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Monday Conversation: James Stewart

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San Manuel Yamaha’s James Stewart went 1-1 at the Rockstar Energy U.S. Open last weekend in the debut for the 2010 Yamaha YZ450F. We talked to him at the end of the weekend to find out about how he felt on the bike, and where he goes next.

Racer X: Talk a little bit about the last month or so that you’ve been riding the 2010 Yamaha YZ450F, and how has it been for you?
James Stewart: I rode the bike once back in, I think, May, right after the supercross season, and I knew we had something special then. And then I came down and we did a couple tests in Florida, probably about four tests, and then we came here. I was able to take it home and ride at home, and it’s just unbelievable. I feel bad because everybody always says how good a motorcycle is, but I’ve never, ever ridden a bike as good as this thing, and I think my racing showed that for itself. I was able to do a lot of things pretty easy tonight. I mean, victory wasn’t easy, but there was a big improvement in cornering, and coming through the whoops, it was all pretty simple for me. I think we’ll only get better for Anaheim.

Talk a little about the track. Last night, you were mainly up front, but tonight you had to work through some guys, and it was tight out there.
The U.S. Open’s always just different, and I didn’t want to get caught up and have something happen and DNF and lose the overall. For me, I just wanted to debut the bike right, and I did. Ryan [Villopoto] was riding really good, so I had to put in some solid laps, and once I got around [Dan] Reardon – he was holding me up a little bit, but he was riding good also – I had to chase Ryan down. You’re trying to be smart and not hit people, but at the same time, at some point it was like you either let Ryan run away with this thing, or do something to get around Dan.

We’re standing on the track now, and it’s hard to see how tight it is when you’re watching on TV or something, but it’s easy to see when you’re down here.
What’s amazing is how tight this track is, and how tight these corners are, and that I was underneath everybody I passed. I was always on the inside. To me, it feels good. I’m really excited to get on a real supercross and race. It was a lot different [than his ’09 bike]. I’m just happy for Yamaha and San Manuel and all my sponsors.

You made a comment in the press conference on Thursday that it’s “only” $100,000 now, because it used to be 250k...
I was just joking around. I would come here and race for free. When I’m out there racing, the 100 grand doesn’t come into my mind at all. All I cared about was getting Ryan and riding my best, and I was able to do that. It always hits you at the end that, “Damn, I won 100 grand tonight!” but when I’m out there racing, I’m doing it because I love motorcycle racing, and I race for pride. It’s always nice to get some money when your neck is on the line, and it was awesome.

Yeah, but 100 grand is like half of one of your cars...
[Laughs] Hey, 100 grand can buy a lot of stuff!

For sure, but your level is a lot higher than most of ours in terms of the price of things.
I’m blessed to be in the situation I’m in. I love racing, and I love everything I do, and I was off for a while, but we came back and did it right. I think where we are and where we will be is better. I’d love to get at least 17th at Anaheim.

At least 17th instead of 18th like last year?
Yeah, that’s my goal!

Can you talk about running into maybe Ryan Villopoto in this turn here [after the whoops]?
No, that was Reardon I hit! I came in so fast, and he cut down, and I was on the inside. I was going to square him up, but he cut down, and I just hit him, and it actually bent my wheel. Villopoto did the same thing to me there. He came in, and it was almost funny. When he hit me, I kind of laughed, like, “Dude! What’s going on?!” But it’s always fun, and I think maybe he’s been hanging out with “such and such” and that’s what they do. I love it. I have to give it up to him because he rode phenomenal tonight, and the whole team over there did well, but my team was just able to capitalize, and it was good.

Is there any added pressure to come out on a new bike like that? What if you lost on the new bike?
The added pressure is that the damned thing’s so good that if I lose I feel bad because it’s too good. I think that’s where the pressure comes in. Obviously, I want to debut it right, and I did. This is the first time I ever raced this event twice in a row, and I think it’s been a while since there’s been a back-to-back champion, so I was happy with that.

What’s your schedule like up to Anaheim I?
I have to go to Bercy in two weeks, then I’ve got two weeks off from racing, then I go to Italy, then I’m going to go visit Austria and Red Bull, then I’m going to go Down Under to Australia and hang out with ol’ “such and such”, have some fun, do some bar-banging, and show the Australian crowd what it’s like.

That gives you about a month before Anaheim at that point.
It gives me a little while, and I’m excited about that, so we should be good at Anaheim I.
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