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Amateur national champ will make professional debut at Spring Creek

By Donny Henn

dhenn@postbulletin.com

Mike Alessi could blend in with the young crowd if he wants to this weekend at 2004 AMA/Chevrolet Motocross Nationals at Spring Creek.

And Alessi might want to see what that's like, because next year the California teen-ager won't be anonymous anymore.

If his dad is right and his amateur career is a good indication, Mike Alessi is about to become the next big thing in professional motocross. And two years later, his younger brother Jeff will follow.

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Fresh off his win at the 2004 AMA Amateur National Motocross Championship, where he also won the Horizon Award as the most promising rider, 16-year-old Mike Alessi will make his professional debut in the 250 class this weekend at Spring Creek.

Jeff Alessi, 15, also debuts at the Class A pro/amateur level in an amateur race today at the track.

"I gave up a good management job that I had worked at for 18 years, gave up my 401(k), and moved my family to the desert two years ago to make sure that these two guys will be the greatest riders the world has ever seen," said Tony Alessi, 39, the boys' father and coach, and a former pro rider.

The remarkable track records of his kids makes Tony's life-altering decision look more like a good investment than a gamble. Mike especially appears to be on the fast track to MX stardom.

Mike won his 10th and 11th amateur national titles last weekend at the Loretta Lynn Ranch in Hurricane Mills, Tenn., and now shares the all-time record with James "Bubba" Stewart.

Test drive

Earlier this year Mike tested himself in some non-sanctioned races in California and beat established MX stars Jeremy McGrath and Ryan Hughes. At 15, he wasn't yet old enough to have an AMA pro license; he turned 16 in May.

Mike won most of his amateur titles on minibikes and was racing in the 80cc class as recently as six months ago. At Spring Creek he'll ride a powerful Honda CRF450R in the 250 class, against much older and stronger pros.

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Mike weighs 125 pounds and he isn't exceptionally strong yet, his dad said.

"That's what is so amazing about what's happening here," said Tony. "Moving up from minibikes to the big bikes in such a short time is unheard of."

Nevertheless, Tony and Mike both expect that Mike will have success in his first pro races on Saturday. He will need to finish well to qualify for Sunday's main event pro motos.

"Failure and disappointment are not an option," Tony said. "We see Mike winning the (Saturday) qualifier by a wide margin, and then running at the front on Sunday."

Running in front on Sunday will be a mighty challenge, with legend Ricky Carmichael also in the race. But the Alessi's aren't intimidated by the reigning king of motocross.

"We believe that Mike is a better starter than Ricky, and we see ourselves in front at the beginning," Tony said confidently. But he doesn't expect Mike to stay with Carmichael for an entire moto just yet.

"I'd be scared racing against a guy like Ricky; he's wild, a bit careless and haphazard out there," Tony said. "Mike is 180 degrees different from Ricky in his style; Mike is very thoughtful, very methodical."

Tony said that Mike and he will be "happy" with a top-three finish and that a top-five finish would be "acceptable."

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Anxious to be a pro

Mike, a high school junior who is home-schooled, said he's looking forward to his pro debut.

"I'm a little bit nervous, but not scared," he said. "(Spring Creek) is an really awesome track, one that suits my style."

Mike will compete in the 125 class next year and he'll be an immediate favorite, because Stewart is expected to move up to the 250 class to challenge Carmichael's throne.

Mike Alessi doesn't predict superstardom for himself right away. But he has no reason to doubt his dad's vision, as long as he keeps practicing.

"It's definitely hard work, I don't think people realize how hard it is," Mike said. "But if I'm able to make a living at it, then it's worth it."

BOX; AMA/Chevrolet Pro Motocross

At Spring Creek MX Park

SATURDAY

• Gates; open, 6 a.m.

• Donny; Schmit Memorial practice/race, 8 a.m.-noon

• Pro; qualifying race, 2 p.m.

SUNDAY

• Gates; open, 6 a.m.-10 p.m.

BOX; AMA/Chevrolet Pro Nationals

What: Motocross racing.

Where: Spring Creek MX Park.

Cost: Two-day pass -- Adult, $35; children, $25.

Sunday-only pass -- Adult, $25; children, $15.

BOX; 2004 AMA/Chevrolet Pro Motocross

At Spring Creek MX Park

SATURDAY

Gates open, 6 a.m.

Donny Schmit Memorial practice/race, 8 a.m.-noon

Pro qualifying race, 2 p.m.

