After Ryan Villopoto won the first race of this year’s Monster Energy Cup, few were considering Yoshimura Suzuki’s James Stewart a contender for the win, as a crash left him with an eighth place finish. But the night turned crazier and crazier, and Stewart controlled the situation well to snag the final two motos and with it the overall via 8-1-1 scores. JS7 gets $100,000 for the win, and some good vibes heading into 2014. Matthes caught up to him when it was over.
Racer X: Congratulations. After 8th in the first moto you had to be like, I’m done, I’m finished.
James Stewart: I thought that; I’m not going to lie. I actually rode good the first one. I was passing a lot of people. It was going to be hard. Had the holeshot and then got the thing [gate malfunction] right off the bat. You've got to be in the lead to have a chance to win a million. So to get that [holeshot in the first race] and come in here and then red flag it and to get a horrible start...I was like dude, this is going to be another night of like it was all last season. Went down, fought my way back up, and that pass over Cooper [Webb] was actually the pass that won me the title. I just kept fighting, fighting for it…
I guess so, when you look at it.
To be honest, I didn’t think I had a chance to win it, but I thought I had a chance to at least get on the podium. So I just wanted to use this as a preparation, you know, just passing people and I was able to do it.
On a track that seemed tough to pass on, Stewart managed to find alternate lines.
What a race second moto. Did you eye up - and knowing you, you probably did – did you eye up that triple-over-the table at some point and you were like, “I’m just going to pull the trigger”? It looked really fast.
It was quick. It was all about getting the momentum out of the corner to hit it. Villopoto was going a little bit farther inside so for me to hit it I had to leave the inside open. I don’t know how he was able to do it. Obviously he came up short the last time, but he did it. It was cool. What I was waiting for was the 50s to get out there and roll over it, to knock the edge off of it! And they did. So when I went out there the second time I was like all right, it’s game time. So we either make it or not.
Where were you on the start? You said you were up front for the red flag?
And then your second moto, huge start, massive start. Came in all by yourself. Racing with Villopoto, that was awesome. You guys were setting each other up. It was clean and it was great racing. Exciting times.
It was fun. I knew…we’re here to race. Obviously Anaheim, the championship was on the line, but I guess there is a million bucks on the line here, so [a] championship [is on the line] here. But I wanted to keep it clean. I’ve got to see the guy in a couple months. Just wanted to continue racing. I don’t think he expected me to go back around him, because he went outside, and I was like, all right. I go on the inside and then when he got me again he probably thought it was over. I went back around and then he got me again. I went back around him. I was just here to race and keep it clean. Those are the things that through the outdoor season and I think not racing, being hurt for the outdoors, and not being on the supercross only contract, now I’m starting to see what I missed on all that. It’s the starts. It’s racing against 40 guys in the first corner. It’s being aggressive when you don’t have a good jump. To get through the outdoor season and to get better on that aspect I think is what helped me out here. I took the month off after supercross and I was ready to go back racing and it worked out.
The Stew Crew gets to carry some positive energy toward Anaheim.
It was great racing and like you said it was aggressive but it’s fair, and I do think you surprised him a couple times out there. Going into the last moto did you know Roczen was leading and you had to make the pass to win?
Yeah. The funny part was I thought I had the holeshot and somebody on the inside got me. Barcia ran it in deep and almost took us both out because he ran it in too deep. Roczen ended up getting him. I knew I had to beat Roczen, Dungey, and Barcia, all of them. I was tied with those guys so whoever won the race… It was kind of ironic the first four people I saw were those guys. I was just kind of biding my time and I wanted to try to get around those guys as quick as I could and then with Ken just kind of see how it would work out.
You were scaring us because as you know we had some guys forget to take the Joker Lane. That third moto we’re like, he’s going to forget. We’re going to have another guy forget! Was that the plan the whole time, take it on the last lap?
I went the last lap in the first race because I knew I was quicker than the people ahead, so when they would dart into it I would just go through it. So I passed a lot of people there. The second race with Villopoto he actually had me confused because I’m like, did I go one lap early? I think that was us battling and he realized that he didn’t go through it. And that probably a little bit caused the crash over there. Then the third race, I’ve been doing it the last lap the whole time so there was no need to change it. But trust me, when I went through it, when I saw Dungey and Eli or whoever, those guys disappear I knew I had to keep my pace up because it’s not only trying to beat Roczen, I had to keep my pace up over them otherwise they were going to overtake us [once I took the Joker Lane].
Dungey almost got you. That was closer than I thought it would be when you went in.
They disappeared. I don’t know if it was around the time me and Roczen kind of started going back and forth just a little bit. I know they disappeared and I lost time on that [going through the Joke Lane]. He almost got me. I looked over and I saw him, I was wearing that clutch out.
I don’t want you to talk crap on other racers but I do wonder this: how do you forget to take the Joker Lane? What happens? Could you put yourself in the mind of those dudes? What happened?
I can think of what happened. You’re so focused on beating… you know, I said this on the podium and I’ll say it again, but everybody at the press conference has something to prove. Whether you say it’s just an off-season race, with Tomac coming in he wants to prove he’s the new guy coming up, same thing with Roczen. Barcia wants to prove that he’s better than last year, he can win this thing. Dungey wants to prove that the Motocross of Nations was a fluke; he’s back. Myself, I just want to prove that I still have it. So we’re all sitting up there. I think what happened was when both Ryans were battling in the first race, they’re locked in, because that’s not what you do at regular supercross. So I can see how easily you could forget. And then the second race I think the same thing, me and Villopoto going back and forth, he forgot about it. All he was worried about was racing against me. So I could see how you do it. That’s my aspect. The ironic thing was when he was yelling at the AMA about Dungey missing it and then he missed it, so that’s the worst.
I’m blown away by this!
I was too! I think for us, everybody always said, “James will do good here. It’s a shorter race.” But to be honest it was the little things that we’ve been working out. And still everybody, doesn’t matter if it’s one lap, two laps, you have the same guys up there. I think as the day went on I got better. Even the same thing, in the motos, the longer they went on the better I felt.
The Joker Lane, did you have to slam on your brakes super hard to make it? Did they miss braking points or something?
You hit the Joker Lane, you got a little bit farther inside. You can’t hit it too fast. The second time I actually went in and I’m thinking, all right, Ken’s got to go in it, so you got a lead. Then I’m realizing halfway through it, dude, you’ve got to get on it because those guys [Tomac and Dungey] are going to come flying past you. So we did it.
Due to injuries, Stewart hadn't even raced in Vegas since 2011.
[Supercross Director] Dave Prater wants to put some of this stuff in Supercross: Joker Lane, 10 3-lappers, 3 10 10-lappers at some, not all races. Would you be for it? Would you be against? I like it.
I think it is. I like the tracks. This is a four-stroke track. Everything’s a little bit bigger. You’re not going brap, brap, brap trying to hit it. I like the track better. I think they can take a little bit of this and use it. I think with the racing that we had tonight, there’s no way you can’t get better sponsors. No way you can’t get better TV. It’s so short, you get to a point where nobody really pulled a lead. It’s always a “What if something happens?” As a racer, I think it’s cool to get 8-1-1 and win an overall compared to I win the heat race and get a bad start in the Main Event, and my race is done. So to have that option is cool. But we’ll see. I’m not against it; I think it’d be cool.