicknames a lot. It’s just two different styles. That just makes our broadcast more complete and gets the message across in a multitude of different ways, so it’s been great.”

Carmichael: “When I’m in the booth, I’m thinking about, ‘Hey, if I see something that I know James can elaborate on, I want to get it to him,’ because I want our viewers to realize that and listen to what he has to say because he has insight like a lot of people don’t and does a great job sharing that.”

Stewart: “You can kind of give people insights but also give people the things that I wish I was able to say when I was a racer, and what a guy is doing by doing that. We can speak for the riders. If we were racing and had sponsors, that would be kind of hard.”

Carmichael: “I haven’t even told James this, but I love when we’re in the broadcast booth, and James is explaining how or why the racer did something. I’m anticipating what I think he’s going to say or how he would have done something, and it wasn’t what I was anticipating. So I’ve learned a few things about how James would approach certain situations whether it be a line on a track or race strategy. So there’s been a couple of times when he’s said a few things, and I was like, ‘Wow, I wasn’t really expecting for you to say that.’ Not that it was good or bad. I was just thinking it would be the other way. So that’s been fun for me to learn what James’ approach is.”

Stewart: “When we raced each other, it was about winning the race. The victory now is when we’re done, we had fun, but people are like, ‘That was a great show.’ That’s how the victory goes now.

“He’s been a huge help, probably more than he even knows. I am big on timing. I like to know how much I can talk because sometimes I talk a lot. I go from a kid who didn’t talk at all to a kid that just never shuts up. So for me, he’s been helping me a lot on that. If Ricky is killing it, then he makes me step up, and I’m better and vice vera. For us to win, the only way is for the both of us to get something out of each other that only each other can.

“And it’s the same thing as when we raced. The show is way better with him in there. He’s elevating his game and making me elevate mine. And you have Leigh (Diffey), Todd (Harris), Will (Christien), Daniel (Blair), the whole crew. It’s a team effort. Everybody just seems like they step up when they see one guy firing, the other guy fires, and the people who win are those watching the race like dang, ‘That was good.’ And the fans and my grandmother. That’s our victory.”


An episode late last year of “Bubba’s World” served as an unofficial dry run for their broadcast collaboration. During the course of nearly two hours, Ricky Carmichael and James Stewart discussed the various stages of their careers and how their friendship intersected (and sometimes suffered) as a result.

No topics were off limits during a no-holds barred discussion that touched on Stewart blocking Carmichael on Instagram and the awkward dynamics of sharing a manufacturer when Carmichael owned a team and Stewart rode a factory Suzuki.

The conversation left them on the verge of tears while mending many fences and reminding them of why they were so tight as kids despite drifting apart as adults.

Stewart: “It was catching up on probably 30 years of history. It was a good conversation because we always had that ‘I wonder what that dude was thinking back then.’ It was good because I’m hearing many things for the first time like “Oh, I wish I would have known that.’ ”

Carmichael: “It certainly was a conversation that needed to happen. You’re around a lot of great athletes, and I just feel like a lot of the stuff toward the end, more after I had retired from racing when I had RCH and James was riding for Suzuki, there were so many people in between us. Things were being said, and shame on me for not reaching out to James. Me being a little bit older, I should have went and said ‘Hey, everything cool?’

“Some people got in the way, but as I got invited to come down and talk to James for that conversation on ‘Bubba’s World’, we just could air all the grievances. ‘I never said this. Did you say this?’

“The thing, too, is people don’t realize when I stopped racing, I did those three or four years in car racing. I was pretty much gone from motocross and Supercross. I’d dabble once in a while, and that’s when James was having a lot more success, and he’s out there winning and other guys are coming up. I was kind of gone from that time and gone from everyone, not just James, some other great friends in the industry. I wasn’t talking on the day to day. It takes effort to reach out. We have our entourages and our people, and that got in the way.

AMA SuperCross
James Stewart and Ricky Carmichael field questions during a Supercross news conference Jan. 8, 2005 in Anaheim, California (Jeff Kardas/Getty Images).

