450 Words: Phoenix

January 13, 2009 10:35am | by:

  • James took his first AMA win with Yamaha on Saturday
  • Confidence is a powerful thing
  • We had high hopes for 2009, but this season could be even better than we thought
While interviewing Chad Reed after the Monster Energy Supercross main event in Phoenix on Saturday night, he sounded like a guy who had just won the lottery. Yes, Chad finished second in Phoenix again (he’s now 0-6 on wins at Chase Field), but the way he rode there—just like the way he rode at Anaheim 1, even though he didn’t win there either—has him pondering his new found good fortune. You know how the lottery works: You work and fight your whole life, wishing you had more, and then all of a sudden you have it.

Reed has been working and fighting since 2005. He’s been in the battle with Ricky Carmichael and James Stewart for years, but he almost always comes out on the short end of the stick when everyone puts their best race forward. To his credit, the man never gives up and never doubts himself. That never-say-die spirit nearly won him the ‘06 title, and indeed made him champion in 2008 after a late-season crash almost ruined it. But Chad has lost plenty of head-to-head fights with Ricky and James over the last four years, and no matter how hard he worked and how hard he tried, there always seemed to be the barrier of a few tenths of a second.

So as he caught and passed James in Anaheim, and then caught him and applied pressure all night in Phoenix, it was obvious something was different this time. Chad was matching James, and he was in the fight the whole time. He didn’t win (and at the moment he doesn’t even have the points lead) but he now has the capability to fight, instead of just waiting for his main competition to make a mistake. For a racer at that level, it’s a prize as big as winning the lottery to we mere mortals.

Of course Reed’s performance can only be measured against Stewart’s. James probably didn’t expect Chad to provide this type of heat after they raced at the U.S. Open, where James had him covered. A proud rider, Stewart will not rest well with Chad so close to him, so expect him to really work over the next few weeks to try to find that speed gap he once had. He’ll need it now more than ever, but at the same time, the idea of shutting down his rival will provide plenty of motivation.

And how about JGR/Toyota/Yamaha rider Josh Grant? When it rains it pours in this game, and Josh is learning first-hand about the power of momentum. He simply can do no wrong right now. He gets every start, and when Reed and Stewart go by him, he’s able to ride at his limit to try to stay with them, yet not over it and end up crashing. Even an errant Tuff Block cover a week ago couldn’t stop him. Josh is riding well, but good fortune doesn’t last forever in supercross. Sometimes it comes, and goes, as quickly as winning and losing a bunch of money in the lottery.