5 Minutes With ... James Stewart

January 15, 2008 6:32am

A lot has been said over the past couple weeks from James Stewart’s “doubters.” While it’s hard to imagine anyone doubting a guy who won 13 of 16 AMA Supercrosses just last year on his way to the title, if they do exist, they’re surely not doubting him any longer, as the defending champ just led every lap of the Phoenix Supercross, pulling even with round-one winner Chad Reed in the 2008 Monster Energy Supercross Championship chase in the process. We missed James after the race (hey, I’m the new guy) but tracked him down Monday evening to find out how his weekend went.

Racer X: Your first win of the year probably came a week later than you had hoped...
James Stewart: Obviously, we all want to win Anaheim 1, but to be honest, I was stoked on the win this week. One thing I’ve noticed about myself lately is that I’m not forcing anything. Obviously, last weekend at Anaheim wasn’t my weekend, so I understood that. I stayed up through the first corner at Phoenix, so I knew I had a good shot. It was a good win, for sure. I felt pretty good, and I’m stoked.

Talking about you being more patient, I think a lot of people did expect you to make a push toward Chad Reed at Anaheim 1 once you got into second, but you didn’t. Did you lay up a little bit?
When I fell in the first corner, I had a plan, and the first plan was to get to fifth. Then, I got up to there, and the plan was to get to third, but before that, I saw Timmy [Ferry] and Grant [Langston] battling up there, so I wanted to get around those guys. Once I had that, I was really content to stay where I was. I felt like it was a pretty decent race, and I felt like I did the best I could. Obviously, I could’ve tried to push a little more and force some passes, but I was happy with where I was. Once I got into second, I just laid back and took that.

Where do you think the newfound patience comes from?
Last year, I felt like it was a good year. Obviously, every year you mature, and you get more experience, but I think people tend to forget that I actually did win the championship last year. Now, I think, knowing that, you know what you have to take. Obviously, if the track was dry, you could push hard and see what happens without a gnarly risk, but you guys saw Anaheim and how gnarly and rutted it was, and there were people crashing everywhere. I saw those people going down, and I just wasn’t willing to take that chance at that moment at the first race. I felt good about being in the position I was in. Even if I didn’t catch Chad, I knew I wouldn’t be down on myself or lose confidence going into Phoenix.

Phoenix provided you with your first opportunity to put in a 20-lap sprint in race conditions since you hired Aldon Baker as your trainer. Could you tell a difference?
Obviously, yeah, it felt different. There are a lot of things that go into it. I mean, hard work during the week definitely does pay off, and I could definitely feel a difference, but I think the biggest thing is that it’s a team effort. It’s not only him. He always says, “I can lead a horse to water, but I can’t make him drink.” I just have to believe in everything I do and everybody around me has to believe in it. I think we have a solid program, and obviously the race was decent this weekend. I thought the track was a little bit easy, but I was stoked. Obviously, coming from Anaheim, I was just hoping for anything, but I was stoked on the race.

What about when you had Mike Alessi squeezing down on you into the first turn from the outside?
I was like, “No. You’re a little rookie in this class. I own this first corner.” [Laughs] I think I was a little bit cautious, actually, going in there. I didn’t want to wash the front tire out, because I think in every race before mine, somebody went down in the first corner – even in my race, somebody fell in the first corner. I knew if I stayed up and came out in the top five, I had a chance to win the race, but I was actually pretty close to getting the holeshot, and I was stoked with that.

You probably don’t need confidence – everybody knows how fast you are and how many races you’ve already won (25) at your age – but having gotten this race win behind you, does it do anything to take the pressure off for the next few races?
I think the biggest thing for me was that coming into Anaheim, I hadn’t raced for a while. Obviously, going to the U.S. Open, I didn’t race that, and I didn’t race any other off-season races, so it’s been a while. Once I got the first race out of the way, I was pretty stoked, but now obviously winning this one, I was super-stoked about that. I mean, wow, it’s been over six months since I won a race. I think, for me, that wasn’t a confidence builder, but it made me remember what it felt like to win again. I told Mikey when I came back from opening ceremonies, I was like, “Man, this feels good. This is what I miss the most about racing, is seeing all of the people cheering for me.” And I was able to do it again after the race.