5 Minutes with...James Stewart

September 12, 2008 9:05am
Well, it’s been an interesting week for James Stewart. In rapid order, word leaked out that James, who is leaving Kawasaki after 14 years on green, might also be switching gear companies after 15 years with Fox Racing. Then it was revealed that he would be wearing Answer—and might be riding with a new team. All of this just barely a week after Stewart set a new standard of domination in AMA Motocross, leading an astonishing 369 out of 382 laps en route to a perfect record of 12 national wins and all 24 motos! Yesterday, Racer X tracked James down as he was putting in some practice laps at his house in Florida to learn more about the big changes.

Racer X: Well good news and bad news—you’re on the cover of the new Racer X, but you’re not wearing the gear you’ll be wearing in 2009.
James Stewart: [Laughs] Well, we’ll let that cover slide!

  • James Stewart is on the cover of the November 2008 Racer X
  • James at High Point
How did that whole deal with Answer come together?
Well, it all started back in January when we were trying to get my Fox deal done. We had a meeting with Pete Fox and a couple guys from Fox and my understanding, after I left there, [was that] the whole contract was done. We pretty much shook hands, said this is the deal and this is what’s going on. And then obviously I ended up getting hurt in supercross, so there were some things that obviously changed.
       I started getting back into outdoors, and there was just a lot of uncertainty going on, but I didn’t worry because I figured we’d get everything figured out. Then I started getting some phone calls from different people, and Answer was one of them. They were real eager about getting a top rider and that interested me. They were talking how they wanted to do some different things and go in a different direction, and it made me feel like I could be more in-depth and have my own signature line and do a lot of things. It all sounded pretty cool.
       In all this time, we were just trying to get the Fox deal done, because that’s where I had been for so many years. Those guys have been family, but there were a lot of things changing and they started calling other riders, trying to figure that deal out, and were just going around not letting me know what was going on. I guess their other plans fell through, and then they really tried coming after me. I ended up just turning the deal down, because I kind of felt betrayed a little bit, so I just wanted to go somewhere else and make a new change.
       So, that’s how the whole thing ended up happening with me and Answer, and I’m really happy about the change.

Were there other brands in on the bidding?
There were a couple other brands, but Answer reminds me of what Fox was like when I first started with them; they’re a smaller company looking to broaden out. Answer has been around for a while and make really good stuff, and all I want to do is be a part of a company that wants to grow some more and wants to do some changes and let me be a part of it. So I was definitely willing to do it. I talked to a lot of people over there and I looked at the gear. And Ryan Dungey, a riding partner of mine, I always checked out his stuff and thought it was really cool. So when I got that phone call I was really excited about it.

You’ve been with Fox ever since you were a pee-wee rider, head-to-toe. Was part of the situation that you wanted freedom to do other deals for shoes, boots, helmets, etc.?
No, to be honest, my intention was to stay with those guys [Fox] my whole career. It was really hard, because I’m all about loyalty, and Fox definitely stepped it up and they were the company to beat—everyone knew that. I always wanted to stay there, and it just didn’t end up working out. I called Pete a few days ago and said, “Hey, you know what, I’m thinking about going another direction.” So it wasn’t like Fox fired me. I was reading some stuff on the internet about what he said about motocross and all that, and I understood and I was there with them, but that wasn’t the reason all of that stuff went down—there was a lot more stuff that went on, but let me say this: that’s not the reason why all of this happened.

So at this point you’ll still be wearing Fox at the Motocross of Nations?
Yes. My plan, when I entered into this agreement, my plan was to fulfill it, the whole term. I’ve been with Fox for 15 years now, and like just even the stuff that I read, it hurt my feelings. I can’t believe after being with a company this long that I would be put out for something that’s not true—it’s not even close to being true. So that kind of hurt my feelings. But, I’m going to stand up to my part. You know, I’m riding right now with all my Fox stuff on; I’ll be riding Fox at the Motocross of Nations and the U.S. Open, until my term ends. I have nothing but love for those guys, and they’ve been awesome to me and I have nothing bad to say about them, and I will uphold my end of the bargain whether they want me to or not—I will do it.
Let’s talk about your other big switch. The rumor is that you’ll be on an L&M Racing Yamaha…
To be honest, Billy, believe me, I’d love to tell you, but it’s not the time yet to start talking about that. I can’t talk about that just yet. I’ve been really loyal to Kawasaki about not bringing anything up, and I want to finish up the Motocross of Nations with those guys and on good terms. And when I announce my plans, you guys will definitely be the first to know.

  • Stewart loves his fans
Okay, another hot topic is the fact that you may not be racing the outdoors next year, but it does seem like you’re keeping an open mind about them.
Yeah, for sure. My whole plan is I want to race outdoors, and I love it. I just went 24-0 and I’m the defending champion, and I want to race them. Hopefully, with what’s going on in the future, it’ll let me get that. I think there’s going to be a lot of changes that’s going on in the outdoor series with MX Sports and all those guys, and I’m really excited. So whether I race them or not, I will be at the races and I want to be a part of it. At the end of the day, I get that chance to really do some of the things I like to do, like the X Games and stuff, and maybe even go race a couple things in Europe next year if it works out. I think that’s the cool part about what’s coming up—I have choices—but my main goal is to try and race the outdoors and be a part of that series.