“But it was a much-needed conversation, and now it’s so good, and think what people are seeing in the booth is just a reflection of how we are so like-minded and cut from the same cloth and how we had nothing and a lot of that correlates. We have a lot of the same beliefs.”

Stewart: “I think now with both of us being fathers, you just enjoy to learn and love and have an opportunity to catch up and talk about the racing side but also just life. It was a good conversation for me. It was really big, just on the standpoint of ‘Damn, I love that guy.’ Just catching up on all those relationships, it was good. Going in our different directions, doing different things and being preoccupied with things at the track, life, all these different things. It makes it hard to come up to somebody and have the conversation like what we did (on the podcast). It just reminded me he’s exactly who I thought he was, and that’s why we get along.”

Carmichael: “I left that (podcast taping) and had a four-hour drive home, and I just felt so good. I felt like a ton of weight had been lifted off my shoulders. Now I’m bummed that when I was retired, and he was at (the Suzuki factory team), I’m like, ‘Damn, it would have been cool to have you race for us!’ But at the end of the day, the roots are deep, and I think that’s why we work so well together.”


Though their careers had only some overlap – Ricky Carmichael won his first 450 championship the year before James Stewart won his first – they built a strong respect while racing each other hard. Though their rivalry lacked the acrimony of their battles with Chad Reed, Carmichael and Stewart have fond memories of highly competitive and sometimes contentious battles.

Stewart: “I’ve obviously known Ricky a long time since I was probably in diapers back in Dade City. He used to come over to my motorhome. I watched him growing up. He was older than me but also still in my era where I was watching him. We always had a relationship. When you go pro, it’s just the competitive nature. We were friends and cordial, but we raced each other. And when you have so much on the line, you’re on different terms. You just don’t have the opportunity to have the conversations like (we do now).

“And we were so competitive, and not in a negative way. I would say our competitiveness was way different than mine’s and Chad’s and RC’s and Chad’s. It wasn’t a hatred. I just wanted to win, and (Carmichael) wanted to win. So we wouldn’t have spoken (while racing each other) because we always felt that was an insight into the other guy. Not playing games but just I had my way of going about things. He was in Tallahassee and had his way of going about things. We just raced. Once he retired, I was still racing. So it’s just like these other guys racing every weekend. It’s hard to find the time to sit down and chat.”

2007 Amp'd Mobile AMA Supercross Series - Round 1 - January 5, 2007
James Stewart leads Ricky Carmichael during a Supercross race at Anaheim Stadium on Jan. 5, 2007 (Jeff Kardas/WireImage).

Carmichael: “I was a little older than him, so I used to watch his dad race at Dade City. I was around when James was in diapers. He’d come up once in a while to Tallahassee in the summer and ride with us. You knew he was going to be the next guy. I knew at some stage I’d be racing him in the premier class. When we started racing together when he moved up to the premier class, there was always a mutual respect there. The roots were so deep. We came from the same mold. Our parents had nothing, and we had no other way to do it but to succeed.

“That’s where the mutual respect came from and the deep roots that we had with each other. I don’t think there was anything that was going to be able to break that. Were we competitive? Of course we were. Did we want to beat other? Of course. But the competitiveness and the rivalry was nothing compared to what I had with Chad. I wanted to beat Chad Reed as bad as anybody did, and I could feel James was the same way.”

Stewart: “If I didn’t win the race, I didn’t mind Ricky winning. If I didn’t win the race, and it was Chad Reed, I wish the race was canceled. Now, me and Chad, we play golf together.

I wanted to win because I had to, the way we grew up, we had no choice. It was either winning races, or you don’t eat. Just that mentality just makes you competitive.”


After Saturday night’s Supercross season finale in Salt Lake City, James Stewart will move into coverage of the Pro Motocross Championship, and Ricky Carmichael also will broadcast five motocross races before returning for the inaugural SuperMotocross World Championship Playoffs.

