If you really think about it, it really didn’t make much sense. But yet it seemed so right to so many people.
Throughout the day at round eight of Monster Energy Supercross, at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, the vibe seemed to be pumping James Stewart’s way. Pit pundits thought Stewart could be the man to beat. And he topped qualifying practice. Won his heat race. Then, when the stadium flashed its text to vote display on the big screen before the main event, the crowd went with Stewart as the favorite for the win.
Considering Stewart had produced no better than two fourth-place finishes this season, it seemed strange to pick him as the favorite. But the Yoshimura Suzuki rider has always possessed the speed to go out and get one—it just hadn’t even come close to happening. The previous race, last weekend in Dallas, was the worst yet, as his bike succumbed to an odd clutch issue before the race even began. Maybe the racing Gods owed him one? Maybe he’s been getting stronger? Maybe he was just due? Whatever it was, Stewart seemed ready in Atlanta. Then he went out there and did it.
Stewart not only won the race, but he did it against a true test. He grabbed the holeshot, overcoming a long run of terrible main event starts, but had two-time and defending SX Champion (and last week’s winner) Ryan Villopoto right behind him. And Villopoto, incredibly fast and super fit, was there to keep some heat on Stewart the whole way, but Stewart never flinched and held on for his first SX win since Daytona last year—nearly a full calendar year.
Villopoto gave Stewart a run, making up time in various sections. Stewart did the damage in one rhythm lane. He was jumping a double off of a dragon back, something Villopoto was not doing. So as hard as Villopoto charged, he could never make up for the ground he lost through there.
Villopoto gave chase to Stewart the whole way.
But James came out with the win.
Yet another solid run for Millsaps, who scores another podium.
Simon Cudby photos
There were also some doubts of Stewart’s stamina, considering he’s missed a lot of time this season with a torn ACL. But he held strong for all twenty laps to prove he could still get it done.
“If anything, I think last week just made the team stronger,” said Stewart. ”It [means] a lot; this whole season has been going crazy and to get a victory and to get a start, it was almost a perfect day. I’m not going to lie, I was a little nervous because I haven’t been out there in a while.”
Villopoto finished second on his Monster Energy Kawasaki. Points leader Davi Millsaps logged another strong run with a third, making a few early passes on his Rockstar Energy Racing machine and holding off the advances of Justin Barcia (Team Honda Muscle Milk).
Millsaps rode well again, winning his heat race and actually matching the Stewart/Villopoto pace out front once he had gotten to third. But since he had not gotten off to one of his now trademarked great starts, he couldn’t get higher than third. At one point, Millsaps took some heat from Barcia, but Millsaps pulled away down the stretch.
Then came Trey Canard (Muscle Milk Honda) in fifth, just holding off Ryan Dungey (Red Bull KTM). Next came Eli Tomac (GEICO Honda) in his first-ever points paying 450 race. A back-from-injury Jake Weimer was eighth on a Monster Energy Kawasaki, then Chad Reed (TwoTwo Motorsports) and Mike Alessi (SmarTop MotoConcepts) rounded out the top ten.
A rough one for Chad Reed, who started well, got shuffled back in the order, and then came back through for ninth.
In the 250 class, Wil Hahn got off the list of “great riders to never win a supercross” by taking his first career W. And like Stewart, he did it in impressive fashion, holeshotting the main event with points leader Dean Wilson (Monster Energy Kawasaki) right behind him. And then Hahn rode a near flawless race, building a small gap on Wilson lap by lap, until he had about 3 seconds by the halfway mark. Meanwhile, third-place Marvin Musquin (Red Bull KTM) was closing on Wilson for a bit, before Wilson (last week’s winner) pulled back away. While Hahn rode near-perfect laps, Wilson stepped it up in the second half of the race, upping his pace and trying to run Hahn down. In lapped traffic, Wilson was able to close in, and then a hard sprint on the last lap brought him within striking distance. But Hahn hung tough and never let the pressure effect him—it was a well-earned win. Wilson and Musquin rounded out the podium.
Atta boy Wil Hahn!
Wilson rode well but not as well as last week in Dallas, which he won.
Musquin (25) was fastest in practice but couldn't replicate that in the races. He took a solid third in the main, though. Wharton (13) was fourth.
450SX Class Results: Atlanta
1. James Stewart
2. Ryan Villopoto
3. Davi Millsaps
4. Justin Barcia
5. Trey Canard
6. Ryan Dungey
7. Eli Tomac
8. Jake Weimer
9. Chad Reed
10. Mike Alessi
11. Matt Goerke
12. Broc Tickle
13. Justin Brayton
14. Andrew Short
15. PJ Larsen
16. Josh Hill
17. Chris Blose
18. Les Smith
19. Jimmy Albertson
20. Robbie Kiniry
450SX Class Points
1. Davi Millsaps, Murrieta, Calif., Suzuki, 174
2. Ryan Villopoto, Poulsbo, Wash., Kawasaki, 152
3. Ryan Dungey, Belle Plaine, Minn., KTM, 148
4. Trey Canard, Shawnee, Okla., Honda, 135
5. Chad Reed, Australia, Honda, 127
6. Justin Barcia, Ochlocknee, Ga., Honda, 116
7. Andrew Short, Smithville, Texas, KTM, 102
8. James Stewart, Haines City, Fla., Suzuki, 100
9. Justin Brayton, Cornelius, NC., Yamaha, 91
10. Matt Goerke, Lake Helen, Fla., KTM, 79
Eastern Regional 250SX Class Results: Atlanta
1. Wil Hahn
2. Dean Wilson
3. Marvin Musquin
4. Blake Wharton
5. Jeremy Martin
6. Justin Hill
7. Gavin Faith
8. Kyle Peters
9. Vince Friese
10. Zach Bell
11. Mitch Oldenburg
12. Lance Vincent
13. Cole Thompson
14. James Decotis
15. Steven Clarke
16. Gareth Swanepoel
17. Adam Gulley
18. AJ Catanzaro
19. Kurtis McCabe
20. Jackson Richardson
Eastern Regional 250SX Class Points
1. Dean Wilson, Scotland, Kawasaki, 47
2. Wil Hahn, Decatur, Texas, Honda, 45
3. Blake Wharton, Pilot Point, Texas, Suzuki, 40
4. Marvin Musquin, France, KTM, 35
5. Kyle Peters, Greensboro, N.C., Honda, 31
6. Justin Hill, Yoncalla, Ore., Kawasaki, 31
7. Gavin Faith, Fort Dodge, Iowa, Honda, 28
8. Vince Friese, Cape Girardeau, Mo., Honda, 24
9. James Decotis, Peabody, Mass., Honda, 20
10. Lance Vincent, Youngsville, La., KTM, 20