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Between the Motos: James Stewart

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On Sunday evening, at the Barber Vintage Motorsports  Museum just east of Birmingham, Alabama, 2008 AMA/Toyota Motocross Champion James Stewart was named the AMA Speed Athlete of the Year for the first time. Stewart, who flew up to the banquet from his home in Haines City, Florida, was sitting with his old team – Monster Energy Kawasaki – and together with Tim Ferry, they all went on the stage to accept the Peter Chamberlain Cup for winning a fourth-straight Motocross of Nations. Afterward, while checking out some of the remarkable motorcycles in George Barber’s collection, we talked about his off-season, his trip to Bercy, and the coming battles.

  • AMA Speed Athlete of the Year: James Stewart
Racer X: James, the last time we saw each other, you were putting a whippin’ on everyone in France. What have you been doing since?
James Stewart: Working, working... We were out at the Yamaha track last week, then we did a dealer show with Yamaha, then I flew back home on Friday night, then came out here today [Sunday].

What about this building here at Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum? Have you ever seen a collection like this?
No, never, and it’s a shame my dad couldn’t be here because he would appreciate it even more than I do. I’m into it but I don’t even know half these bikes! But he’s up there at the Mini O’s with my brother [Malcolm] and he’s going to be there all week. I am going to bring him back here sometime because this building just has so much history and heritage in it that I just can’t believe it’s all here.

Are you headed over to Gatorback this week for Thanksgiving?
Yes, I am going to try to get up there on Thursday, but I am starting to kick it in gear for the upcoming season so I have to pick and choose how I spend my time now – but I do want to go up and have Thanksgiving with my family. My fiance’s family is in town, so I’ve got a house full of people and a lot of work to do, so it’s going to be busy.

What’s the plan for going to California? When are you going to head out there and plant the flag and set up shop?
Never!

[Laughs] Wait, I mean for the winter – to get ready for the Anaheims. I know you aren’t moving out there.
Oh, Anaheim, okay. We already got a lot of testing done so I am set. We’ve still got a few things to get done, but I won’t be back in California until Anaheim 1.

Let me ask you this: You’ve been with Kawasaki for, what, 14 or 15 years? Is it going to feel weird to empty your locker and your closets and start over?
Well, it’s just a change, and change is always good. It’s like when Ricky went from Kawi to Honda, he had to deal with it too, and that turned out pretty good. So I’m happy about it, and to be honest, Davey, the transition has been easier than I thought it would. I definitely thought it would be different and tough but the team and everybody on it has been doing good. So pretty soon here, yes, I am going to have to get some new clothes, because otherwise I will be walking around in my underwear!

  • Team USA's James Stewart and Tim Ferry and their '08 crew with the Peter Chamberlain Cup
  • From the Barber Vintage Motosports Museum Collection
  • From the Barber Vintage Motosports Museum Collection
  • From the Barber Vintage Motosports Museum Collection
  • From the Barber Vintage Motosports Museum Collection
  • From the Barber Vintage Motosports Museum Collection
Did I tell you what Jean-Michel Bayle said about you in Paris?
Yes, you did, but there was so much going on, I would like to hear it again!

[Laughs] Okay, here it is again: We were in the hotel, and he said, “I have never seen James ride before and I always thought he was like Ricky, maybe a little wild sometimes, but he’s not. He is so smooth, maybe even smoother than Jeremy McGrath…” Something like that. He was absolutely blown away, and it’s safe to say you made quite an impression on the French motocross fraternity.
To me, that’s just an honor to hear something like that, especially from a guy like JMB, who’s won multiple titles and been around and all. You know, I was actually a little nervous going over there because of the whole Sebastien Pourcel thing that happened [there was a brief confrontation after the last moto at the MXoN between sides after Sebastien ran James up high in a corner and made a pass] because there was a lot of heated conversation going on, and since then, well, I can’t read French so I didn’t know what was said over there or whatever, but I got welcomed so well over there, it was just a special trip. I struggled with my starts at the U.S. Open, which is why I didn’t win all the money [in the Trifecta] so it was good to go to Bercy and work on that stuff. I am happy and I think we should be good doing into the season.

Sebastien was actually there and he was hanging out in front of your pit area with his friend Nico Aubin, and he was having fun, just taking it all in like everyone else.
Good, and the cool part about that whole thing is that at the end of the race you can understand how those things happen; you are racing for your country and I probably would have done the same thing. And I know his brother [Christophe] just got hurt so that was bad, but I know he’ll also came over here to the States one day and he will be a force to be reckoned with, just like his brother.

  • From the Barber Vintage Motosports Museum Collection
  • From the Barber Vintage Motosports Museum Collection
  • From the Barber Vintage Motosports Museum Collection
One more thing: After the race in Bercy, you’re mechanic Oscar gave Kevin Windham a #7 Yamaha number plate decal, and Kevin put it on his back and he ran it for awhile like he was back in 1997...
[Laughs] Kevin is a good dude. I am sure if we looked around hard enough I could find one of his Yamaha #7 stickers from back in the day. But he rode #1 in ’97, didn’t he?

Outdoors he was #7, but in 125 Supercross, yes he was #1.
And he was #7 when he was riding 250 Supercross because he won a race that year at Charlotte – it was after MC got a flat tire.

Nice! You know your motocross history.
I do. You should do a contest or something to see if someone has one of those stickers.

Okay, how about this? The first person that can find one and SEND IT HERE, we will hook  up with a #7 James Stewart sticker kit.
Right on, let’s do that for sure! Now who’s got that #7 Windham sticker?

Have a happy Thanksgiving, James.
You too, and everyone out there. Happy Thanksgiving.
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