Not to change the subject, but I think it’s going to take some getting used to seeing you in Answer gear.
[Laughs] It’s definitely going to be different. This is the decision I made and a change that I wanted to do, and I’m really happy about the change. The people at Answer really stepped up and made me feel like part of their family, and I’m going to do my best to help sell the gear and promote their company. It’s going to be awesome, and I’m excited.

You said you were riding today; are you still riding outdoors, preparing for the MXoN?
Yeah, I’m still riding outdoors preparing for the des Nations. I want to do my best for the country. I’ve been watching some old videos, and I was bummed how Stefan Everts passed me on the outside! I never really noticed it until recently, and I was like “Geez!” So I’m excited about going and representing my country. I had a chance to do it last year, but unfortunately I ended up getting injured, but I’m going to try and do it again. This is something that is special to me, so I got to represent!
Have you done any research on the Donington track? What do you think?
You guys don’t understand, dude, I know every jump on that track! I know what tires I’m using already. The only thing I don’t know is if it will rain or not, but I’m pretty certain it will rain. Like I said, I’m getting older, and you just really start appreciating this stuff, so I can’t wait to go. I don’t know if it’s because I’m the captain of the team, but I can’t wait to go show the red, white, and blue, and to hear the national anthem being played—it’s going to be awesome.

Looking back, how satisfying was your 2008 perfect summer? Has it sunk in yet?
[Laughs] Yeah, it has sunk in. I’ve been telling people that instead of saying “10-4” I go “24-0,” and I got an undefeated sign in my house. It’s special, because I’ve never done it or came close to it. So it was really special to do that. That’s why it’s so gratifying to come off a season like I had last year, and then come out and not expect to do what I did, and do it. I can’t wait to try and hopefully repeat it.

You went undefeated, and you’re the only rider to win every possible major AMA championship. What’s left for James Stewart?
Well, to be honest, my goal is to help grow the sport. I know that sounds weird, and whatever I end up doing next year, you kind of look at it like “How is that going to happen?” But, my goal is to just go and race and do some outside events where some people might not even know what a motorcycle is. I think with X Games and their live television package and other events, they’re also important to help grow the sport. I want to give back to my sponsors—that’s one thing in the last seven years that I couldn’t do. Maybe now that I have some time, I want to give back to my sponsors and really show my appreciation to all of my fans, and maybe spend more time with them. I think it’s going to be great.
       Either way, what happens if I race them or I don’t, I think it would definitely be something I believe the fans want the most, because I’ll be able to spend more time and hang out with you guys.

  • Stewart is ready to represent Team USA at the MXoN
A lot of people probably don’t realize that although you’re the fastest motocross rider on the planet, at the end of the day, you too are just a fan of the sport.
Yeah, and I know how other riders have done things in the past, but that’s not me. If it does end up that way, it’s not like I’m going to go home after the supercross season and you guys won’t see me until the U.S. Open. I’ll be at Glen Helen, I’ll be at Sacramento. Maybe I can go announce and do some commentating with Jeff and Ralph, and maybe do the Racer X Motocross Show. Those are the things that I never got a chance to do, and I never really got an opportunity to be more involved in the sport and try to give back in a different way, besides getting two minutes of TV coverage. Nobody really understands who James Stewart is. And I think, for me, if it ends up going the way where I don’t race the outdoors, I will give back, so you don’t have to worry about me going home and sitting on the couch—that’s not James Stewart.

That’s good news. It’s also cool that you’re planning on riding the U.S. Open.
Yeah, that’s my plan. After we get back from the des Nations, I want to get on testing and make sure everything is comfortable, and I’m excited about it. I think it’ll be fun. I just want to go there and see what happens. Then I get to race Bercy also, so I got a little European tour going on!

So you’ll be seeing your friend Marc de Reuver then. Maybe you can interview him again, like you did on the Racer X Motocross Show at Southwick.
[Laughs] And that’s some of the stuff I want to do! Whoever it is, if it’s Villopoto winning the outdoors and me going to interview him, that’s the stuff that the fans don’t get to see. It sucks and I feel bad for the 45 minutes I have to give them for autographs, or the hour we give them at supercross. That sucks. I remember being a kid and everything and being on the other side of the fence, wishing Jeff Matiasevich or Damon Bradshaw would come up and talk to me. So, I want to give back, and I will.

Hey, you’re in luck because those two guys are racing at the U.S. Open!
Dude, those guys are probably going to be upset at me, but I will not miss that race for the world! Those used to be my two guys back in the day! I’m kind of torn, but I think I’m going to have to go with Matiasevich...

Wait, you were the “Baby Chicken,” right?
[Laughs] I was the Baby Chicken, so I’m going to have to run that on a butt patch at the U.S. Open!

Good luck with everything. I’ll see you in England.
Thanks, Billy. See you there.