5 Minutes with... James Stewart

January 6, 2009 2:04pm | by:
San Manuel Yamaha’s James Stewart was the odds-on favorite to win Anaheim I this past Saturday night, but just like in 2008, Chad Reed was game, and when Stewart made a seemingly minor mistake exiting a turn with the lead, the two riders collided, sending them both to the ground in a heap. Stewart was unable to finish the race and now has an uphill battle to the 2009 Monster Energy/AMA Supercross Championship. We sat down with him in his motor home after the race to get his take on the night’s racing action.

  • To call that a look of disappointment would be an understatement.
  • At least the heat race was fun...
Racer X: Obviously that wasn’t the end result you were looking for, but can you talk us through what happened?
James Stewart: I got the holeshot, and kind of uncharacteristically I let [Reed] go by. I was making a few mistakes in the beginning, and I wasn’t really comfortable yet, and he ended up getting by me and stuff, and he actually pulled away. I kind of found my rhythm and came back up, and he might have started fading a little bit – I don’t know what he was doing – but I went past him pretty quick, and then hit a few corners – probably not even a lap – and then I came into that corner, and I missed a shift, and once I clicked back in, all I know is I remember just like Toronto, I was getting hit from the rear. He took me out, and I was down and out right then and couldn’t start my bike again.

He said that he thought you might’ve hit a false neutral or something, so it sounds like it was similar to that. You were obviously upset after the crash. Were you upset at him directly? Or just at the situation?
I’m not upset at him. It was just one of those things where it’s happened twice, so it’s like, “Dude.” But I’m not upset at him. I mean, I don’t think he would race like that. I wouldn’t race like that. I’m just more upset because I shouldn’t have even been in that position. I got the holeshot, so why am I letting him pass me? I shouldn’t be in that position, so that’s more what upset me. Then, you start thinking about how you just threw away 25 points, so that was upsetting. It was just one of those things, and I kind of needed it. I went through the outdoors winning, and through the U.S. Open, and the Motocross of Nations, and Bercy, so I really needed this. It’s time to spark the fire back up.
It’s common in a lot of sports that sometimes a loss to a dominant person or team helps to put things back into perspective.
It’s not like we weren’t ready to go. I just made some mistakes and did some things that I normally don’t do. They were uncharacteristic mistakes on my part, and I just think that sometimes you win so much that you just expect to win. You expect to pull the holeshot and go away, and when you’ve got a challenge like that, I think it’s awesome, actually. I just think it’s going to make me have to work. Everything’s on him now. Obviously, Grant won the race, but I feel like we’re still the top guys, and everything’s on him. I’ve just got to hope for the best, get back next week, and put in the laps. But the good part is that it wasn’t like I was slow. I’ve just got a few improvements to make and I’ll keep on going.

  • Stewart was smooth and fast until he hit the dirt.
  • Expect a better result from James in Phoenix.
In the rhythm section before the finish line, it looked like you slowed up a bit once you knew Reed had the line on you.
Yeah, I washed the front end a little bit, and it threw me to the outside, and I heard him go triple-triple, so instead of me trying to force the issue to get back to the inside for the next turn... I mean, I knew there was nothing I could do. We would’ve just hit, so I looked and saw him come by, and he put in some hot laps and took off. It was good, actually, because when he was in front of me, I saw some different lines he was hitting, and some other ones, and then once he pulled out about two seconds, I caught back up to him and was right back on him. It’s nothing to be down about. It’s disappointing, and it’s not the way I wanted to start, but it’s been done before [coming from behind to win the championship after a DNF], and maybe this is one of those years, and if it is, it will be really gratifying to know that you never quit. I won this championship by 40-some points, so I know I can get it done. It’s a long season, and I didn’t want to start out this way, but Ricky [Carmichael] was really good at that. He never won Anaheim I, but he won five supercross titles, so I think he knows how to win them, and I still believe in my program. There’s nothing I’m going to change because I know what I’m doing is the right way to do it. I just put myself in a small hole and I’ve just got to dig myself out and we’ll be good.

When you got up, and you were trying to get going, you collected Kevin Windham, too. Can you tell us what happened?
I remember I was in the middle of two whoops and I was trying to push myself up on the bike so I could kick the thing over, and I thought Reed was down in the middle, so I figured if I pushed myself over to the side, nobody would be coming through there, but then Kevin hit me and knocked me back over to the other side. Then I couldn’t start my bike anyway. It was just unfortunate. It was nobody’s fault. Windham even said sorry on the track.

{LINKS}I saw him say something to you on the big screen, but I figured he was mad at you.
No, he wasn’t mad, he just said he was sorry... At least that’s what I’m going to take it as. He was cool about it. It was just one of those things.

So, from here on out, what you’re saying is that you’re going to be the same old James, right?
I’m going to come out like I always do. This is what champions are made of. Everything doesn’t always go perfect, so what makes a champion is the guy who picks himself up the fastest and tries to put the work in to overcome the problem. I won’t go down without a fight. This championship’s going to be earned by somebody. I just don’t want to give it away. Tonight, I put myself in a small hole, but hopefully this is the first step of making a comeback.