Monday Conversation I: James Stewart

January 12, 2009 5:00am | by:
San Manuel Yamaha’s James Stewart came off of a disastrous Anaheim I event, that saw him finish 19th and lose a lot of valuable points to his championship rivals, and did what he had to do in order to slowly put himself back into the championship race, winning the Phoenix Supercross for the third year in a row. However, it wasn’t easy, and unfortunately for Stewart, it seems his biggest expected championship rival, Chad Reed, is going to continue to be stingy about the number of points he is going to give up at any single time. We talked to Stewart following his win.

  • James Stewart scored his first win of the season at Phoenix, but still sits 15 points behind Chad Reed and 18 behind points leader Josh Grant.
Racer X: That was an exciting race to watch, with Chad Reed chasing you so diligently for 20 laps like that, but what was it like from the front out there, in front of nearly 50,000 people?
James Stewart: I don’t know if you play golf or anything, but if you ever see somebody hit the ball down the fairway, and everybody’s up on the tee box looking at you, just multiply that by ten, and it might, just maybe, be a little bit close to what it was like for me. No, it’s nerve-wracking, but at the same time, I kind of just had to be composed and ride in my own head. That’s the only way I can get it done. Obviously, he was riding good – he had better parts than I did, and I had better parts than he did. The crowd was going buck-wild, and I knew when he would get close. I would get away a little bit, then a lapper would come up and screw me up, then screw him up... But it was a good night.

It seemed like you were faster in the section from about turn two on to the whoop sections, and then he was faster from the whoop sections back to turn two, creating a sort of accordion effect. Does that seem right to you?
Yeah, I think I was faster on those on-offs all the way around to that second triple, and then even in that rhythm section a little bit, and then I think he would catch me in the whoops and stuff like that. That’s not normal on my part. Normally, I feel like I’m pretty fast through the whoops, so I’ve just got to go back and try to work on that a little bit. Other than that, the night was decent. My goal was to try to win the race. I just wanted to win. I was able to do that, so it was good.

Was it just to sort of get it out of the way? Is that sort of how you were thinking about it?
I mean, I knew even if I’d have lost this weekend, I mean, you couldn’t come to me and tell me the championship’s over. I knew unless they gave the number-one plate – unless that thing was out – I’m going to keep on fighting. For me, it was just good to try to win. To be honest, I just wanted to ride better than I did last week. I felt like I rode a little better, and I was able to get a win in.

What did you think of that sand section? Normally, sand sections are straightaways, and that one was two turns. It seemed like sort of an odd section.
Every time I would go through that, I was thinking, “The last time I rode sand, I was undefeated, and I was doing the outdoors.” I was like, “He ain’t going to pass me here.” [Laughs] No, I just had a really good line, and I actually felt really comfortable there. I was able to turn and maneuver the bike a little bit, and it worked out. That was a fun part of the track. It was actually the only part of the track I looked forward to every lap.

  • Stewart douses his team after his first win of the season, and his team's first AMA SX win post-Reed.
Can you talk a bit about the start? A lot of guys complained of spinning on the start, and Josh Grant got the holeshot from the outside.
I spun in the Heat race, and even in the main event, but I was able to get a good start. It was definitely concrete back there – you’d spin where your back tire was, then hook up out in the middle of it. It was tough. It was all about getting a good jump, and I feel like when I need to get a good start, I always get a good start. I knew to have a chance tonight I needed a good start, and I was able to do it.

Obviously, you knew you had a points gap after last week. Were you thinking about that much during the week? Or is it too early for that?
Even this weekend, I wasn’t counting points. There’s still a long ways to go, and a lot of work to do. I think if you start looking at that picture, you bite off more than you can chew. If we just think about each weekend, and I win races, eventually the points will come, and if I don’t win races, I have to start there first. The championship’s definitely not going to be given to me, and I know I have to work for it. After last weekend, having the bobble that I had, I don’t think it was anybody’s fault, but I do think I put myself in a small hole, and I have to dig myself out.

What was your week like after a weekend like Anaheim I?
To be honest, I didn’t really care. By the time I did my interview with Erin [Bates, for the Speed broadcast] and got to the tunnel, I was actually kind of like, “Oh, well, there’s nothing I can do about it.” I guess people took my words wrong about me saying he took me out, but nothing I said was wrong. I said I came around, missed a gear, and he hit me from the rear, and I was taken out that way. I never meant he took me out on purpose and stuff like that. Oh, well. I feel like I’ve just got to move toward the future. There’s nothing I can do about it, and I’m sure he didn’t mean it, and I obviously didn’t mean to miss a shift, but it’s part of racing.