Though the booth lineup has yet to be confirmed, Carmichael and Stewart are hoping to be reunited for SMX broadcasts as the 2023 season concludes to determine the inaugural SuperMotocross champion at Chicagoland Speedway, zMax Dragway near Charlotte Motor Speedway and the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

In the meantime, Carmichael and Stewart are enjoying their time in the booth and away from the track. They shared a memorable dinner at The Palm restaurant in Nashville the night before calling Supercross.

Stewart: “(After retiring from Supercross), Ricky went away and did a sport. I don’t even know what I was doing. I disappeared. Coming back, I worked with Chase for a little bit and started to dabble back in things. And then doing this podcast, things just started happening to where a year ago, I really wasn’t even thinking about doing (broadcasting). I really didn’t even know what I was doing. I just enjoyed talking and seeing the races, and I felt like I got this competitive void that was filled a little bit by talking about it, and people seemed like they liked to listen. When you’re not racing, and especially when you’re not like ‘I’ve got feed my family off this,’ it just makes you see things in a different light. I watch movies different now that I’ve got kids. I see it differently.

“Going out for dinner, it’s away from work, but it helps us in that field. Because when I showed up the next day, it was like, ‘What up, man?’ ‘Man, I’m so full off that food.’ And the show just continues like we’re having a conversation.”

Carmichael: “I learned this from Leigh and Todd: When you have a good quarterback, it’s all for the team. They don’t overstep. They’re there to say, ‘Would this make it better if I did this for you?’ That’s my approach with James. How can I make him better? One thing that sticks out with James is out time. He gives great explanations, but he’s big on timing. So I try to say like, ‘This hit, you’ve got 20 seconds.’ He adapts. It’s for the greater good. I’m not out to beat him or him out to beat me. It’s for the broadcast and our viewers. Like James said, we’re not going to retire off this. I think it’s a true passion that we love to share our insights.

“My mom is so hard-core, but she’s like, ‘Man, you guys are so good together. It was so good listening to you guys.’ It’s like James was saying with his grandmother. When we can capture those people and they’re enjoying it, that’s what it’s all about.”

Stewart: “I just enjoy doing it. When I started doing the broadcasts with him on NBC, and just the fact that people love it, and it’s easy. I enjoy it. It’s just like having a conversation with this guy (while) we watch races. It’s just growing. I don’t even know where the future is. I just know it’s been super beneficial on a professional level but also a personal level just being around him in the booth and just the opportunity has been great.”

Carmichael: “Those times kind of away from everything that you build that bond and get to enjoy life, and you realize just how much you have in common, and you walk away from the weekend saying, ‘Man, that was an epic race. That was so much fun in the booth with you, but what we did away from work was also special, too.’ Those are the moments that I’ve learned since I’ve gotten older that you can never get back, but those are the moments that are really special at the end of the day when we don’t have this anymore.”

Fans watch closely as James Stewart, left, and Ricky Carmichael, soar over a triple jump side–by–si
Ricky Carmichael glances back at James Stewart as they soar over a triple jump in the 2007 Supercross season opener in Anaheim, California Stewart won the race, which was Carmichael’s last at Anaheim (Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images).

‘It’s gnarly, bro’: IndyCar drivers face new challenge on streets of downtown Detroit

IndyCar Detroit downtown
James Black/Penske Entertainment
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DETROIT – It was the 1968 motion picture, “Winning” when actress Joanne Woodward asked Paul Newman if he were going to Milwaukee in the days after he won the Indianapolis 500 as driver Frank Capua.

“Everybody goes to Milwaukee after Indianapolis,” Newman responded near the end of the film.

Milwaukee was a mainstay as the race on the weekend after the Indianapolis 500 for decades, but since 2012, the first race after the Indy 500 has been Detroit at Belle Isle Park.

This year, there is a twist.

