’04 Supercross champ Reed rested, set to vie for title

Missing this summer’s outdoor AMA Motocross season didn’t mean Chad Reed had gotten soft or that his work ethic was in decline.

He made that clear Tuesday with a colorful adjective during a news conference at MGM Grand Garden, where he and other top Supercross athletes will compete tonight and Saturday night in the U.S. Open for a $100,000 first-place check.

“A lot of people were saying I was looking for an out, or thought I didn’t want to work hard,” Reed said of missing the summer season. “I wasn’t being a (pansy).

“It was a tough decision. As a racer, that’s what you are; you love to race. But I’ve been racing since I was 4 and traveling around the world doing it since I was 11. The time off was great, and I’m feeling better than ever.”

It was all right with Reed when his L&M Racing Yamaha team opted not to field a bike for him in the grueling outdoor season.

The 25-year-old returned to his Australian homeland to spend time with family and help create the Australian Supercross Championship series. He rode his dirt bike whenever he felt like it.

Reed, who lives in Tuscany Hills, Calif., is tanned and rested. He hungers to show the Supercross world he hasn’t lost the drive that propelled him to the 2004 Supercross championship. He has won 26 Supercross titles and is fifth on the all-time victory list.

But injuries prevented him from competing in the past two Opens after he won in 2003 and 2004.

“I have a great (race team) program, but I need to be healthy,” Reed said. “You can’t compete against the best if you’re not at your best.”

It looked as though Reed and 15-time AMA season champion Ricky Carmichael were set for another epic battle. But Carmichael withdrew this week after being diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome.

Reed appeared to be the favorite to win the title again because reigning Supercross series and Open champion James Stewart had been recovering from a mid-summer knee injury. But Stewart entered the Open on Wednesday.

The event, which begins each night at 7, is a chance for Reed to gain more than money.

He was frustrated during the Supercross season because he didn’t believe his Yamaha could win. He finished second to Stewart in points but won only once while finishing second or third in 14 of 16 races. Stewart won 13 times.

“I was just tired of running for second,” Reed said. “My team has made some changes, and I’m very confident with what we have now.”

He said he excels on tight circuits like the one built at the MGM Grand.

“I grew up racing on tracks like this, if not smaller, since I was 12 years old,” Reed said.

• NOTES — The Open champion will be determined by combined results from each night. … Supercross and Supercross Lites categories will run as a combined class. … Nearly 400 riders will compete Sunday in the Amateur Arenacross World Finals, which has categories for all age groups.

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