Associated Press on Reed vs. Stewart

Reed and Stewart Dominating in Motorcycle Series
By MIKE HARRIS, AP Auto Racing Writer

Former AMA Supercross champion turned TV analyst Jeff Emig can hardly wait to get to work these days.

"It's something special," said Emig, who works the booth for CBS and Speed. "You've got a world-class battle going on for the championship between two of the greatest riders of all time. It's just plain fun."

Last year's champion Chad Reed leads the 2007 series winner James Stewart by just 11 points heading into a Saturday night race at the Rogers Centre in Toronto.

But the competition is a lot closer than just a few points with five races to go.

Since the two leaders collided in the season-opener in Anaheim in January, allowing Yamaha rider Josh Grant to grab the win, no one but Reed or Stewart has visited Victory Lane or come close.

Stewart won seven in a row before Reed broke through. Then Stewart added another victory and Reed has won the last two.

"These guys are really at such a high level that they've separated themselves from the pack," Emig said. "This championship just keeps getting better and better."

It would have been even closer had Stewart not made a mistake last Saturday night in St. Louis, where he was well ahead of Reed when he crashed. But Stewart, who missed most of last season after having knee surgery, managed to recover and finish second, staying within reach of the top spot.

To make this duel even more fun, Reed and Stewart have swapped rides this year, with Reed going to Suzuki and Stewart to Yamaha.

Add in that the 27-year-old Reed, from Australia, and 23-year-old Florida native Stewart don't seem to like each other very much, and you have one of the most interesting championship competitions around.

"I think there's a lot of motivation there between the two of us," Reed said. "I think we're the two out there that think we can win week in and week out. We're the two that work the hardest and I think that all just adds up to having the people around that expect you to win and want you to win, and that rivalry is fueled by all that."

Stewart, the first black champion in professional racing preceding Formula One's Lewis Hamilton by one year plays down the off-track rivalry.

"I don't think there's any personal animosity between me and Chad," Stewart said. "The only story is that we're pretty close in points and we'll battle each other for the wins. But he is the guy I need to beat and I've got to try to get it done."

Emig, who won his series title in 1979 while racing all-time great Jeremy McGrath, says the two current contenders have a lot of similarities in the way they approach racing.

"It's not a bitter rivalry where they're trash-talking each other and out to get each other," he explained. "But both want to be the best. A lot of people don't realize that they are already the third and fourth winningest riders in the sport and both of them are driven to be the best rider."

Emig said there's no question Stewart is faster than Reed. But that may not be enough to beat the Aussie.

"James is a quarter second a lap faster than Chad," he noted. "But he'll make a little mistake, like at St. Louis, and you'll say, 'Where did that come from?' He's just so good."

Mistakes and injuries have been the story of Stewart's career in the five years since the rider then known as Bubba moved up to Supercross as the most heralded youngster ever.

A couple of injuries have cost him dearly, and mistakes at critical times have also been his downfall. In his Supercross career, Stewart has won all but one race in which he has not fallen or crashed a total of 34 victories.

"My win-to-loss ratio is pretty good," Stewart said. "People say I win or I crash, but I win a lot more than I do crash. ... I don't feel like my style is to let it all hang out.

"I probably should have won every race this year so far, but it's just a little bad luck. I was undefeated (24-0) in the outdoor (Motocross) series (last summer). And one of the things that I feel really proud of is that the fans really appreciate the way I race and the people come watch the sport because there's at least one guy out there giving 100 percent."

Reed is a two-time champion, but he knows some people downplay that because superstar Ricky Carmichael, now trying his hand in NASCAR, was out with an injury when Reed won the first title in 2004, and Stewart missed most of Reed's 2008 championship year because of an injury.

"To defend I think would be really, really important," Reed said. "I'd say that this is my most important championship to win just because of kind of what's gone down in the past. ... And you know I switched to a new team this year, so I'd love to get a win for them. James is on my old team, so I want to kick his butt even more because of that. It just kind of adds to the fun factor of it all."

Reed also bristles a bit when people say he wins on consistency, even though this week will be his record 113th consecutive start in Supercross.

"I'm fast enough, but I try to put myself in the best position possible," Reed said. "You want to stay away from big, big mistakes that take away a lot of points. We've been able to do that.

"James Stewart's riding really, really well and I'm just trying to keep him at bay and keep the points lead. I want to be the best and I want to be the champ."