Instead of IndyCar racing at the Belle Isle State Park, it’s the streets of downtown Detroit on a race course that is quite reminiscent of the old Formula One and CART race course that was used from 1982 to 1991.

Formula One competed in the United States Grand Prix from 1982 to 1988. Beginning in 1989, CART took over the famed street race through 1991. In 1992, the race was moved to Belle Isle, where it was held through last year (with a 2009-2011 hiatus after the Great Recession).

The Penske Corp. is the promoter of this race, and they did a lot of good at Belle Isle, including saving the Scott Fountain, modernizing the Belle Isle Casino, and basically cleaning up the park for Detroit citizens to enjoy.

The race, however, had outgrown the venue. Roger Penske had big ideas to create an even bigger event and moving it back to downtown Detroit benefitted race sponsor Chevrolet. The footprint of the race course goes around General Motors world headquarters in the GM Renaissance Center – the centerpiece building of Detroit’s modernized skyline.

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Motor City is about to roar with the sound of Chevrolet and Honda engines this weekend as the NTT IndyCar Series is the featured race on the nine-turn, 1.7-mile temporary street course.

It’s perhaps the most unique street course on the IndyCar schedule because of the bumps on the streets and the only split pit lane in the series.

The pit lanes has stalls on opposing sides and four lanes across an unusual rectangular pit area (but still only one entry and exit).

Combine that, with the bumps and the NTT IndyCar Series drivers look forward to a wild ride in Motor City.

“It’s gnarly, bro,” Arrow McLaren driver Pato O’Ward said before posting the fastest time in Friday’s first practice. “It will be very interesting because the closest thing that I can see it being like is Toronto-like surfaces with more of a Long Beach-esque layout.

“There’s less room for error than Long Beach. There’s no curbs. You’ve got walls. I think very unique to this place.

PRACTICE RESULTS: Speeds from the first session

“Then it’s a bit of Nashville built into it. The braking zones look really very bumpy. Certain pavements don’t look bumpy but with how the asphalt and concrete is laid out, there’s undulation with it. So, you can imagine the cars are going to be smashing on every single undulation because we’re going to go through those sections fairly fast, and obviously the cars are pretty low. I don’t know.

“It looks fun, man. It’s definitely going to be a challenge. It’s going to be learning through every single session, not just for drivers and teams but for race control. For everyone.

“Everybody has to go into it knowing not every call is going to be smooth. It’s a tall task to ask from such a demanding racetrack. I think it’ll ask a lot from the race cars as well.”

The track is bumpy, but O’Ward indicated he would be surprised if it is bumper than Nashville. By comparison to Toronto, driving at slow speed is quite smooth, but fast speed is very bumpy.

“This is a mix of Nashville high-speed characteristics and Toronto slow speed in significant areas,” O’Ward said. “I think it’ll be a mix of a lot of street courses we go to, and the layout looks like more space than Nashville, which is really tight from Turn 4 to 8. It looks to be a bit more spacious as a whole track, but it’ll get tight in multiple areas.”

The concept of having four-wide pit stops is something that excites the 24-year-old driver from Monterey, Mexico.

“I think it’s innovation, bro,” O’Ward said. “If it works out, we’ll look like heroes.

“If it doesn’t, we tried.”

Because of the four lanes on pit road, there is a blend line the drivers will have to adhere to. Otherwise, it would be chaos leaving the pits compared to a normal two-lane pit road.

“If it wasn’t there, there’d be guys fighting for real estate where there’s one car that fits, and there’d be cars crashing in pit lane,” O’Ward said. “I get why they did that. It’s the same for everybody. I don’t think there’s a lot of room to play with. That’s the problem.

“But it looks freaking gnarly for sure. Oh my God, that’s going to be crazy.”

Alex Palou of Chip Ganassi Racing believes the best passing areas will be on the long straights because of the bumps in the turns. That is where much of the action will be in terms of gaining or losing a position in the race.

“It will also be really easy to defend in my opinion,” Palou said. “Being a 180-degree corner, you just have to go on the inside and that’s it. There’s going to be passes for sure but its’ going to be risky.

