On Sunday, May 12, 2002 at Glen Helen Raceway Park in San Bernardino, California, 16-year-old James Stewart won the opening round of the AMA 125cc National Championship, a title he would win in a breeze.
“I thought today, being so cool and mild, might be a good time for someone to maybe race with James, but he’s just too fast,” said four-time champion Jeff Emig, now the Speed TV color analyst, “but he’s just too fast. He’s very hungry for the outdoor championship that has eluded him.”
When the gate dropped and the 40 450Fs rode the rim around the 45-degree banked Talladega turn it was Stewart, Rockstar/Makita Suzuki’s Mike Alessi and Monster Energy/Kawasaki’s Tim Ferry racing towards the white chalk stripe for the holeshot. Twenty-six hair-raising obstacles later, Stewart leaped down the steep face of Mt. Whitney, bringing a roar from the crowd as he started to gap the tenacious Alessi.
Meanwhile, Ferry and an echelon of Team Red Bull Honda riders — Davi Millsaps, Ben Townley, Ivan Tedesco and Andrew Short — gave chase. But it was still all about James.
To all who raced on it Sunday, the Glen Helen track was MotoGP fast and Stewart used that to his advantage building a 20+ second lead over Alessi as the race clock clicked off towards the 30-minute mark. Somewhat of a procession, some minor shuffling did take place behind the fleeting duo, but when all was said and done, it was Stewart winning the moto over Alessi by precisely 17 seconds. Millsaps rode an inspired moto for third, while Ferry broke up the Honda contingent of Short, Townley, and Tedesco.
“Nobody really had anything for James, did they?” asked new supercross champion Chad “on the down-low” Reed. “In fact nobody really put up a serious charge in the moto.”
The start of the final Motocross moto was interesting as by the time Mike Alessi hit third gear on is factory Suzuki 450F, he had a three-bike-length lead heading into the Talladega turn. But Alessi overcooked the corner, allowing Stewart to duck inside, nick the holeshot and ride off into the sunset, albeit with Alessi giving proud chase.
What happened to BT101? The Honda Red Bull Racing rider who was nursing both a sore ankle and a sore shoulder broke down in the second moto, his bike coming to a stop while he was running top-five and looking to stay in the championship long enough to get back up to speed. It was an unfortunate day for him, though his friend from New Zealand Cody Cooper rode an inspired second moto after losing his brakes the first time out, finishing a solid sixth.
(For all of the action, check out the free Racer X Motocross Show on Motocross.com, where you will find the pre- and post-race shows, featuring Jason Weigandt and co-host David Bailey.)