Monday Conversation with James Stewart

August 18, 2008 7:39am | by:
Monster Energy Kawasaki’s James Stewart is officially the 2008 AMA/Toyota Motocross National Champion. Not only that, but he won the Millville event going away, topping the second moto (after he clinched the title) by more than a minute and 10 seconds. If that’s any indication, the old James Stewart might be back for the last couple of races...

Racer X: You’ve got the number-one plate, so now can you admit that you’re going for the perfect season?
James Stewart: No... At 23-0, I’ll start thinking about it. Southwick, I kind of like that track, so I’ve just got to keep everything rolling, man. The season’s been awesome, and I can’t ask for anything better – 2008 champ, it’s awesome.

You’ve obviously had a lot of bad luck and mishaps in the Nationals in the past. How many things did you have to change to get it all turned around like this?
To be honest, when I had surgery in January, I thought this was going to be another crappy year. To be honest, I didn’t think I was going to make the Nationals. As much as I tried to think positive, I didn’t think I was going to make it. When we were lined up on the gate at Glen Helen, it was just... It was just all the hard work. The only thing I changed was my program, and just a little bit more awareness out there and stuff like that. I think it’s made me a better rider, and obviously I felt like today, winning that second moto like I did, should prove that I’m in shape, and that was the biggest thing. It was pretty special. I’m stoked.

On 125s, you used to want to go win by a minute, but it’s been a long time since you’ve ridden like that – where you’ve put it all down every lap. Before, you said you were concentrating on the championship and you didn’t want to take any unnecessary risks, but in that second moto, with the championship over with, you won by over a minute and 10 seconds...
Yeah, that’s because the championship was over, and that was my main goal all year long. Still, to this point, I want to finish this season strong, and it was kind of cool just to hang it out and not really have anything... You know... So what? If I fall, I fall. It was a pretty cool feeling, and there was really no pressure on me once I took off. There was no pressure, and that felt good for the first time in a while.

When you’re riding that hard and you’re presumably in that kind of a groove, is it almost easier to keep the fast pace than to slow down?
Well, no, because the track was so rough. No, not really. I think today was a man’s track, like Matt Walker would’ve said. I think in the sand whoops it was pretty easy for me to keep that pace up because when I did slow down, I almost crashed, but through the rest of the track, I remember almost falling over a few times, so it was sketchy, but it was fun and in-control sketchy.

When you’re in the kind of shape you’re in now, when there is a mistake late in the moto, and you’re pushing it, does it make it easier to save it?
Yeah, I mean, because how bad the track got, I was still within the same laptimes, and that was a good thing for me. Aldon [Baker, Stewart’s trainer] ain’t here – he’s back at the house, listening – he prides himself on laptimes, and that’s what we practice all week, so it was good. I felt good doing that, and to be honest, I don’t even know what to say. I’m so happy.

I asked Ryan Dungey in the press conference if you let him drive your Ferrari or anything like that...
No way! No.

Why not? He’s a capable motorcycle racer. He can probably drive a car all right.
He’s still in the Lites class, dude... When he wins an AMA Supercross or an AMA Motocross [450cc] title, then I’ll let him drive it for 10 miles.

For 10 miles?!
For 10 miles. That’s all I can do.
Have you ever let anybody drive any of your cars?
No, no. I mean, dude, gas these days? It’s expensive! It used to be if someone said, “Hey, I want to run to the store,” it used to be feasible, but now it’s like, “Dude, I’ve got to charge you 20 bucks!” Gas is a bad deal!

Are you going to reward yourself with anything now that you have this title? Any new cars or anything?
To be honest, the reward was to win the title. That’s the only thing. When I went through all the hard times and I was doing the rehab [on his knee], that was the ultimate goal, to win the title. That was it. A reward? I mean, I think it’ll be cool if I see something, but I’m rewarded. I’ve got the number-one plate now, and that’s rewarding enough. I’m the only person that can do that this year, in my class at least.

With this out of the way, are you going to focus some more attention on the Motocross of Nations coming up? It seems you might have some unfinished business in England this year...
I was thinking about that earlier. It’s so different over there – it’s really different – and for us to go over there, it’s a big change and stuff. Yeah, I’d like to do certain things, but it’s still about the team, and I would never jeopardize the USA team. My pride, there’s things I’d like to do, but I’ll put my pride aside and deal with it. But if I get a chance, and I’m feeling good, and everything’s going good, then yeah, I would at least try to win [the individual event], but my goal is to go over there and to win the whole championship. I’d like to win a moto – I think that would be special – but damn it, if it’s raining, dude, I don’t know. It’s all out the door!