450 Words: A1

January 7, 2008 12:42pm

While the voters on last week’s Racer X Online Poll had the favorite answer of who would win Anaheim 1 in a virtual tie—40.31 percent for James Stewart, 39.46 percent for Chad Reed—there was less of a consensus in Anaheim Stadium on Saturday night that really thought that #22 was going to win. After Chad crashed hard in his one and only practice by flying off the side of a triple and splattering himself in mud, it seemed even less likely that he would come out on top. But Reed showed a resiliency that he lacked last year, and the Australian has now matched his grand total of wins in 2007 after a single race. The L&M Yamaha rider overcame a few bobbles of his own to get the job done, and he was downright pumped to start the season with a hard-earned A1 win.

James Stewart, on the other hand, might have known this wasn’t going to be his night when he was introduced to the crowd as “Monster Energy Suzuki’s James Stewart!” He definitely knew it wasn’t his night when he hit the deck in a rutted first turn in front of 19 other 450 riders. So James won’t be going undefeated like the New England Patriots after all, which some were guessing openly at the Thursday press conference. But he didn’t finish last either—he didn’t “lose the championship” with his opening night accident—and he looked fast coming through the pack. He even did a little first pump at the checkered flag, pleased that he put on a nice charge from dead-last on a treacherously rutted track.

As for the rest of the field, things went pretty much the way many figured. Stewart’s Monster Energy Kawasaki teammate Tim Ferry was his usual reliable self, quietly putting together another podium finish, making him the winner-of-the-rest-of-the-guys’ unofficial weekly battle. Team Yamaha’s Grant Langston kept rolling with the consistency he’s shown since late last summer, and while Torco Racing Fuels Honda’s Kevin Windham rounded out the top five, he looked more inspired than he did when he started last season’s tour. And Mike Alessi rode to a decent sixth in his first-ever AMA Supercross race (a position matched by Ricky Carmichael in his first 250 SX race back in 1999).

Things didn't go as planned for Ivan Tedesco and Honda Red Bull at Anaheim.

What about the Honda Red Bull team? That just didn’t come together the way a lot of people hoped. The melee in the first turn took its toll, and Davi Millsaps, Andrew Short and Ivan Tedesco were left scrambling. Their results—seventh, eighth and fifteenth, respectively– illustrated the fact that it may take just as long for the Big Red Machine to rebuild after Ricky Carmichael left in 2004 as it did when Jeremy McGrath split in 1996.

The bottom line? In my opinion, the 80 percent of the people who think either Reed or Stewart or will win this title are 100 percent right, but the question as to which will be the winner suddenly seems too close to call after the first 20 laps of 2008.