450 Words: Las Vegas

May 7, 2007 12:33pm
Las Vegas is the place where assignments go to die. At least that’s what those of us back in the home offices of Racer X are thinking after our “A team” went out there and disappeared somewhere between the airport slots and Rehab at the Hard Rock. So this report is being written by someone who watched the race from the circle bar… Er, well, the circular coffee table, actually, that sits in my living room.

James Stewart is riding relaxed

James Stewart has effectively taken over supercross in a changeover more alarming than what Ricky Carmichael did to Jeremy McGrath in 2001. He’s won the last seven races in a row races in a row, he led the last 78 laps of the series, and he now has his first championship winning streak going: two World Supercross crowns in a row. He completely left Chad Reed behind to fend off the rejuvenated Kevin Windham in Las Vegas, even though the title was basically wrapped up in the second turn a week ago.

The shot of Stewart that best illustrates his stranglehold on things came in his heat race, when he blitzed the whoops, building so much speed that he went ahead and hit the steep jump in the middle and proceeded to jump the entire whoops section that followed. Jeff Emig almost fell out of his chair! When I asked Jeff about it yesterday on the phone, he said that Stewart is riding as relaxed, confident and in control as McGrath was in his prime, and Emig would know – he had a front row seat.

Beyond that, Reed looked as interested in racing Stewart in Vegas as he does in racing the nationals, and that does not bode well for Supercross ’08 and beyond. With #7 going after an outdoor title, he will only get faster and stronger this summer. Chad, on the other hand, has made it clear that the AMA Toyota Motocross Series does not interest him, and that’s fine—he’s earned the rest. But he’s going to have to go much faster next year than he did this year, where he won a single race in 2007, and that was after Stewart clipped the finish-line structure at San Diego and threw a sure win away. When RC left, many figured CR would step it up more. Surprisingly, he seems to have slowed down a little instead.

With the series standing at 16 races (18 with the World rounds) and Stewart all of 21 years old, the next five years could see him go after Jeremy’s hallowed 72-win mark—he’s got 24. That would be cool to see, yes, but without any competition along the way, it’s going to hurt the audience: Just look at the empty seats in Dallas, Detroit and Seattle for proof of that.

Beyond that mystery, the most drama in Las Vegas involving 450cc was who would be crowned Miss Supercross—I still can’t believe Leticia lost.