450 Words: Phoenix

January 14, 2008 12:16pm

Aside from that unfortunate practice crash in 2005, Phoenix’s Chase Field has been good to James Stewart. In fact, he is the only rider to win Phoenix in both the Supercross and Lites class. In his first two seasons as a professional in 2002 and ’03, Stewart won the 125cc main event here aboard his two-stroke KX125. In ’04 he rode East, and then in ‘05 Stewart suffered a broken arm in practice. The 2006 Phoenix SX saw Ricky Carmichael and Chad Reed lead Stewart across the finish line, but James came back last year to take his first AMA Supercross main event win in Arizona.

This was the closest Reed came to leading in Phoenix.

The 2008 Monster Energy AMA Supercross at Phoenix couldn’t have gone any better for Stewart. After failing to lead a lap and finishing second in Anaheim last weekend, everyone was curious how Stewart would react on a dry track.  After setting the fastest lap time in practice—even after his first set of times were wiped out due to an errant Tuff Block—the defending champ rebounded and won his heat race of ’08, leading all 20 laps of the main event to record his first win of the series, It was also the 25th of his career, and it put him into a tie with Chad Reed for the series points lead.

But it wasn’t as easy as it sounds. If you watched the broadcast on SPEED yesterday or were in attendance Saturday night, you know that San Manuel Yamaha’s Chad Reed is not going to lie down. In fact, Reed’s heat race overall time was faster than Stewart’s (6:09.35 to 6:09.54), which gave him the first pick on the gate for the main event. And for the first 10 laps of the main, Reed gave Stewie everything he could handle, and then some. But with the #22 breathing down his neck, Stewart remained poised, didn’t make any costly mental errors, and managed to pull away. The series is now tied with 300 laps left on the schedule.

Chad Reed mirrored James Stewart's every move for the first 10 laps.

“I knew Chad (Reed) was going to make a charge, that’s what he does and I just let the race come to me,” said Stewart in a Kawasaki press release. “I think he almost made a pass on me, but I wasn’t too worried, it is a long race and a long season and we have to be smart about it. I rode as hard as the track would let me.”

And let’s give a nod to the boys in red. Torco Racing Fuels Honda’s Kevin Windham put in a solid 20 laps for his first podium of the new season, while Red Bull Honda’s Andrew Short and Ivan Tedesco finished fourth and fifth, respectively.

Lastly, it was very good night for the upstart Gibbs Racing/Toyota/Yamaha team, as both of their riders scored top 10 finishes (Josh Hansen 8th, Charles Summey 9th).

Now it’s back to Anaheim, and we’re all even again at the top!