“Turn 1, if someone dives in, you end up in the wall. They’re not going to be able to pass you on the exit, so maybe with the straight being so long you can actually pass before you end up on the braking zone.”

Palou’s teammate, Marcus Ericsson, was at the Honda simulator in Brownsburg, Indiana, before coming to Detroit and said he was shocked by the amount of bumps on the simulator.

Race promoter Bud Denker, the President of Penske Corporation, and Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix President Michael Montri, sent the track crews onto the streets with grinders to smooth out the bumps on the race course several weeks ago.

“They’ve done a decent amount of work, and even doing the track walk, it looked a lot better than what we expected,” Ericsson said. “I don’t think it’ll be too bad. I hope not. That’ll be something to take into account.

“I think the track layout doesn’t look like the most fun. Maybe not the most challenging. But I love these types of tracks with rules everywhere. It’s a big challenge, and you have to build up to it. That’s the types of tracks that I love to drive. It’s a very much Marcus Ericsson type of track. I like it.”

Scott Dixon, who was second fastest in the opening session, has competed on many new street circuits throughout his legendary racing career. The six-time NTT IndyCar Series champion for Chip Ganassi Racing likes the track layout, even with the unusual pit lane.

I don’t think that’s going to be something that catches on where every track becomes a double barrel,” Dixon said. “It’s new and interesting.

“As far as pit exit, I think Toronto exit is worse with how the wall sticks out. I think in both lanes, you’ve got enough lead time to make it and most guys will make a good decision.”

It wasn’t until shortly after 3 p.m. ET on Friday that the IndyCar drivers began the extended 90-minute practice session to try out the race course for the first time in real life.

As expected, there were several sketchy moments, but no major crashes during the first session despite 19 local yellow flags for incidents and six red flags.

Rookie Agustin Canapino had to cut his practice short after some damage to his No. 78 Dallara-Chevrolet, but he was among many who emerged mostly unscathed from scrapes with the wall.

“It was honestly less carnage than I expected,” said Andretti Autosport’s Kyle Kirkwood, who was third fastest in the practice after coming off his first career IndyCar victory in the most recent street race at Long Beach in April. “I think a lot of people went off in the runoffs, but no one actually hit the wall (too hard), which actually surprised me. Hats off to them for keeping it clean, including myself.

“It was quite a bit less grip than I think everyone expected. Maybe a little bit more bumpy down into Turn 3 than everyone expected. But overall they did a good job between the two manufacturers. I’m sure everyone had pretty much the same we were able to base everything off of. We felt pretty close to maximum right away.”

Most of the preparation for this event was done either on the General Motors Simulator in Huntersville, North Carolina, or the Honda Performance Development simulator in Brownsburg, Indiana.

“Now, we have simulators that can scan the track, so we have done plenty of laps already,” Power told NBC Sports. “They have ground and resurfaced a lot of the track, so it should be smoother.

“But nothing beats real-world experience. It’s going to be a learning experience in the first session.”

As a Team Penske driver, Power and his teammates were consulted about the progress and layout of the Detroit street course. They were shown what was possible with the streets that were available.

“We gave some input back after we were on the similar what might be ground and things like that,” Power said.

Racing on the streets of Belle Isle was a fairly pleasant experience for the fans and corporate sponsor that compete in the race.

But the vibe at the new location gives this a “big event” feel.

“The atmosphere is a lot better,” Power said. “The location, the accessibility for the fans, the crowd that will be here, it’s much easier. I think it will be a much better event.

“It feels like a Long Beach, only in a much bigger city. That is what street course racing is all about.”

Because the track promoter is also the team owner, Power and teammates Scott McLaughlin and Indy 500 winner Josef Newgarden will have a very busy weekend on the track, and with sponsor and personal appearances.

“That’s what pays the bills and allows us to do this,” Power said.

Follow Bruce Martin on Twitter at @BruceMartin_500