450 Words: Las Vegas

May 5, 2009 10:23am | by:

It ended with a whimper, really, but what a series it was! The 2009 Monster Energy AMA Supercross title went to the fastest man, with the biggest smile to boot. James Stewart rode a safe, smart race on Saturday night, resisting the urge to duel with Ryan Villopoto for the lead or retaliate against Chad Reed after the contender nearly knocked him down while looking for a way to get inside James’ head. It didn’t happen, so Reed rode on, knowing he’d given it hell but it just wasn’t enough. So what did we learn from it all?

  • The happiest guy in Las Vegas
  • Reed's outlying 7th place was a huge detriment to his title hopes
  • After a year on the 450, RV really could be a title threat next winter
Number one, James Stewart is #1. The San Manuel Yamaha rider won eleven races, showing he had the top speed in the series, and he managed the series well, overcoming a disastrous first night at Anaheim, an almost-disastrous night at Daytona, and a total disaster of a press conference at Las Vegas for his team. Now he’s got a second AMA Supercross ring, giving him a total of five major series titles. Not bad for a 23-year-old with years of improvement to come.

For his part, Reed showed a lot of heart. He had a couple of meltdowns of his own, particularly in Seattle, where he basically lost the championship with an out-of-character seventh-place finish—his only failure to podium in the whole series. After what happened in Salt Lake City, he knew a win alone would not be enough to keep the title. He wasn’t going to get any help from his Rockstar/Makita Suzuki teammate Mike Alessi — Stewart went past him unmolested after the start, then never got lapped — and there was no place in Las Vegas to hide a torpedo shot. So Chad rode him wide in the back — really, really wide — and raised some eyebrows, but it wasn’t a takeout. (Had he seen the “Chad Reed … Who’s That Guy?” shirt some of the L&M guys were wearing, he might have been even more aggressive.) Someone asked what was different between that move and what Kyle Chisholm tried to do in SLC, and Reed said: one lap.

By the time the checkered flag came out, Ryan Villopoto was fist-pumping off every jump in celebration of his second win in three races, Reed was riding with his head a little down, and Stewart’s smile could be seen under his helmet as he came around to collect the crown he vacated last year due to his knee injury, even if it was a little dinged up after all of the goings-on in the last month of this tour.

Stewart wasn’t the only big winner. Larry Brooks proved his mettle as a team manager by pulling out all of the stops to win the title for the fifth time — and with his third different rider. Like Coach Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots, people may not always agree with his tact, but it’s hard to argue with his record. And finally, the fans were big winners — Saturday night’s opening ceremony and overall presentation were outstanding. From Anaheim 1 to the end, the series almost always over-delivered, even in a down economy where many sports and businesses suffered and even failed.

So now it’s on to next year, and here’s what’s really cool: Stewart has momentum, Reed has momentum, Villopoto has momentum… Get your tickets soon for the next Anaheim 1, which will likely run on January 9, 2010