SUNDAY

Gates open, 6 a.m.-10 p.m.

Pro practice, 9 a.m.

Pro qualifying, 10:30 a.m.

Opening Ceremonies, noon

Pro race/125 first moto (30 min.+2 laps), 1 p.m.

Pro race/250 first moto (30 min.+2 laps)

Pro race/125 second moto (30 min.+2 laps)

Pro race/250 second moto (30 min.+2 laps)

Awards ceremony, 5:15 p.m.

Autographs and auction, 5:30 p.m.

Past winners at Spring Creek

2003 -- 125: James Stewart (Kawasaki); 250: Ricky Carmichael (Honda).

2002 -- 125: James Stewart (Kawasaki); 250: Ricky Carmichael (Honda).

2001 -- 125: Grant Langston (KTM); 250: Ricky Carmichael (Kawasaki).

2000 -- 125cc: Travis Pastrana (Suzuki); 250: Ricky Carmichael (Kawasaki)

1999 -- 125: Ricky Carmichael (Kawasaki); 250: Greg Albertyn (Suzuki)

1998 -- 125: Ricky Carmichael (Kawasaki); 250: Jeff Emig (Kawasaki)

1997 -- 125: Ricky Carmichael (Kawasaki); 250: Jeff Emig (Kawasaki)

1996 -- 125: Steve Lamson (Honda); 250: Jeff Emig (Kawasaki)

1995 -- 125: Robbie Reynard (Honda); 250: Mike Kiedrowski (Kawasaki)

1994 -- 125: Steve Lamson (Honda); 250: John Dowd (Yamaha)

1993 -- 125: Jeff Emig (Yamaha); 500: Jeff Stanton (Honda)

1992 -- 125: Mike LaRocco (Kawasaki); 500: Mike Kiedrowski (Kawasaki)

1991 -- 125: Mike LaRocco (Kawasaki); 500: Jean-Michel Bayle (Honda)

1990 -- 125: Mike LaRocco (Suzuki); 500: Jeff Stanton (Honda).

1989 -- 125: Damon Bradshaw (Yamaha); 500: Jeff Ward (Kawasaki).

1988 -- 125: Donny Schmit (Suzuki); 500: Rick Johnson (Honda).

1987 -- 125: Donny Schmit (Suzuki); 500: Rick Johnson (Honda).

1986 -- 125: Micky Dymond (Honda); 500: Rick Johnson (Honda).

1985 -- 250: Bob Hannah (Honda); 500: David Bailey (Honda).

1984 -- 250: Ron Lechien (Honda); 500: David Bailey (Honda).

1983 -- 250: Bob Hannah (Honda); 500: Danny Chandler (Honda).

BOX; Series Points Leaders

(After 8 of 12 rounds)

250 Class

1. Ricky Carmichael (Honda #4) 400

; 2. Chad Reed (Yamaha #22) 340

; 3. Kevin Windham (Honda #14) 317

; 4. David Vuillemin (Yamaha #12) 256

; 5. Michael Byrne (Kawasaki #26) 211

; 6. Nick Wey (Suzuki #27) 182

; 7. Ernesto Fonseca (Honda #24) 181

; 8. Heath Voss (Yamaha #28) 157

; 9. Timmy Ferry (Yamaha #15) 142

; 10. S. Hamblin (Suzuki #36) 127

; 125 Class

1. James Stewart (Kawasaki #259) 375

; 2. Michael Brown (Yamaha #3) 266

; 3. B. Helper (Suzuki #60) 252

; 4. Nathan Ramsey (Honda #25) 216

; 5. J. Grant (Honda #386) 186

; 6. M. Walker (Kawasaki #122) 167

; 7. Ivan Tedesco (Kawasaki #29) 161

; 8. Ryan Hughes (KTM #105) 158

; 9. D. Smith (Yamaha #59) 145

; 10. Kelly Smith (Yamaha #33) 136

; Note: Riders are competing for a possible 25 points in each moto, and 50 points in each round of the series. Carmichael has won all 16 motos and all eight overall rounds in the 250 class; Stewart has won 15 of 16 motos and didn't finish one. He has won seven of eight overall rounds.

Remaining Series stops

Round 10 -- Aug. 22 at Broome-Tioga Sports Center in Binghamton, New York.

Round 11 -- Sept. 5 at Steel City Raceway in Delmont, Pennsylania.

Round 12 -- Sept. 12 at Glen Helen Raceway in San Bernadino, California.

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