KANSAS CITY, Kan. —At times last year, Ricky Carmichael sensed that people around the tracks wondered how serious he was about this — about starting at the lower rungs of NASCAR racing after all he had accomplished in motocross.
He hopes they don't wonder any longer.
"I think this year finally people see," Carmichael said Friday at Kansas Speedway.
Carmichael comes to Kansas this weekend in his first full season in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, after competing in 18 races last year. He'll be in the field for the O'Reilly Auto Parts 250 today, hoping to take another step forward in his new career, hoping to show more people he belongs.
"Last year... everyone always kept thinking I was just trying it," he said. "I'm here for the long haul, and I want to make it happen. I want to be a race-car driver, and I think I've proven that to a lot of people this year that I'm here to stay if all things go well. I want to make this happen....
"I want to do something that I wasn't supposed to do. You know, in motorcycle racing, I was always supposed to win — where this is a personal challenge."
Indeed it is. Carmichael's path — one he hopes will eventually lead to a spot on the Sprint Cup circuit — is unconventional, to say the least.
He didn't grow up racing cars, trucks or anything else with four wheels. From the age of 5 until he retired from motocross competition in 2007, Carmichael's discipline was motorcycles.
And he was a star, nicknamed "the GOAT" (Greatest of All-Time). He won more championships (15) and races (150) than any other rider in the history of the American Motorcyclist Association, including five Supercross championships and 10 National Outdoor titles.
He didn't attend his first NASCAR race until 2004. He was recovering from a knee injury at the time and headed down to the Daytona 500 for what proved to be a fortuitous experience.
"I met a bunch of people," he said. "Next thing I know, I got an offer to drive a late model."
It was Kasey Kahne's manager that called, offering Carmichael the opportunity to drive a stock car.
He had just signed a three-year contract with Suzuki, knowing it would be his last motocross contract. He was planning to retire at that point and had no definitive plans.
"I love the position I'm in now," he said. "People say, 'Oh, you were No. 1 at this level, and then you come back and you're not the guy that's winning all the time.' But I want to earn my respect. I want to work my way up. I think that's the way that it should be."
He achieved two top-10 finishes in his 18 truck series races last year. Running a full schedule this season for Turner Motorsports (as well as a limited number of ARCA events), he has two top-10s in the first four races.
But the goal is to be a Sprint Cup Driver.
"That's why I set out to do this," he said.